What is Urban Farming?

Hillary Flynn

Exploding populations in metropolitan areas throughout the world has increased the need for healthy, affordable fruits and vegetables. To combat hunger and improve the quality of foods eaten by urban dwellers, many are now participating in urban farming initiatives. These farmers are comprised of volunteer groups assisting those in need, businesses growing food for profit, neighborhood associations working together to provide locally grown food to all, and private citizens who want to take control of the foods they eat. Whatever the purpose, urban farming utilizes unused space to grow foods in a local area, which lowers the cost of food by eliminating transport, and gets food to consumers in the freshest state possible.

Produce from urban farms.
Produce from urban farms.

Urban farming can be set up in many different ways. A neighborhood might designate an entire city block for the community to use, with residents each being allotted a plot on which to grow the foods of their choice for their families. Alternatively, a space may be allocated to the neighborhood as a whole, and each resident will participate in the upkeep and maintenance. Then, the all the residents get a portion of each fruit or vegetable produced. Community gardens allow neighbors to work together and learn from one another.

Some urban farmers raise chickens to produce eggs.
Some urban farmers raise chickens to produce eggs.

Individuals without access to a community garden have other options as well. One is a rooftop garden. Many cities are encouraging the use of rooftops for this purpose as it makes use of previously unused space, and it's a convenient way for residents of apartment buildings to access a garden. Balconies and terraces are used in much the same manner, and some even create gardens in their kitchens.

Many urban farmers sell their goods at a farmer's market.
Many urban farmers sell their goods at a farmer's market.

Volunteer groups and businesses utilize whatever space they are able in order to grow and sell within the same area. Often, urban farming for profit entails growing food near a neighborhood, then setting up a farmer's market in the same area to sell food fresh off the vine. These farmer's markets may have all different sorts of vendors and sell foodstuffs from local groceries as well. Not only does this save money but it also has a positive environmental impact.

The trend toward eating organic foods and lessening the amount of genetically altered foods ingested is sure to popularize urban farming. The more people learn about healthy eating and the importance of maintaining proper nutrition, the more appealing it becomes to know where food has come from. Food allergy issues, pesticides, and genetic alterations can all be lessened by growing one's own food and watching it grow from seed to edible product.

Urban farmers may sell animal products such as milk.
Urban farmers may sell animal products such as milk.

Discussion Comments


@ZsaZsa56 I agree with you completely. I think one of the obstacles for many people is the word farm. People interested think that it will be very capital and labor intensive. Apprehensive neighbors have visions of donkeys and chickens roaming the streets and fouling their yards. The problem is one of perception.

Beyond this there are often old and retrograde laws that prohibit the kinds of food people can grow in the city and the ways that they can grow it. Try to plant corn in your front yard and just see what happens. But why would we ever have laws against growing food? Doesn't that seem so weird and anti human?

I am hoping that as the movement begins to grow people will arrive at a better understanding of what the urban farm is and how much is can contribute to a city.


I love the idea of urban farming and I wish more people would give it a try. It only makes sense that we use the wasted green spaces that are such a big part of our cities to grow fresh fruits and veggies for the people close by. This is the very definition of local, sustainable food. And why not make a farm rather than another McDonald's? Which do you think would be better for the community.


How big does an urban farm need to be to really qualify as an urban farm? Does it really matter and are there any sanctioning bodies that draw a distinction?

I ask because I have a very large garden in my backyard that extends into a vacant lot behind my house. It produces a high yield every years and we have fresh fruits, veggies and grains throughout the season with a lot to spare for friends and family. But I have always thought of it as a garden rather than a farm. Maybe I am thinking too small.

Post your comments
Forgot password?