There are certainly those who will always garden- for food, for pleasure, for the feeling of productivity, for health and excersize, for nutrition, for love of the outdoors.  There are thousands of reasons people find a relationship with plants important. 

Chinampas, incredibly productive garden plots invented by the Aztecs around 1150 – 1350 CE.

Click Here to learn about history of urban agriculture all over the world

To learn lots and lots about history urban gardening in the United States keep travelin down….


Below are individual pages with an overflowing bounty of information:

1. Potato Patches (1890-1930)

2. City Beautiful Movement (1890-1910)

3. World War I: Liberty Gardens (1917-1919)

4. Depression relief gardens (1930-1938)

5. World War II: Victory Gardens (1940-1945)

6. Community Garden Movement (1970-present)

Soldiers stand to attention holding their gardening tools for their plots. 1941.  


Urban Agriculture is thought to have evolved from the European system of allotment gardens.  These gardens, similar to the plots found around mideaival cities, first appeared around the edges of towns in the 18th century due to “agricultural transformation, urbanization and industrialization.” (Warner, 1987) in countries such as Germany, England, Sweden, and Holland.  Immigrants from these countries took allotment gardens to the United States where they became important for food security in poor urban areas such as Boston and New York (Williamson).


Photos of New York City Tenements by Jacob Riis, 1895

Urban relief gardens played an important role in sustaining large populations of Americans during economic depressions.  At the same time, upper-class city dwellers became worried about crime, safety, and cleanliness of cities.  The began the City Beautiful Movement, a reform movement to clean up and revitalize urban centers and create beautiful spaces.  This movement sparked the start of school  gardens and garden clubs in the vacant lots and backyards of many cities. 

An advertisement to save food during World War II

War gardens played an important role in the nation-wide effort to help win both World War I and World War II.  These victory gardens made gardening a patriot activity and introduced gardening as an activity for everyone, not just those too poor to buy their own food.  

Happy gardeners read notices at a New York City Farm in 1794, Photo by Liz Christy

Later, in the late 1960s and 1970s, community gardening started to make a comeback as a hobby.  Organic gardening and community farms became popular and many cities around the country started community gardening programs for their residents.


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5 Responses to “History of Urban Agriculture”

  1. […] If you’re interested in growing your own produce, you might want to take a look at the website, part of the current effort to revive the WWII concept of the victory garden, this time to fight the war on global climate change. For more on the history of urban agriculture, check out the excellent blog Sprouts in the Sidewalk. […]

  2. It seems there are those who think urban farming is in Detroit’s future. On the other hand, apparently Detroit hasn’t embraced the concept yet.

  3. Joe Muellenberg Says:

    Great site. I think I’m going to learn a lot from what you have. A suggestion would be to restructure your righthand vertical column to something more user friendly. Try to condense all the info into 10 or less categories and make them readable on a small list at the top.

  4. The photo of the Bowery Houston community farm and garden showed the garden’s founder “liz Christy” in 1974 taken by donald loggins.

  5. kathy alford Says:

    Found some great info for a Restoration Trade Fair in Long Beach Ca,I am doing to promote sustainable gardening. We are using a theme of Liberty to Victory Gardens ( with an urban twist) and how we can apply the same idea today. Thank you for the info I will credit you for the information I pulled off of your site.

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