Farming at the heart of our cities

Urban Agriculture Basel

An example of urban agriculture, the “Gemeinschaftgarden Landhof” (community vegetable garden) in Basel (© Keystone / Branko De Lang)

Joëlle Salomon CavinJoëlle Salomon Cavin is Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Geography and Sustainability, Faculty of Geosciences and Environment.
Anne-Sylvie Sprenger / Allez savoir!
Demand for local products and short supply chains is boosting the mix between the city and the country – even if we’re still far from transforming every green space into a field.

The agricultural sector has also been nearing cities for a number of years. “Physically, it’s obvious,” says Salomon Cavin. “On the outskirts of cities, there are more and more fields alongside buildings. This blend of urbanisation and agriculture is for better or for worse”. While cars and tractors don’t mix well and it is never nice to see your field hemmed in by buildings, “this proximity encourages short supply chains,” says the specialist. “There’s a very high demand in urban areas for local farming, particularly so-called local contract farming. Take for instance the famous home-delivered fruit and veg baskets,” says the researcher. “This is a way of bringing the consumer and producer together, but also a commitment by the consumer to support a certain type of farming”.

On the rooftops

What does she think of this speculation about ‘Edible Cities,’ literally ‘consumable cities’? “There are many fantasies based on this notion of productive cities. This may be sheer madness from architects and landscapers, who show us images of cities where every rooftop and park is transformed into a field. But there are also concrete things happening”. She fittingly leads “discussions about the real possibilities of developing farming on city rooftops” with students in an “urban farming” seminar. She also mentions “projects, like in Geneva, involving the integration of farms into public spaces, and the famous agro-urban parks, which are another way of effectively incorporating farming into the fabric of a city. It’s interesting, but less spectacular”.

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