Urban Agriculture Becoming Integral to Urban Planning

Edmonton, Alberta, is about to integrate urban agriculture into their urban planning process. Yes, we’re talking Canada people.

And you thought that urban ag was just relegated to cities like Portland, Seattle, Detroit and Santa Cruz. Cheeeeeze!

The Edmonton city council is planning to grow urban agriculture from the ground up, due to a strong demand from its citizens. Areni Kellepan of the Sustainable Food Edmonton, says there is a desire from citizens to get into urban farming.

The natural landscape lends itself to food production because Edmonton contains large areas of rich agricultural lands within its civic boundaries.  Many organizations and initiatives related to food and agriculture are flourishing there. This is partly due to the influence of the University of Alberta and Alberta Research Council which has helped to create a culture that is pro-agriculture.

“The Way We Grow” – The Municipal Development Plan (MDP), is the City’s strategic growth and development plan.

The Way We Grow Goals:

  • Support the establishment of a food policy council
  • Work with the community to create a local food charter
  • Work with the region to develop a regional food policy council and food charter
  • Collaborate with communities, landowners and other organizations to identify potential areas and lands for urban agricultural activities
  • Establish guidelines for integrating urban agriculture into public and private spaces and developments

The city and its people have high aspirations. They hope to explore various forms of food production and urban agricultural activities. They include; market gardening, commercial farming, community gardens, allotment gardens, vertical gardens, backyard gardens, edible landscaping, roof top gardens, fish farming, animal raising (not including stock yards or feedlots) and bee keeping. Some of these activities already occur, others could be considered in the future.

Holistic Approach to Urban Planning

What’s different about Edmonton’s approach is that they aren’t doing what most cities do – trying to change the policies through countless amendments and ballot processes to a city policy that is out of balance with the needs of its people. The City of Edmonton is aligning its strategic planning processes to ensure an integrated and holistic approach toward city building over the next three decades. The purpose of the policy is to guide city planning and community design to support local agriculture and diversify the local economy. This is forward thinking at its best.

“There’s lots of farming communities, and farming families that have moved into the city that would love to have a place to grow food again,” says Kellepan. “I think [urban agriculture] is very important for the citizens of Edmonton. They’ve expressed the interest.”

Challenges of New Urbanism

Even though the people of Edmonton have a sincere interest in growing their own food, a challenge will be finding the time needed to take care of a garden in the city. “People in the city generally have [other] jobs that they have to go to,” he says. “Their time is more limited.”

For some it’s more an issue of not knowing how to grow a garden. Mayor Mandel emphasized the need to teach people, including himself. “I don’t know how to grow things. I wouldn’t mind going to someplace and someone showing me the best way to do this, and how to have the better kinds of crops that you can have in a small garden in your backyard,” says Mandel.

This situation, where the interest in self-reliance, DIY-culture and urban agriculture is high but, the people lack the knowledge is prevalent throughout the United States. Cities like Edmonton have listened to their citizens interest and are changing the way government works to aid this evolution.

This summer the city is looking to get feedback on the initiatives that will help to create a policy that works for everyone and raise awareness for urban agriculture. “If [people] are interested, through their awareness, then they will want to learn more about it and then they can make a decision on whether they want to create an opportunity in their backyard or how they want to get involved on a more broad base.”

I applaud Edmonton’s forward thinking and will be interested to see how an urban policy that embraces the citizen’s desire for local and sustainable practices will serve its people in the years to come.


3 Responses

  1. […] Food prices have soared worldwide, powering a surge in urban farming […]

  2. […] Urban Agriculture Becoming Integral to Urban Planning (buildingsustainablelifestyles.wordpress.com) […]

  3. […] Urban Agriculture Becoming Integral to Urban Planning (buildingsustainablelifestyles.wordpress.com) […]

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