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The Future of Our Cities: Urban Agriculture

Urban agriculture was at the forefront of discussions at the Food Hub Forum event at Boston Public Market on April 25th, 2017. With sessions on topics such as Market Districts and Developing Neighborhoods and The Business of Food Retail, the event was a veritable feast of food knowledge. Green City Growers CEO & Founder Jessie Banhazl spoke on a panel about growing food in the city.

Some topics that were discussed at the forum include:

  • Local food as a driver of the economy.
  • Access to healthy and affordable food.
  • Connecting residents to the food they consume.
  • Farm to consumer (direct sales) – Massachusetts is consistently in the top 10 in the country.

Why Urban Food Systems?

Boston food leaders offered their own accounts on why urban food systems and urban agriculture are taking off. Some of their thoughts include:

John Barros, Chief Economic Development City of Boston remarked, “urban agriculture is a crucial part of Boston’s ecology.” Boston’s economy is built on a good ecosystem — so much so that there are no new office towers being constructed without considering local food options in the area. Barros remarked that food is what people are looking for and that food development goes hand in hand with the explosion of Boston’s physical footprint.

Shawn Cooney, Owner of Corner Stalk Farm discussed how urban and local agriculture offers a unique connection to the community and the ability to get produce to the market in a shorter distance. Vidya Tikku, General Manager of Boston Common Gardens took this thought a step further. She argued that in order to be relevant in food access, we need to be where the people are. This was echoed in Jessie Banhazl’s comments that one of GCG’s priorities is to have public engagement with the growing process. More urban farms and gardens mean that more people understand where their food comes from

In the end, Glynn Lloyd, Executive Director at Boston Equity Initiative, Eastern Bank summed up the challenge and the goal: transform vacant land while making a persuasive economic argument.

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