World Food Day Brings Internationally Renowned Speakers to Philadelphia

On Sunday October 16, United Nations Association of Greater Philadelphia celebrated the 30th Anniversary of World Food Day by hosting a symposium on food politics and innovative agricultural practices. The day’s speakers included:

Each speaker touched upon the interconnected, international nature of food policy and practice. Drs. Nestle and Poethig began the day by discussing rising food costs, genetic engineering, increased processing of food and the consequences to the physical health of consumers. Roxanne Christensen followed these talks by offering a solution piloted here in Philadelphia that is rapidly making its away across the world, in countries as far away as South Africa and Australia.

SPIN, or Small-Plot Intensive, farming is a new and promising urban farming technique originally piloted in Northeast Philadelphia. From 2003 to 2006, the Philadelphia Water Department partnered with urban agriculture advocates to open a 6-acre tract of land on which innovative urban farming techniques could be tested for both economic and agricultural feasibility.

Roxanne Christensen was project manager of this Somerton Tanks Farm pilot project In a conversation with GPA, Ms. Christensen pointed out that urban farming is growing in popularity because as more and more people across the world move into urban areas, it makes most economic sense for farmers to produce food as close to their markets as possible.

Ms. Christensen said that this idea is “being recognized all over the world,” an idea whose seeds were planted right here in Philadelphia. Somerton Tanks Farm was created on a $25,000 investment, and by its fourth year had grossed nearly three times that amount through the production and sales of high-value vegetables. “Farming really can be an economic engine for cities,” Ms. Christensen says. It is this economic viability, along with the resiliency of small farming techniques and the practicality of locating farms close to markets, that has contributed to SPIN farming’s success in developing economies and growing cities. “Farmers as entrepreneurs have to be recruited and supported just like any other knowledge work, creative class member, or any other asset that the city is trying to develop," Ms. Christensen concludes.

Thanks to the work of people like Drs. Nestle and Poethig, most people now agree that local food systems must be rebuilt to meet changing global demands. SPIN Farming, however, offeres a small, actionable initiative that capitalizes on the resources that already exist within growing cities: markets, land, and talent.

To hear more from the speakers themselves, watch this excerpt of the day's discussions:

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