Around Town: The Big Questions About Urban Ag

Last week's City Paper cover story, "Agricultural Phenomenon," is a look at the past, present and future of urban agriculture in Philly. One question that the article raises, regarding what urban agriculture is meant to mean for the city, caught my interest more than anything else:

Is urban agriculture a means for supplying low-income neighborhoods with fresh food to combat growing obesity rates and rid of food deserts? Or is it an anti agri-business movement that caters more to those who can afford to be “picky” about the food they put into their bodies?

Here's what City Paper they had to say:

What is a little more dubious is the sheer distance between what urban agriculture's most idealistic proponents want it to mean to Philadelphia — a self-sufficient means of food production for the poor, a source of jobs, a cure for the ills of urban obesity and malnutrition —and its reality on the ground so far.

Whether that distance can be breached may be put to the test soon. In recent years, urban agriculture has had the luxury of defining itself in opposition: to a culture of cheap, pesticide-dependent produce; to a society increasingly isolated from and ignorant of the origin of its food; and to a city which has sometimes seen vegetable gardens on vacant lots as impeding development —rather than vice versa.

But about a year ago, something surprising happened: The city itself began to get all ... urban aggy, with various city agencies coming up with proposals to sponsor new inner-city farms. Urban agriculture, all of a sudden, is in. The problem, quickly becoming apparent, is that no one quite agrees on what, exactly, it's supposed to be.

Read the full article here.