7Wannabe5 wrote: ↑
Thu Jan 14, 2021 9:02 am
Not necessarily. One thing to bear in mind is that the early settlers were more accustomed to living off the land, so the places where they first settled which eventually became cities are often not bad places to "farm." OTOH, if you are shopping for rural land in the 21st century, there's likely a good reason why nobody is already currently farming there. For instance, the urban vacant lots I bought for my project were on a site that was a dairy farm in 1905, but the site of the Northern rural project I helped with was Dunes Forest, covered with mature pine and wild huckleberries and lichen, but the black soil is only 2 inches deep on top of sand, and the 1930s agricultural report for the region described it as being best suited for forage, maybe potatoes.
Good point to check out historical maps. I've been digging into those a bit and it is like a whole new world.
It might not take long to rebuild soil from a nutrient perspective, but I'm more concerned about contaminants/pollutants. Many soils in older cities have high levels of lead, to the point where in a lot of areas allowing chickens to forage the soil is not viable because they will get sick from lead poisoning (also means their eggs are inedible). From what I've read, how plants uptake lead is actually not that well understood, but it seems like root vegetables are a no go. Not being able to use re-use roots and soil in a closed loop system is probably more challenging than not being able to grow root vegetables. Come to think of it, there are probably lots of concerns with accumulating contaminants in a closed loop system (not sure how red worms or BSF larvae process these things), but I can see problems emerging if I'm using worm castings to fertilize vegetables and BSF to feed livestock.
Additionally, potatoes are the most nutrient dense crop by square footage, which means someone striving towards generating their calories onsite is going to have to heavily rely on potatoes. I'm not sure if lead in potatoes is as big of a concern because they are washed, cooked, and usually skins are not consumed.
Of course, when creating solutions that match a local area, it depends on the city and the population density we're talking about. My solution space for my dream ERE permaculture/bio-intensive project is looking at older cities in the northeast. For example, here's a 100 year old rowhome on a 620 sqft (.014 acres) lot that's common in an area with a population density of 26 people per acre:
https://www.realtor.com/realestateandho ... 9331-42844
This is maybe not feasible, but here's what I would do with a cheaper/more dilapidated version of a property like the one above (<$150k):
-Add roof access for $10-20k (a common addition in the region, not really able to DIY due to permits, licensing, insurance etc) and establish garden/green roof with dwarf fruit trees in containers, veggies, bee hives, PV panels with a rough estimate of actual grow space of ~400 sqft. Weight is a concern but plenty of such roofs have been retrofitted on old row homes in the region already. Utilize cold frames on all gardens to extend growing season. Runoff and soil contamination is much less of a concern on a roof.
-Add rain water harvesting barrel (downspout pipes to it), aquaculture tanks, composting worm bin, and quail cages to unfinished basement. The basement would be the "livestock" area, focused on highly efficient forms of protein that thrive indoors. Livestock feed protein is mostly sourced from BSF larvae and/or duckweed produced on site.
-Turn small backyard into rain garden and outdoor kitchen/food processing area with biogas digester to power cooking stove.
-Rent out spare bedroom or setup some kind of work exchange if more labor is required to maintain property (although I'd intelligently design my model to require only a couple hours of daily maintenance from me because I have other web of goals interests in addition to food production).
-Use window boxes and front raised bed to add another ~30 square feet of gardening space.
-Potentially get another 100 square feet of gardening space in a community garden.
-Potentially add some sort of wood stove/masonry heater and vent through existing chimney to provide heat during winter. It can double as a cooktop and oven during winter months. Not sure if this economically makes sense because you would still have to source firewood from somewhere.
All of the above are individual actions, but as time goes on I'd further improve the solution with social capital and the community in a city, inline with the OP's article. I guess what I was getting at by showing a little bit of an example, is that it is possible to make a lifestyle in an urban property more sustainable/resilient. Since the world population is increasingly urban, I feel like someone living such a lifestyle could have a much larger social impact than someone who moves to the countryside. Is the solution fully self-sufficient or scalable? Perhaps not since everyone can't afford to buy an old property and add roof access, and it remains to be seen how much food production is possible in such a small space. Then again, the world would be a lot better if more people in urban environments adopted permaculture practices and aimed to close loops.