Month: December 2012

Urban planning and food (10) Cows

vacas galicia0

The cow is a central animal in the traditional Galician country areas and for the identity of a region in which the rural areas are still relevant.

According to data from the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment, from January 2010 to December 2010 Galicians consumed 259,8 millions of kg of liquid milk. The official population as of January 1, 2010 was 2.797.653, so the average consumption was 92,6 kg of liquid milk by habitant and year.

The Galician Statitics Institute registrered 963.368 bovine cattle units, of which 326.596 were milk cows; their production that year was 32,64 million liters, so the yearly average was 99 liters by cow.

Milk’s density is 1,032 kg/litre

  • Each Galician would need nearly an entire cow for his yearly use (not taking into account cheese and other derivatives of milk).
  • The region imports milk, despite its traditional image of milk production hub.

It is impossible to draw precisely a foodshed as there are no  precise data on consumption traceability, but the liquid milk foodshed for the Coruña- Ferrol metropolitan area (close to half a million people) would have been the entire Galician region and a sizeable part of the Asturias region, that produced a similar amount of milk on that year.

Number of milk cows in the Galician municipalities in 2010. The two main metropolitan areas are outlined

Number of milk cows in the Galician municipalities in 2010. The two main metropolitan areas are outlined

Urban planning and food (9) Vegaviana

Vegaviana is from 2009 a municipality in the province of Cáceres, in Spain. The settlement was created in 1954 as a new planned agrarian settlement, as a part of the internal colonization movement developed under the Franco Regime; large irrigation projects (in this case, linked to the Borbollón reservoir) were linked to these new agrarian towns. In 1961 there were 3.131 colonists, but today population is 863, as the area is subject to the same demographic trends that mark most of rural Spain.

The architectural project, by Fernandez del Amo, was awarded, and as in most of these colonization settlements the humble architecture is well integrated in the landscape. It is usually the opposite to a golf course, as here productive land must be preserved as the reason for the urban tissue.



Urban planning and food (8) Lanzarote

The island of Lanzarote is a volcanic territory in the Atlantic ocean. A large series of eruption in the XVIIIth century destroyed relevant agricultural landscapes. The islanders developed agricultural systems that allowed food production even under such harsh conditions (strong winds, arid land, nearly no water at all). Today some of these productions have earned quality labels (as the wine), but food production is not able to feed the local population and the sizeable tourist presence, so the island imports oil for its water desalting plants (there are plans to substitute it for renewable energies) and food. Geria 1geria2lanzarote1

Biblio (19) Urban planning and food- the larger foodshed

The following maps show the most recent data concerning maize production in different parts of the planet, according to FAO’s statistical website. It is interesting to see what happens where you live, for a wide array of productions… It is also interesting to read The State of Food and Agriculture 2010-2011, a flagship yearbook by FAO, which this year focuses on women in agriculture and the relevance of closing the gender gap for development.


Urban planning and food (7) La Aldea de San Nicolas

Comida- San Nicolas1


La Aldea de San Nicolas is a municipality in the western part of the island of Gran Canaria, with a population of 8.626. It is surounded by protected spaces related to its arid and volcanic landscape. It has 2.300 hectares of dry farming, divided in 111 farming units, and 381 hectares of irrigated land, divided in 230 farming units. As water is always scarce on the island, it comes from desalting plants, and a large share of irrigated land is under plastic grenhouses. As usual, greenhouses are mounted or dismantled according to the farmer’s profit expectations, and they are a hit in the landscape, creating a haphazard patchwork with traditional agriculture and settlements.Comida- San Nicolas2

Urban planning and food (6) Madrid, potatoes and the Retiro Park


The Retiro park, in central Madrid, as substituted by farmland in the region, at the same scale

After seeing what happens in several cities, a look at Madrid. Data from the Regional Statistical Institute shows that for five crops relevant to the average urban diet (wheat, corn, potatoes and olives), cultivation surfaces have diminished considerably, but for olive trees. Output has also shrinked in several cases, but following more erratic patterns (agriculture being an economic activity, farmers plant according to their benefit expectations). Productions by hectare usually have risen.


Production in metric tons by hectare in the Madrid region for selected crops

Overall, over an hectare (2,5 acres), the average for the last 25 years shows that you can grow:

  • 2,24 metric tons of wheat or
  • 9,75 metric tons of corn or
  • 25,08 metric tons of potatoes
  • 2,56 metric tons of grapes or
  • 0,5 metric tons of olives

The Retiro Park in central Madrid  is slightly over 100 hectares, a figure that I will use to simplify. If the Retiro was to be entirely used for cultivation (this is just a mind game, by no means a proposition…), each of the 1.075.000 inhabitants of central Madrid (area covered by the Proyecto Madrid Centro) could eat, for each harvest:

  • 208 grams of wheat or
  • 907 grams of corn or
  • 2,33 kg of potatoes or
  • 230 grams of grapes or
  • 46 grams of olives

Even if some experiences have shown that urban agriculture can be more productive than current agriculture methods, it is also true that the qualities of the Retiro soils for agriculture should be assessed…

Rephrasing the argument, for each sq meter (some 10 sq ft) of urban farms, and according to these figures, in Madrid you would get:

  • 224 grams of wheat or
  • 975 grams of corn or
  • 2,5 kg of potatoes or
  • 256 grams of grapes or
  • 50 grams of olives

This doesn’t mean that urban agriculture has no sense in Madrid, but that its real production capacity must well assessed, and that it is important to understand that its benefits are not only in food production, encompassing also social and environmental aspects.