Anyone can be an urban farmer.  Have a basil plant in your window?  A window box of lettuce? A community garden plot?  Sell vegetables from your backyard?  Run a mushroom growing wearhouse in the industrial sector? Then you are an urban farmer.


A container of yellow squash, zucchinni, and Roma tomatoes on a rooftop in Chicago

In most countries, urban agriculture is dominated by small producers achieving food security and earning income for their families.  In many countries (like the US and Argentina) farmers are middle-income family gardeners using their own backyards to improve the quality of the food they eat.  Their motives are cultural or nutritional, not economic.  In many developing countries, most farmers are low-income groups trying to supplement their meager food supply.  Many of these farmers do not own the land they cultivate. (UNDP, 1996)

In order to understand who farms the cities, it is important to understand why


  • for a source of income
  • for food (to keep from starving)
  • for better nutrition
  • for more local food
  • to be outside
  • to teach
  • to create commuinty
  • to supplement an income
  • to green the city
  • to business
  • to use the resources (land, waste-water, compost) that cities have to offer



Sou Thom grows food in baskets in the hanging garden at her home on the ‘great lake’ of Tonle Sap in Rolous, a floating district of Siem Reap, Cambodia.  It’s a high density, peri-urban area where food security is a growing concern due to lack of land.  Since she lost her husband during the Khmer Rouge regime, Sou Thom has struggled to feed her large family.  Recently she found an innovative way to feed her family and generate income: she created a small vegetable and herb garden on wooden planks by using small and medium sized rattan baskets. (IDRC)

Here’s a few stats from around the world to give you a picture of urban farmers…


  • In Kathmandu, Nepal 37% of households raise horticultural crops and 11% raise animals
  • In Moscow, Russia 65% of families were engaged in agriculture in 1991 compared with only 20% in 1970
  • In Kenya 67% of urban families farm (80% of which are low income) on urban or peri-urban sites
  • In the US, 25% of urban families work in food gardens or horticulture (UNDP 1989 p.55)
  • 800 million people are involved in urban agriculture world-wide and contribute to feeding urban residents (UNDP 1996)
Women in urban agriculture
In many places urban agriculture is just a way to get a little more cash, it is not a full time job.  Many people have gardens for themselves and their family and also have jobs.  The image of the male as the provider for the family is common in many cultures, but women are often accountable for family food production.  Feeding the family often falls to the woman and they are therefore much more sensitive to possible deficiencies in nutrition and look for ways to augment their food supply.  Many studies in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America show that women are the primary urban farmers.
  • In Lima, Peru 80% of home gardens are farmed by women
  • In Nairobi, Kenya 65% of urban farmers are women
  • In Kampala, Uganda 67% of urban farmers are women
  • In Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea 67% of the principal gardeners are women (UNDP 1996 p.67)

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

2 Responses to “Who farms in the city?”

  1. Virginia Menstell Says:

    Hello there,
    found your site while doing some research on UA. Sprouts in the Sidewalk is doing a great job at asking the right questions and providing perspective. Would like to get permission to quote from your site.

    I am the founder of the PNW Neighborhood Guild, a not-for-profit community org, based in Tacoma, WA (USA). We promote the ability to grow food and local economy in our area.

    Currently focused on the development of Entrepreneurial Farming, both in the North and South.
    Take care and be well, vm

  2. Johnny Lewis Says:

    Greetings, i am a novice in the world of gardening. I have page on facebook, The novice urban gardener. I want to learn how to do it right. I do not use and chemical. I acquire a lot of information from reading and listening to others. I hope that my page will generate conversation and action among those who want to garden but, like me know very little. I am glad I found this site. Is it permissible to use this platform as a link for others

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