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A sustainable future

The city of Gothenburg hires Urban Farmer to tackle futural food supply challenge

Is it possible for a city to employ a farmer to produce food and knowledge, supporting the growth of a myriad of sustainable small scale farmers?

Words: Johan Magnusson

Klara Hansson describes herself as an avid outdoors, climbing, and freediving lover. After studying engineering as a young adult she realized that she was more drawn to working outside with nature than indoors in front of a computer. Via the concept of permaculture and urban farming she’s spent about a decade exploring different ways of creating edible cities and landscapes. She recently started a new position with the city of Gothenburg as their first employed Urban Farmer.

— I’m the project manager for a 2500 sqm Model Farm situated just outside the city, where I’m building a so called Market Garden, she says. The purpose of the Model Farm is to produce both food and future farmers. I’m growing vegetables which are delivered to nearby schools and elderly care homes run by the municipality. I’m also guiding groups or individuals who wish to learn more about how to run a Market Garden. In collaboration with a vocational school, Naturbruk Angered, the farm will be used as an educational site.

How come that the city has hired their own Urban Farmer?

— Since a political decision in 2012, Gothenburg has been working hard with the questions of urban farming, green cityscapes, food sovereignty, local ecological food production, and green entrepreneurship. After receiving EU-funding to run a three year project called SATURN together with the cities of Trento and Birmingham, looking at a sustainable land use interconnecting cities and the surrounding landscape, the Model Farm and the employment of an Urban Farmer came to life as a case study. Is it possible for a city to employ a farmer to produce food and knowledge, instead of buying these things from external sources? We have three years of funding to find out!

What are the major future challenges for cities and their food supply?

— We’re in the midst of a global climate crisis. A part of the solution when it comes to lowering our emissions, reducing our usage of resources and pumping back carbon into the ground is to turn to regenerative farming practices on a local scale. Urban farming is an essential part of turning the tide when it comes to feeding the ever growing urbanized population. A city will most likely never be able to produce all the food it needs, nor is that a realistic goal, but if we can enhance the production capacity within cities and near cities by using biointensive farming practices we can at least provide 30% or more of the calories we need. It is up to each city to figure out how and where this can be done depending on climate, demographics, existing infrastructure etc. In Gothenburg, for instance, the city owns 3000 ha of arable land and thus have a great opportunity to push forth the future urban farmers by providing access to leased land.

And which crops will you harvest?

— I have planted and am now harvesting roughly forty different crops. To name a few there’s kale, kohlrabi, scallions, tomatoes, pak choi, salad, peppers, chili, zucchini, cucumber, leafy greens, fennel, radishes, edible flowers, spinach, broccoli, peas, beans, beets, carrots, tomatillo, parsley, cilantro… I’ve also done some foraging for nettles, chick weed, fire weed etc to bump up the deliveries the first weeks. In August and September I’ve been harvesting 100+ kg of vegetables each week.

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