What is a CSA? A Food Desert? Six Urban Agriculture Terms Explained

Do you know the difference between a CSA and a co-op?  How about what truly constitutes a ‘food desert?’ Urban agriculture, defined as ‘the growing of plants and the raising of animals within and around cities’ by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, has been gaining ground in metropolitan areas and cities across the world. But what does urban agriculture actually entail? It is more than just having a rooftop garden or purchasing locally-grown food. There are several terms that get tossed around with urban agriculture – from CSA to foodscaping – and they can be confusing. Here are six of them, explained.

1. Foodscaping:

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Foodscaping is a gardening practice that makes people’s home landscapes edible. For example, homeowners may incorporate more edible plants into their entire yards instead of relegating them to small garden plots.  Many businesses are also taking up foodscaping, making fruits, vegetables, and herbs as part of their curb appeal.

Foodscaping is a fairly new trend. Many attribute the economic downturn in 2008 to the rise of combining farming and landscaping in homeowners’ efforts to save money. But with that said, this uptick may be different. Although foodscaping increases for families during recessions, it has become trend to grow your own food.

2. CSA:

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Community supported agriculture (CSA) is a community of individuals who support a farm operation that is either legally or spiritually the community’s farm, according to the US Department of Agriculture. Both the growers and consumers support the farm and share both risks and benefits of the farm’s food production. That translates to covering costs and farmers’ salaries, and in return, receiving shares of the farm’s produce.

3.  Co-op:

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A co-op is short for a food cooperative. In many communities, food cooperatives are food distribution outlets with organic, local produce, dairy, and meat with the convenience of a grocery store. Co-ops across the worlds have their own rules and regulations.

4. Farmer’s Market:

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Farmers’ markets are opportunities for residents to purchase produce and foods directly from local farms and gardens. In many communities, farmers’ markets are held once or twice a week, although some communities may host farmers markets more frequently.

Rules for farmers’ markets have changed in recent years. In 2004, the European Union launched Farm to Fork, an initiative to promote food safety, the growing of nutritious food, and environmental concern as priorities for farmers. US farmers’ market rules vary state from state.

5.  Soil Contamination:

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One issue that arises with urban agriculture is soil contamination. Urban farmers often find that the soil used for urban farms contain pesticides, lead, and other toxics. Both produce planted in the soil and animals roaming in the area can absorb the contaminants, which means farmers and consumers won’t get the most nutritious, healthiest food.

6. Food Deserts:

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Urban agriculture can also be used to address food deserts in many areas. Food deserts are urban neighborhoods that lack easy access to fresh, nutritious, and affordable food, according to the US Department of Agriculture. Residents don’t have access to supermarkets or grocery stores in close proximity – instead, they rely on convenience stores and fast food restaurants, which could lead to a poor diet, obesity, and other diet-related diseases.

Communities are identified as food deserts if they are both low-income communities and low-access communities. 23.5 million people in the US live in food deserts, and 13.5 million of those people are low-income, according to the USDA.

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