Urban agriculture is growing food for urban markets in close proximity to where a community of people live.  More rigidly it is growing food in any manner (just use your imagination…) in or sometimes around the perimeter of cities and towns.  Even more rigidly it is:

integrated into the urban economic and ecological system: urban agriculture is embedded in -and interacting with- the urban ecosystem. Such linkages include[:]

  • the use of urban residents as labourers
  • use of typical urban resources (like organic waste as compost and urban wastewater for irrigation)
  • direct links with urban consumers
  • direct impacts on urban ecology (positive and negative)
  • being part of the urban food system
  • competing for land with other urban functions
  • being influenced by urban policies and plans, etc.

Urban agriculture is not a relict of the past that will fade away (urban agriculture increases when the city grows) nor brought to the city by rural immigrants that will loose their rural habits over time. It is an integral part of the urban system (RUAF.org).

wow, that was a mouthful…

Though the potential for urban agriculture is largely untapped and undervalued, it is currently a large industry of many small scale farmers and some large agribusinesses.  Intensive urban agriculture can yield several times as much produce per area as rural agriculture.  Because inputs such as water, land, and nutrients are limited in cities, city farming uses techniques which require only a fraction of the inputs that rural agriculture use.  Also, urban farming can help to absorb some of the  urban solid and liquid waste, helping the city to reduce its waste management problems and costs.

Click here for more benefits of urban agriculture and lots of examples…

Squatting on a vacant lot on Forest Street in Baltimore, MD

Urban agriculture solves food security issues while creating local, nutritious food for all.  It is indiscriminate- something that anyone, rich or poor, take advantage of and enjoy.  There is no average urban farmer.  People of diverse income and cultural backgrounds garden in cities.

For the poorest of the poor, it provides good access to food.  For the stable poor, it provides a source of income and god-quality food at low cost.  For middle-income families, it offers the possibility of savings and return on their investment in urban property.  For small and large scale entrepreneurs, it is a profitable business. (Urban Agriculture: Food, Jobs, and Sustainable Cities, p. 4)

Click here to find out more about who farms the city.

Raised beds in a Taiwanese Community Garden

It has many names: city farming, city gardening, vacant lot gardening, rooftop gardening, peri-urban agriculture, community gardening, container vegetable gardening, portable agriculture.

A Greenroof from ‘Strategies for Sustainable Designs’

Urban agriculture can be done in a wide variety of places: vacant lots, backyards, rooftops, window containers, city parks, roadsides, steep slopes, river banks,beneath high tension lines, beside railroads, schoolyards, hospitals, at the boundary of cities, even underground or up the sides of buildings.

Click here for more on various crazy methods of urban agriculture…

Large cities are not new-more than a thousand years ago, Baghdad was home to more than one million people and the floating islands of Mexico city fed its population of 200,000.  These were the megacities of the past. Archeologists frequently find sites with incredible earth and water works in and around ancient cities.

Irrigated terrace farms of the ancient Incan city, Machu Picchu in the mountains of Peru

Click here for a history of urban agriculture both in the US and around the world.

These days, a megacity is defined as an urban center with a population of at least 10 million.  30 years ago there were 5 megacities in the world, 3 of which were in developing countries.  By the end of the next decade there will be 23, 19 of which will be in developing countries (Mougeot 2006).

See a pattern?

Cities in developing nations (the South) are growing much fast than cities in developed nations (the North). In fact, between now and 2030 nearly all population growth will be in the cities of developing countries, where some cities are growing two or three times faster than the country’s overall population. This trend is equivalent to adding a city of one million residents every week (UN-HABITAT 2004).

Vegetable plots around Yaoundé in Zimbabwe

Click here to find out more about urban agriculture in developing countries and its importance as the population grows…

LaDonna Redmond speaks to a group visiting the urban farm she began in her West Chicago neighborhood.

Click here to learn more about urban agriculture in the US.

Use the links below to help navigate through your city farming adventure!



Mougeot, Luc. 2006. in_focus: GROWING BETTER CITIES: Urban Agriculture for Sustainable Development. Ottawa : International Development Research Centre.

Urban Agriculture: Food, Jobs and Sustainable CitiesUnited Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Publication Series for Habitat II, Volume One, UNDP, 1996. 300 pp.

Resource Centers on Urban Agriculture and Food Security (RUAF)- What is Urban Agriculture?



Urban Agriculture: An Abbreviated List of References and Resource Guide 2000

5 Responses to “What is urban agriculture?”

  1. Alyssa Says:

    Just wanted to note that the second picture down is of an urban garden here in Baltimore called Participation Park. It was started by a few art pals of mine from school. Here’s more info: http://www.goforchange.com/2008/11/26/participation-park/

    Your blog is AWESOME!!!

  2. Margie Says:

    Interested folks can find a slew of upcoming events at http://www.BaltimoreUrbanAg.org

  3. Ben Ross Says:

    I’m a bit skeptical. The problem with urban farming and “green space” is that it often induces sprawl, the driving factor in most environmental problems. Leaving open space inside cities for farms sounds environmental, but in terms of the environment, it’s probably doing more harm than good. Now farming on the *outskirts* of urban areas…that raises some very interesting possibilities.

  4. This is fantastic blog on urban agriculture. Keep up the great work. Its great to see a resource like this for urban folk. Keep it up.

  5. Good commentary. Last Month I stumbled onto this site and wanted to let you know that I have been gratified, going through your site’s posts. I shall be signing up to your RSS feed and will wait for your next post.

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