Will everyone be growing their food in urban surroundings soon? Hardly likely! But there is a chance that many will as allotments in urban areas have a great potential of becoming the “next big thing” in food production and food security in general.
Allotment, or a community garden is a piece of land made available for individual, non-commercial gardening or growing food plants, usually given to individuals and families wishing to grow their own food or flowers. The sizes of these gardens range down from 50 square meters up to 400 square meters. Very often the groups working on these plots are organised into associations which lease (or are granted) the land which can be public, private, or ecclesiastical.
Dr Jill Edmondson from the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences at Sheffield University, Sheffield, United Kingdom, conducted a research by analyzing 27 soil samples from 15 allotment sites with the purpose of determining their properties, such as carbon levels, total nitrogen, and the ratio between carbon and nitrogen and other elements that influence the development of planted food. Beside allotments, she took samples from local parks, gardens and surrounding agricultural land.
The results were surprising. The soil collected in the allotment fields contained, on average, 35% more soil nutrients necessary for the growth of plants. Another reason the allotment soil is far superior to the arable land might lie in the fact that allotment holders use sustainable management techniques and compost their waste, performing the fertilize the soil this way. This means that the food you grow yourself will be two times (at least) healthier.
In an interview, Dr Edmondson said: "An estimated 800 million city dwellers across the world participate in urban food production, which makes a vital contribution to food security. Our results suggest that in order to protect our soils, planning and policy making should promote urban own-growing rather than further intensification of conventional agriculture as a more sustainable way of meeting increasing food demand."
Interestingly, according to the research, producing your own food, beside all other, has direct physical and mental health benefits.