Foundations of Urban Ecology
Urban Agriculture in Los Angeles
Los Angeles has the population of about 10.1 million people. The county is the most populated in the United States, while its city is the second most populated one in the United States. The population is expected to increase in the next few years. Therefore, there is a need for accountability regarding food security in the region. Where do this people get their food from? Is there food security? After the projected population increase, what will the food security situation be?
Agriculture is a key aspect when dealing with food security. If all other factors are held constant in those regions where agriculture is successful, then food security is guaranteed. For this reason, as a resident, it is important to be aware of the existent strategies regarding urban agriculture in the region. This research provides the analysis of the situation in Los Angeles in regard to urban agriculture. The paper describes social, environmental, and economic elements of urban agriculture in Los Angeles. In the conclusion, it also gives personal point of view regarding urban agriculture in Los Angeles, recommendations, advantages and disadvantages of the practice.
History of Urban Agriculture in the United States
Since the 1890s, communities have had spaces in the urban areas set aside for farming. Initially, this was an effort of the social reformers who were zealous to avail land and the necessary skills to the unemployed laborers. This served as an education, community building, and empowerment mechanism for the parties involved. However, after the 1930s and the Great Depression, farming became a necessity in the United States. Farming activities increased greatly, especially in the cities or urban areas. For the survival of the millions of unemployed laborers then, subsistence garden plots and urban farms were developed. By 1934, the number of households involved in urban agriculture funded by the state and municipal councils had increased to approximately 23 million. The increase could be attributed to the extra number of Americans that established gardens in their backyards and other community gardens as a way of augmenting the domestic supply of food.
When the economic boom came, suburbanization increased. This meant that the agricultural activities in the cities reduced significantly. However, by the mid-1970s, urban farming levels started rising. This was due to the rising energy and food prices coupled with the environmental ethics adopted by the United States. This has seen urban agriculture increase in the Northern America due to the increase in awareness on healthy eating, interest on the local food movements as well as the need for sustainability of cities.
Urban agriculture utilizes resources in cities which would otherwise be put to waste. In the current world, gardens are established on empty plots of land, river banks, and steep slopes. The enormous technology innovation that has been developed in the recent past enables urban agriculture to take place in areas that would otherwise be unproductive. It is possible to find people farming on the slopes and having kitchen gardens inside their houses. These developments have seen the increase in urban agriculture levels to those that would otherwise be unattainable. Urban agriculture is just a subtopic in urban ecology. However, it has become very significant in the world nowadays. Owing to the increased campaigns for the healthy living, even the urban residents want to ensure that they have at least some space where they can get some onions, tomatoes, and some fruits that they have grown. This has led to the development of what can be seen today, urban agriculture in almost all cities in the world.
In Los Angeles, the agricultural activities that residents engage in include beekeeping, fish keeping, farming, and rearing of livestock such as pigs, cows, goats, and sheep. Others also keep horses, chicken, and rabbits. Some of the crops grown in Los Angeles include maize, beans, onions, and vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, and other greens, strawberries, apples, carrots, potatoes, and avocadoes. Horticulture is also common in Los Angeles.
Urban agriculture has social, economic, and environmental impacts. Below is the discussion of these factors in regard to Los Angeles.
Social Impacts of Urban Agriculture in Los Angeles
Urban agriculture has had an impact on the social fabric of the residents of Los Angeles. These impacts are about the change in human interactions and relationships with each other as well as their environment.
Better Living Environment and Greener City
The existence of urban farms and community gardens forms safe spaces for recreational development as well as improves the physical appearance of a neighborhood. This means that the existence of urban agriculture in Los Angeles has made the city look better than when agriculture was not practiced. Through research, community gardens and urban firms have been proved to increase the physical appearance of the region. Consequently, there is the increased local pride among the residents. They feel good about their neighborhood. In addition to this, they get attached to their neighborhoods in a great way. This results in safer places where there is less risk of people vandalizing the environment and lower levels of crime. This means that Los Angeles residents feel attached to their county or city as a result of the beautiful sceneries derived from the practice of urban agriculture. In addition to this, the community gardens enable residents to build trust in one another due to the fact that they have something they share; a garden.
Community Development and Social Capital
Urban agriculture goes beyond the opportunity to grow food. It has a great potential for community development. This is because it acts as an agent for change in the communities involved. In the case of Los Angeles, the community gardens provide spaces where people can meet and socialize or make other social gatherings. This promotes the building of friendly relationships among the involved parties. Consequently, the negotiations and consultations between the community members foster the implementation of democracy. This means that community gardens assist in the practice of democracy, in the planning, and decision-making process between the community residents.
