Urban agriculture is an important and interesting phenomenon, which is presently gathering impetus in Israeli cities, similar to such trends in large cities all over the world. Historically and chronologically agricultural activities – which marked the advent of Neolithic age 10,000 years ago – preceded urban activities. Permanent rural agricultural settlements represented a radical change in living patterns of what were previously nomadic tribes or families who lived off the land by collecting edible seeds and plants and by hunting.
Farming changed the food intake of mankind and for the first time produced a caloric surplus over what was previously available for human sustenance. This surplus led to an increased birth rate and enabled the investment in human resources, cultural development and communal organization. These processes led to the agglomeration of human beings in dense dwelling spaces, which further on led to the creation of so-called ‘towns’ and ‘cities’, a settlement pattern which to-date has reached developmental peaks and which already encompasses more than the half of all mankind now living on the earth’s surface.
One of the central and outstanding characteristics in the creation of urban spaces (settlements) was the separation between the cultivation of food crops and the process of trading and consumption of related products. The cities hosted food markets which became meeting points for the trading of farming surplus. Urban spaces grew denser with time, thus turning into environmental hazards and a cause for the spreading of diseases, health hazards and wildfires. The degradation of the environment and deficient sanitary conditions were additional reasons why urban farming became practically impossible in urban spaces.
In recent years the subject of urban agriculture has again become the focus of social-environmental deliberations, following the adoption of more rigid environmental standards, as well as such incidents of armed conflicts and economic crises, which affected the income level of families and thus brought back the economic feasibility of growing local food, such as fruits and vegetable crops, within urban areas.
Urban agriculture possesses multiple advantages leading to numerous positive aspects, such as social cohesion within the city and the diffusion of a ‘sense of place’, and involving also important environmental issues, such as the abatement of air pollution, reduction of climatic phenomena of so-called ‘urban heat islands’, and even the establishment of ecological supporting areas for a variety of animal species and means for enabling passage to open spaces on the outskirts of the city. It is understood that important economic advantages can be integrated into issues of urban sustainability with a view of engendering social-environmental and economical synergies.
The essence of the typology proposed in this study is the structuring of an owner-output model that classifies the various kinds of urban agriculture according to land or site ownership, and the destination of the resultant farming output. This distinction may serve public representatives and municipal executives in the shaping and implementation of their social and environmental policies. Accordingly, this study introduces and underlines the inherent social and environmental advantages of urban-agricultural activities, as well as the special need for a compatible and favorable attitude by city executives, aimed at supporting and promoting urban agricultural projects in given areas of their precincts.