In the face of increasing urbanization and environmental concerns, the concept of edible landscapes has gained significant traction as a way to transform unused city spaces into productive gardens. Urban farming initiatives and passionate individuals have embraced this movement, promoting sustainable and localised food production while simultaneously enhancing the beauty and functionality of urban environments. These edible landscapes not only provide fresh, nutritious food but also contribute to sustainable food production and reduce the carbon footprint associated with long-distance food transportation.
By growing food locally, urban farmers minimize the use of pesticides and herbicides, promote biodiversity, and reduce food waste. In addition, these projects help combat food insecurity by increasing access to fresh produce in undeserved urban communities, where nutritious options are often limited.
Urban farming has taken various forms, ranging from community gardens and rooftop farms to vertical gardens and hydroponic systems which doesn’t involve the presence of soil for plants to grow. These initiatives demonstrate the ingenuity and resourcefulness of individuals who are determined to make a positive impact on their communities and the environment. By repurposing underutilized spaces such as vacant lots, rooftops, and even walls, these urban farmers are turning concrete jungles into vibrant oases of green.
One inspiring example of an edible landscape is the 'Urban Leaves' led by Preeti Patil, catering officer with the Mumbai Port Trust (MBPT).
By converting 3,000 sq. ft of terrace space into an urban garden, she found a unique solution to the problem of waste generated in the MBPT kitchen. Earlier in 2000, the central kitchen of MBPT, which caters to departmental canteens in the docks, used to generate 30 kgs of vegetable waste daily.
When Patil, who is a Btech graduate in Food Science and Catering Technology, faced issues regarding the disposal of this waste, she decided to recycle it through terrace farming.
Inspired by the works of S.A. Dabholkar and the Prayog Pariwar Natueco Farming methodology, she started experimenting on the rooftop of the kitchen. The canteen's staff happily volunteered their spare time to be a part of this project.
Over time, the terrace transformed into a highly productive food forest, creating a lush green cover amidst the concrete surroundings. The presence of beneficial bugs, birds, bees, and butterflies further enhanced the ecological balance of the area. This innovative approach not only addressed the waste management issue but also provided a sustainable source of fresh produce for the canteens and added natural beauty to the surroundings.
In 2009, Preeti Patil founded 'Urban Leaves', a non-profit organization driven by volunteers. The main objective of 'Urban Leaves' is to raise awareness about organic food cultivation in urban environments by recycling organic materials and kitchen waste. Since its establishment, 'Urban Leaves' has expanded its operations and currently oversees the management and maintenance of two rooftop community farms. These farms not only serve as productive spaces but also function as educational centres, providing valuable learning opportunities for volunteers from various age groups and professional backgrounds.
'Green Souls' is an organization based in Mumbai that goes beyond spreading ecological awareness. They have created a 30,000-sqft urban farm in Kharghar where they introduce organic farming, composting, and sustainable living. They also conduct workshops in building societies and schools, reaching out to over 7,000 people.
The unique aspect of 'Green Souls' is that the produce they grow on their farm is distributed to cancer patients and their families. By composting 150 tonnes of biodegradable waste, they are actively reducing the environmental impact of waste disposal. The group was initiated in 2012 by Julius Rego, with a strong focus on community support and involvement.
In addition to their adult programs, 'Green Souls' has designed special programs for children and teenagers. They aim to educate and engage young minds in ecological practices, making it a fun and interactive experience.
'Green Souls' addresses the issue of waste management in Mumbai, a city that produces a staggering amount of waste daily. They emphasize the importance of composting organic waste to create useful compost and prevent fires in dumping grounds.
While they acknowledge that their mission is a long-term endeavor, Green Souls is determined to make a difference by involving volunteers and conducting workshops to raise awareness and foster sustainable practices.
'Edible routes' is an organic farming company that offers organic farms, edible landscapes and create products to nurture the earth. They set up kitchen gardens, rent out farmland for urban growers, conduct workshops on organic farming and sustainability and sell natural farming products.
The company strives to reduce environmental effects and protect the integrity of natural ecosystems while promoting efficient resource utilization. By doing so, they empower individuals to cultivate their own organic and sustainable food in terrace gardens, balconies, and residential spaces.
The benefits of edible landscapes extend beyond food production and environmental sustainability. They have been shown to improve mental health and well-being by creating green spaces that offer respite from the hustle and bustle of city life. These urban oases foster a sense of community, providing opportunities for social interaction and skill sharing among individuals with a shared passion for growing food and connecting with nature.
Edible landscapes are not just a means to grow food; they represent a visionary approach to re-imagining and reinstalling the lost greenery of the world.