Building resilience for a warmer world: What is the current spatial and social potential for urban farming in Haaga?
Global urban populations are growing at a substantial rate. More people live in cities than rural areas, and the proportion of urban dwellers is expected to reach 70% by 2050 (De Wit, 2014). This makes cities particularly vulnerable to effects of climate change-induced food shortage. Projected population increase in Helsinki appears to follow a similar growth trend, as the city continues to urbansie. As the desirable target of limiting average global temperature rise to 1.5 Celsius risks being missed on current trends, it makes sense to prepare for a warmer world by increasing the climate resilience of cities already today and on any level, as climate change can lead to catastrophic impacts on all spatial scales (IPCC, 2018).
Why urban farming?
Currently, global food supplies, especially in the developed world, are highly mobile and international. It could be argued that many western countries would not be able to sustain their populations with food produced within the countries themselves. The import-rate of the Finnish food market was 25% in 2012 (Knuutila & Vatanen, 2015), indicating that although most of our food is produced in Finland, we are arguably not free from reliance on global food trading. As most of the world’s land available for food production is nearing maximum usage (World Bank, 2017) and effects from climate change reduce the area suitable for food production, food self-sufficiency is growing in importance to ensure food security in light of these challenges.
Urban farming refers to growing food within municipal boundaries, including community gardens, shared garden plots, beekeeping and raising chickens etc. (Valley & Wittman, 2018). Urban farming can assist increasing food security on a local scale, therefore building up the resilience of an area for future climate-shocks. Additionally, they can promote the consumption of local food, reducing food miles, reliance on carbon-intensive imports and support provision of alternatives to environmentally problematic animal-based foods. Urban farming initiatives can be categorised under several management types. Cohen, et. al. (2012) classify these as commercial urban farms, volunteer-led community gardens and institutional farms for example managed by a school, prison, church or a non-profit organisation. Community farms and gardens can have numerous social benefits, such as narrowing the gap between the production and consumption of food (Mincyte & Dobernig, 2016), increasing connection with nature (especially with children), reducing allergies, and increasing social cohesion and sense of community, perhaps useful for developing a regional identity (Vierikko lecture 15.10.).
Based on the work of others, we already have a narrative of development leading to the Haaga we know today. We know that nature forms a strong piece of the Haaga identity and interspersing the district with green areas has been important in its development. Several allotment gardens already exist in the area (Aino Achtens Park, Korppaanpuisto), indicating that it could be reasonable to expect supportive attitudes and sufficient space for urban farms.
Posts of others have highlighted a lack of identity and low density as major problems in Haaga. Identity is of course formed over long periods of time, and any one plan cannot directly create an identity for a place. A great potential for infill development has been identified for the area. Could this mean that there is also a great potential for space for urban farming sites? Could these sites start to help form a deeper social identity for Haaga by gradually introducing neighbours to each other? Bearing in mind how few services and recreational activities there are available in Haaga to facilitate this sort of social mixing currently, activities allowing the locals to integrate better among each other could help create social cohesion and act as a catalyst to create identity over time. Posts this week have also highlighted segregation in Pohjois-Haaga, as inhabitants of low incomes and education levels are clustered in the area. Is there perhaps scope for social initiatives to reduce the negative effects of this segregation?
To re-iterate, the present research question seeks to assess the spatial and social potential for urban community farming in Haaga. The components describing research objectives below have intentionally been left vague to allow for refining later.
Spatial – This component of research would seek to identify the geographical areas suitable for potential urban farming. These could be parks, yards, vacant lots or even rooftops. Knowledge of suitable tenure type, property rights and relevant permissions would be required for any identified location. GIS-analysis to identify areas potentially suitable to use or convert to farming space would be used to perform this part of research. Results of this component would ideally be presented as maps and figures.
Social – This component would explore attitudes of Haaga residents toward urban farming in their neighbourhoods using questionnaires. We would seek to find out who might be interested to take part, who might be opposed, general level of knowledge on urban farming, whether they feel it could improve a sense of community, environmental concerns etc. Differences between age groups, education levels, gender and other demographic variables might provide insight on the potential members, financiers and beneficiaries of such community projects, as well as those who may become disadvantaged in some way. In addition, knowledge of preferred management type (cooperative, rented allotments etc.) and perceptions of potential conflicts and threats like vandalism could be discovered. Collection methods could include both online and on-location data collection. Results from this component would be used to assess existing social capital and momentum for community farming to take place.
Alternatively, these two components could be split in to individual studies
Planned urban farming spots in Helsinki: https://www.hel.fi/static/hkr/kaupunkiviljelypaikat_2014.pdf
Battery Park urban farm (NYC) http://thebattery.org/about-us/urban-farm/
Why We Should be Urban Farming: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XaEKJ5Vv3Zg&t=326s
Battery Urban Farm in Manhattan, NYC (http://thebattery.org/about-us/urban-farm/)
Solefood Urban Farm in Vancouver (https://fi.pinterest.com/modestwanderer/)
Cohen N, Reynolds K and Sanghvi R (2012) Five Borough Farm. Seeding the Future of Urban Agriculture in New York City. New York, NY: Design Trust for Public Space.
IPCC. 2018. Global Warming of 1.5 C: an IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty. (Online). Accessed: 15.10.2018. Available from: http://www.ipcc.ch/report/sr15/
Knuutila, M. & Vatanen, E. 2015. Elintarvikemarkkinoiden tuontiriippuvuus. (Online). Accessed: 15.10.2018. Available from: https://jukuri.luke.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/530860/luke-luobio_70_2015.pdf?sequence=6&isAllowed=y
Mincyte, D. & Dobernig K. 2016. Urban farming in the North American Metropolis: Rethinking work and distance in alternative food networks. Environment and Planning. Vol. 48(9). Pp. 1767-1786
De Wit, M. M. 2014. A lighthouse for urban agriculture. University of California Press Journals. Vol. 14(1). Pp. 9-22
Valley, W. & Wittman, H. 2018. Beyond feeding the city: The multifunctionality of urban farming in Vancouver, BC. City, Culture & Society.