Are we giving up on our urban orchards?

Are we giving up on our urban orchards?

There are 456 million hectares of urban agricultural farms in and around cities in the world. This is an area as large as the European Union. About 67 million hectares of that number are inside cities, and the remaining surround to cities.  

In other words, cities are becoming significant centers of food production everywhere in the world. Researcher Pay Drecsel, a scientist at the International Water Management Institute, said urban farming decreased emissions in developed countries and contributed to green economy, but what’s hip and green in rich nations is viewed as backwards in poorer ones – “an inconvenient vestige of rural life that stands in the way of modernization.”

“That’s an attitude that needs to change,” Drechsel said in a statement (Stanford Woods, Nov. 2014).
Urban farming opens unused plots to agriculture, prevents floods, provides livelihood for the poor and protects the biodiversity in cities. Extremely nourishing products such as fresh vegetables are grown in urban areas.

In developed countries, small-scale urban farms are seen as the antidote to industrial agriculture, which pollutes water ways with chemical fertilizers and inflicts both physical and environmental damage. 

On the rooftops of skyscrapers in New York, vegetables are grown, beekeeping is done. The honey of these bees is served at breakfast tables at the hotels. 

In Havana, Kinshasa, Hanoi, Chicago, Milwaukee, Detroit and Atlanta, people are growing fruits and vegetables on window sills, roofs and shared gardens. In 2008, $4.9 million worth of summer vegetables were grown in 226 publicly shared gardens in Philadelphia.

In the low-income neighborhood of Camden, New Jersey, which has only one supermarket, residents have collected 14,000 kilos of vegetables from 44 fields despite a very rainy and cold summer season. 

Some 800 million people in the world grow fruits and vegetables in cities, corresponding to 15 percent to 20 percent of the total food produced in the world. 

Urban-grown fruits and vegetables are cheaper than market-bought ones because there is no transportation cost. They do not face transportation and distribution issues. Urban farming is a rescuer in natural disasters. States aware of this fact encourage urban agriculture. 

While the entire world is enthusiastically embracing urban farming and trying not to lose any existing urban farms, finding solutions on balconies, terraces, vertical gardens and on the top of cement, we are about to sacrifice our 1,500-year-old orchards that we succeeded in partially maintaining until today; are we really going to do this?   

Last week, Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality demolition teams leveled the barracks of the historical Yedikule Orchards right across Istanbul’s old city walls. They said their gardeners would be evicted in March. 

Yes, the Yedikule Orchards are our historical heritage. But these orchards do not only tell us about our past; they are at the same time our connection to the future.

The world is trending toward urban farming and this trend is picking up. 

We, as a matter of fact, are currently accommodating an exemplary feature with our orchards for future cities. 

Giving up on that is sucking Istanbul’s future. 

Don’t sacrifice our orchards; please don’t.