Impact on Families
Urban agriculture helps bring families together. This is because the family will work together to reach a common goal of achieving success in farming and agriculture, for example, which is beneficial to all. United families will eventually culminate into a united society and community, which means that the overall Los Angeles community will be united by urban agriculture.
Food Production and Curbing Hunger
Urban agriculture assists in the production of food in Los Angeles. This ensures that there is food security in the region. Food security ensures that there is no hunger. This means that the community is healthy, which consequently means that their immunity is also high. For this reason, the practice of urban agriculture helps have a healthy community in Los Angeles, thus providing a more productive population, even in the workplace. This means that even the development of the county becomes faster and more sustainable as opposed to when urban agriculture is not practiced.
Educating the People
Urban agriculture helps create awareness in the community on the best methods of food production, in which the government plays an important role. This awareness helps the people have access to better lifestyles regarding eating habits or feeding lifestyles. This means that there will be healthier people, thus leading to a more productive population. Consequently, the goals of the city or county are achieved in a more effective way since the residents are well aware of what is required of them.
Makes the Community Stronger and Independent
As a community, when you have a sufficient amount of produce, it builds some form of independence since you know that you can meet your needs. This builds the art of responsibility among community members. This is a form of empowering people. Consequently, this teaches the community members some necessary life skills on self-sufficiency, which culminates in independence and productivity in other areas of the economy of the community and its members.
Better Standards of Living among the Participants
Urban agriculture helps create a number of employment opportunities. The people working on the farms as well as the owners of the farms earn income from the sales. This means that there will be better living standards in the community of Los Angeles. Agriculture, if practiced properly, is very fruitful and can yield a lot of profits. These can be used to provide for the needs of the families of the involved parties. In a broader sense, the government will have increased revenues in the form of taxes since there will be taxable incomes from these people. This helps facilitate the growth of the overall economy of the United States and Los Angeles as a county and a city.
Environmental Impacts of Urban Agriculture in Los Angeles
Reduction of Erosion and Topsoil Removal
Urban agriculture helps protect the soils of urban areas from erosion since the plants act as a covering for the soil. This means that the top soil which carries a lot of nutrients is left compact. This has an indirect effect of reducing dust in the neighborhoods where urban agriculture is practiced. This is because the soil is held compact by the plants, thus reducing the probability of it disassembling and getting eroded. Reduced dust means that the environments stay clean and greener, thus providing a beautiful scenery. Consequently, the city of Los Angeles remains beautiful.
Re-Use of Water for Food Production Purposes
A lot of water is wasted in regions where agriculture is not practiced, for example, rain water. However, when there is agriculture in the area, then there is an optimum utilization of water as even the rainwater is used as a benefit to the crops. In addition to this, the stored rainwater can be used for irrigation. Prior to urban agriculture in Los Angeles, the amount of water consumed by a household was considerable; but now, since the increase in water consumption can be explained by urban agriculture, it means that the water is now being used effectively. Another important aspect when focusing on water is irrigation. Some plants need a lot of water for them to grow well. This water can be taken from the harvested rainwater or other supplies. For this reason, it is evident that urban agriculture also ensures maximum utilization of water as a resource.
Researches show that areas where agriculture is practiced have clean air due to the interaction of plant and animal life. This means that when urban agriculture is practiced in the city like Los Angeles, the city has cleaner air. This is a great advantage for the residents of the city since they have cleaner air to breathe, which means that even the respiratory infections and diseases will not be as rampant as when agriculture is not practiced.
Increases Amount of Food Grown and Bought in Los Angeles
Urban agriculture increases food production in the region, for example, Los Angeles. This means that the amount of carbon footprint in the environment will be significantly lower. Ideally, the reduced carbon footprint is due to the increase in uptake of carbon dioxide by the plants. This means that when the volume of urban agriculture is high, the level of carbon intoxication is low. In addition to this, the high volume of food production and agriculture also cleans air as discussed in the previous point.
Economic Impacts of Urban Agriculture in Los Angeles
Urban agriculture has numerous economic effects for a community, particularly for Los Angeles, and they are discussed below.
