Growing crops in the city is good for the mind and for society as a whole

Growing crops in the city is good for the mind and for society as a whole

September 25, 2020

Growing crops in the city is good for the mind and for society as a whole

In addition to zero-miles food products, numerous studies show that urban gardens can also bring psychological and social benefits

Experts are convinced of it: urban gardens are more than just tools for producing food. This function of urban agriculture is undoubtedly important for sustaining an ever-growing urban population - and we can clearly see this at times of crisis, such as the one caused by the COVID-19 pandemic - but it is also key to improving the health and well-being of citizens. In fact, there are many potential physical, psychological and social benefits to making cities “greener”. 

It is no coincidence, therefore, that international organizations like FAO are implementing projects aimed at guaranteeing the well-being of the urban population by improving agricultural practices in the city and its surroundings, such as the Green Cities Initiative and its action program. Similar projects focused on urban agriculture can also be found in individual cities across the globe, from Aarhus in Denmark to Quito in Ecuador. 

Benefits for body and mind

Especially in developing countries, urban agriculture can help people meet all their nutritional needs as it improves access to fresh foods rich in vitamins and minerals that are often lacking in the diet of the poorest areas. Looking globally, some studies show that people directly or indirectly involved in these urban farming activities eat better: their likelihood of eating the recommended 5 daily portions of fruit and vegetables is 3.5 times greater than for people who are not involved in them. And eating well has an immediate effect on mental performance, as demonstrated by a number of neuroscience studies which, for example, have linked malnutrition to concentration difficulties and poor school performance.

It is also worth remembering that these community vegetable gardens within cities are an opportunity to engage in physical activity and use leisure time in a healthy way, keeping fit and healthy at the same time. And if that's not enough, growing plants helps people reduce stress and improve personal well-being. 

Citizenship and the city are transformed

In social terms, urban agriculture can be seen as a powerful tool for community change. One shining example is “allotments”, or plots of land cultivated by several people that are generally found in the largest cities and in low-income areas. Studies show that in these contexts the chances of interacting, making friends and connecting more closely with people living in the same neighborhood increase. All this often translates into greater security for citizens, who are much more attentive and respectful towards their neighbors and the areas in which they live. “Unity is strength” therefore even in the context of urban agriculture and in particular in accessing areas to be cultivated inside or immediately outside the city limits. Thanks to the growing strength of movements that promote urban agriculture, in fact, municipalities and private entities are increasingly making their urban land available to be cultivated, often free of charge.


Educating and supporting the most vulnerable

How can the new generations be educated and helped to reconnect with nature and give them professional tips? Simple, through urban gardens. The “subjects” that can be learned in these special schools, which also allow interaction and integration between different cultures and generations, include environmental sustainability, the nutritional value of food, as well as the management of productive and entrepreneurial activities linked to the land and its use. 

Last, but certainly not least, urban agriculture can be useful in all those inclusion projects that aim to “leave no one behind”. Urban gardens in recovery communities, schools, or retirement homes for the elderly, are in fact important tools to get even the most vulnerable categories involved in city life. 

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