Authors

Michael Raleigh

Publication Date

10-27-2010

Category

Poverty/Income Inequality

Abstract

Our food system is heavily industrialized, which means it consumes an incredible amount of resources, including energy derived from burning fossil fuels. By one estimate, the food system takes 10 calories of energy to produce one calorie of food. The phrase “eating oil” refers to our use of oil to power the machines that plant seeds, spray pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides, spread fertilizer, operate irrigation pumps, till the soil, harvest and process crops, and transport the food. All of these activities produce greenhouse gases. In short, our food system is a major contributor to climate change. The development of urban farms is a necessary strategy to “de-carbon” the food system for several reasons. Urban farms typically use human power in place of machines powered by oil. Urban farms are smaller than industrial scale farms; thus they can be worked and managed with fewer machines. And despite a low tech approach, home gardens and small urban farms can be much more productive per unit of land and energy used than large scale farms.

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