Start Date

2020 12:00 AM

Abstract

The large-scale urbanization of the global population has created convoluted and often inefficient food supply chains, where food is brought from rural areas across the world into cities. These food supply chains are vulnerable to shocks and stresses, as seen with the COVID-19 pandemic. These stresses are only expected to increase with the effects of climate change. Farmers are being pressured to grow more food for a growing global population whilst conserving natural resources. Thus, there has been increased effort to promote local agriculture to build food self-sufficiency in cities. However, the sustainability of different scales of local agriculture, such as urban versus regional production, is unclear. This study evaluates different types of local food production in Georgia, USA by examining yields, resource use, material use, and transport distances to final sale for tomato production. Organically managed urban (n=1), peri-urban (n=3), and rural farms (n=3), as well as conventional, rural farms (n=2), were compared to understand how farm scale, distance of the farm to the consumer, and management practices influence resource and material use. Yields varied between and within the organic farm categories, which had both the highest yields (>7 kg m-2 on the urban and one peri-urban farm) and the lowest yields (<2 kg m-2 on other peri-urban farms). The rural, conventional farm category had the highest average yields (6 kg m-2) after the urban farm. Differences in yields between organic farms appears to be linked to the amount of available labor and farmer experience. The conventional, rural farms had the lowest average energy, total Nitrogen, and plastic use per kg sellable crop, but the highest water use, packaging use, and average transport distances. The generally high resource and material use efficiency on conventional farms can be attributed to high production output and economies of scale achieved on these larger commercial farms. Some urban and peri-urban farms also showed high resource use efficiencies through the use of innovative waste cycling and material reuse strategies. It should be noted that higher resource and material use does not necessarily translate to higher environmental impacts, which will depend on the types of materials used. Thus, this study highlights an opportunity to promote the commercialization of peri-urban food production to shorten food supply chains, access labor from urban areas, and allow for waste cycling between farms and cities whilst embracing the efficiencies of larger scale production.

Keywords

urban agriculture, local agriculture, local food, organic, tomato, horticulture

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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Jan 1st, 12:00 AM

Comparing resource use for tomato production on urban, peri-urban and rural farms in Georgia, USA

The large-scale urbanization of the global population has created convoluted and often inefficient food supply chains, where food is brought from rural areas across the world into cities. These food supply chains are vulnerable to shocks and stresses, as seen with the COVID-19 pandemic. These stresses are only expected to increase with the effects of climate change. Farmers are being pressured to grow more food for a growing global population whilst conserving natural resources. Thus, there has been increased effort to promote local agriculture to build food self-sufficiency in cities. However, the sustainability of different scales of local agriculture, such as urban versus regional production, is unclear. This study evaluates different types of local food production in Georgia, USA by examining yields, resource use, material use, and transport distances to final sale for tomato production. Organically managed urban (n=1), peri-urban (n=3), and rural farms (n=3), as well as conventional, rural farms (n=2), were compared to understand how farm scale, distance of the farm to the consumer, and management practices influence resource and material use. Yields varied between and within the organic farm categories, which had both the highest yields (>7 kg m-2 on the urban and one peri-urban farm) and the lowest yields (<2 kg>m-2 on other peri-urban farms). The rural, conventional farm category had the highest average yields (6 kg m-2) after the urban farm. Differences in yields between organic farms appears to be linked to the amount of available labor and farmer experience. The conventional, rural farms had the lowest average energy, total Nitrogen, and plastic use per kg sellable crop, but the highest water use, packaging use, and average transport distances. The generally high resource and material use efficiency on conventional farms can be attributed to high production output and economies of scale achieved on these larger commercial farms. Some urban and peri-urban farms also showed high resource use efficiencies through the use of innovative waste cycling and material reuse strategies. It should be noted that higher resource and material use does not necessarily translate to higher environmental impacts, which will depend on the types of materials used. Thus, this study highlights an opportunity to promote the commercialization of peri-urban food production to shorten food supply chains, access labor from urban areas, and allow for waste cycling between farms and cities whilst embracing the efficiencies of larger scale production.