Those people who engage in urban agriculture earn income. This means an improved standard of living for the farmers. In addition to this, urban agriculture provides employment opportunities to the farmers who would otherwise be jobless. This means that their potential is exploited for the achievement of the goals of the community or state, which otherwise would not be the case if they were unemployed. The income that they earn is used to fund better living standards for the farmers; therefore, urban agriculture contributes significantly to the economic lives of the farmers as well as the state as a whole.
More Taxes for the Government
The income earned from farming activities is subject to taxation, except for subsistence farming. This means that urban agriculture helps increase the amount of money collected by the government in the form of taxes. If urban agriculture was not practiced, there would be low tax proceeds from the agricultural sector in the economy. The taxes collected from agriculture can be used to fund development projects in different regions, which means that there will be economic development for Los Angeles as a city and the United States as a whole.
Facilitates Optimum Utilization of Resources
Urban agriculture ensures maximum utilization of valuable resources such as compost. In the city like Los Angeles, compost would go to waste if urban agriculture was not practiced. Evidently, when there is urban agriculture, there is also an effective utilization of resources. For example, compost is used to improve the productivity of land used for agriculture. Although this is an indirect effect, it helps cut a lot of cost for the government or the urban council since they do not have to incur costs collecting the compost. Garbage is also segregated, and that which can be used to make manure is set aside. This also points to effective utilization of resources.
Better Local Economy and Independence
Urban agriculture ensures food production. If Los Angeles can provide for its food supply needs through urban agriculture happening within its boundaries, then it means that the economy of the city will be stable. This is given the fact that they do not have to borrow food supplies or purchase from other sources outside the city. Consequently, the form of independence is developed which will culminate into the culture of responsibility among the local leaders, farmers, and other community members involved in urban agriculture.
Earns Foreign Exchange
The agricultural products that exceed the needs of the community and country as a whole are exported to other countries. This earns the exporting country foreign exchange. In the case of Los Angeles, if some foods produced exceed the demand of the city, they can be sold to other cities. This means that Los Angeles will have an extra income and more money to fund development projects. Although agricultural products fetch very little on the market as compared to agricultural goods, the extra income derived from their export can also be significant for the city or the country as a whole. Animal products fetch considerably high profits on the market. Therefore, if they could be exported, the foreign exchange earned would also be high, thus ensuring a great advantage to Los Angeles as a city and the United States as a whole.
Problems Associated with Urban Agriculture
Urban agriculture can cause some problems. It may cause health problems. The environment is polluted by the utilization of agrochemicals used to better urban farming. These chemicals increase the risk of both communicable and non-communicable diseases. Some of these diseases may cause neurological damage due to the pesticides used during farming as well as respiratory disorders from wastewater used for irrigation. These plants may also be affected by pollution from industries and other urban activities taking place in urban centers. Elements that cause pollution in such areas are heavy waste that is produced by industries. In addition to this, automobiles produce heavy metals that are deposited to the soil. Farm products grown from the polluted soil may have negative impacts on the people and the surroundings.
Rearing of livestock poses a risk of many diseases brought as a result of animal waste. Some of the drugs used to cure the animals are very dangerous to humans. Moreover, some of the chemicals utilized to cure animal diseases and also prevent pests from attacking the animals are deposited to the soil. Urban farming also has the risk of increasing breeding of mosquitoes, which transmit malaria. They breed in stagnant water that may be the result of irrigation during urban farming. Stagnant water enables mosquitoes to breed and multiply in large numbers. Anopheles mosquito that carries malaria germs breeds in fairly clean water that is the kind of water found during farming activities.
In many countries around the globe, water is limited. When individuals in the urban centers practice urban agriculture, a lot of water is wasted. This may result in shortages of water in the urban centers. The cost of water used for farming in the urban center is high, especially if the bodies regulating water supplies charge the units used for irrigation. This is a challenge to those farmers in the city.
Farming activities may not be the best activity to conduct in urban centers. Some of these areas used for farming in urban centers can be utilized to realize much more money than farming realizes. Activities of great economic value can be undertaken in the free spaces used for agriculture. Farming is done on open lands that are not well secured like other economic activities taking place in urban centers. This can result in theft by people around who do not have spaces to practice farming, thus creating social problems in the farming areas.
From the above discussion, it is evident that urban agriculture has some disadvantages; however, the advantages of urban agriculture are more significant than disadvantages. So, in my opinion, urban agriculture in Los Angeles is of great importance. Strategies should be implemented to encourage urban farming in Los Angeles. These strategies should be supported by the government to ensure that many individuals engage in the farming. They should also make sure that the activity produces an economic benefit to the people of Los Angeles.