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Food is continuously a topic in the media. People want to know where it comes from and what methods have been used in growing it. People also want to grow it themselves – even in cities.
Globally, there are hundreds of millions of urban growers, and the phenomenon is not new in Finland, either. However, food production in Finnish towns should be multiplied, and urban growing should be made into one of the main points in urban planning. Current growing patches are too scarce to satisfy demand – just like fossil fuels. Tomorrow’s planners will automatically integrate patches into residential areas and urban life, just like parking lots are integrated today.
Dodo, an environmental organisation, set up its first urban patches in Helsinki three years ago. The new movement of urban growing is about finding local solutions. The objective is to introduce fruit trees and useful plants into parks and to make vegetable patches an integral part of the plots around blocks of flats and of urban daily life. By growing food we can also grow communities and an active attitude among city dwellers.
A longer-term objective of urban growing is the creation of closed systems, that is, patches that do not depend on any external sources of material or fossil energy. In the near future, we may see community composts and cellars in city blocks and neighbourhood plant nurseries. We will need them in adapting to the era of energy scarcity. But when will we see the first Finnish supermarket growing some of its vegetables on its own roof?
There are no perfect answers to the perfect urban food chain yet. We will have to be open-minded in trying and developing various things so that the utopias growing in the margins of towns could evolve, thrive, and revolutionize food production.
The writer, Joel Rosenberg, coordinates the urban growing operations of the environmental organisation Dodo. Their urban growing operations received Kesko’s sustainable development award in 2010 and the City of Helsinki environmental award in 2011. Read more: Kaupunkiviljely.fi.