Edible Cities

We explore the growth and development of global edible cities as they pioneer urban agriculture and farming. 

Edible Cities & Sustainability

In recent years, as urban centres understand their growing influence as change makers and their responsibility to pioneer sustainability, as home to a large percentage of the world’s population, the concept of edible cities has begun to gain traction. 

The definition of an edible city is still being defined, as the concept gains awareness amongst urban planners and residents alike. However, in essence, it refers to a city which prioritizes and develops public urban gardens, where residents can grow and harvest fruits, and vegetables. It might also include bee keeping, and in some cities, livestock and fish farming. In some cities this gardening may also involve high-tech driven indoor farming. 

In London, social enterprise Urban Bees, works with communities across the city in order to promote bee-friendly neighbourhoods, while encouraging residents to become responsible beekeepers. Their first training project took place with the Co-op Plan Bee in Battersea. 

Urban agriculture still has a long way to go before it is able to feed even a fraction of a city population, without the need for other sources. But as urban populations increase, nearly 10 billion people are expected to live in cities by 2050, the need for cities to learn more about how they can develop ways to take responsibility for feeding their own residents, becomes increasingly pressing. 

In the German city of Andernach, currently one of the leading edible cities in the world, their approach includes public, urban gardens to plan fruits and vegetables. The gardens are managed by residents, and the harvested product is accessible and available to any city resident. Involving urban residents in the management of the gardens is essential to the success of an edible city project.


Their approach includes public, urban gardens to plan fruits and vegetables. Image by Megan Thomas.

Edible Cities & Community

Edible cities are about more than just promoting sustainability, and building a greener city. They are also about fostering community involvement, and building communities around urban gardens. In some cities the gardens are built within city prisons, or are used to involve minority at-risk youth from inner city schools, in a community project. 

In New York, the City Growers organization, has matched the city’s urban farms with school children, in an initiative that aims to connect children to nature, but also to enable them to understand more about how the food they eat is produced. This education of a city’s youngest residents is also important in building cities of the future that are more sustainable and environmentally conscious. 

They are also about recognising the importance of mental health, and how access to green spaces, and a connection to nature, improves the overall wellbeing of urban residents. They are also designed to combat social isolation, by bringing together people from all walks of life, in order to farm and grow produce that everyone can enjoy. 

Edible cities understand the need to be creative in developing public green spaces. Many edible gardens are on rooftops of buildings, and these also bring benefits such as improved city air quality, greater insulation of buildings with a garden on top of them, and an increase in the number of green spaces within a city, also helps keep cities cooler. Urban gardens can be developed anywhere, and can be as small or as large, as the space available for them. They can also be individual initiatives, individuals growing herbs on their window, or a whole neighbourhood project involving residents, businesses, schools and more. 

They also understand the importance of building local, sustainable economies. Many of the gardens within edible cities grow produce that is then used by local restaurants, creating a new, sustainable chain of trade, as well as new job opportunities for city residents. 

The future

Many edible garden projects within edible cities are very much small scale projects- designed to supply some of the produce a busy city restaurant might require, or to serve the needs of a part of a neighbourhood, or urban community. 


Designed to supply some of the produce a busy city restaurant might require, or to serve the needs of a part of a neighbourhood, or urban community. Image by Katie Treadway.

But as we look to the future, and to what makes a city truly great, both for its residents and in terms of its ability to build a more sustainable future for the city and its residents, looking to edible cities as the ideal, makes more and more sense. 

It means understanding that developing green spaces within a city is about much more than providing a green space, for residents to sit and socialise, and exercise in. Green spaces can be this, but they can also be so much more- and bring together communities in the growing and harvesting of food. 

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