Urban Agriculture


Urban Agriculture (UA) is about growing of plants and trees and rearing of livestock within or on the fringe of cities (intra-urban and periurban agriculture), including related input provision, processing, distributing and marketing activities of food (beekeeping, fishery, herb cultivation, aquaculture etc.) (de Zeeuw et al. 2011).  UA has a long history. In light of archaeological evidence, it was known in Persia, Machu Picchu and Ancient Rome, making a “vital contribution to the urban food supply. It also affected the ancient city politically, economically and socially, shaping the daily lives of residents from all social classes, income levels, ages and genders. Because of chronic dietary insecurity, home-produced foods often mean the difference between life and death for the poor living on the edge. There were also other tangible benefits: plants produced locally were used for medicinal and religious purposes.” (Watts, 2016). Throughout the history, urban agriculture (its various forms) played an important role in war or depression times (for instance in US, Canada, Europe during WWI and WWII). Specific form of urban agriculture is “allotment garden” which emerged in Germany in early XIX century to deal with poverty and hunger. Urban farming and urban gardening were also the elements of XIX cent. urban planning theories (e.g. Garden Cities of To-morrow by Ebenezer Howard or the concept of neighbourhood unit by C. Perry). These ideas, introduced in some cities within post-war reconstruction and urban planning, still can be found in UK, Germany, Poland (“urban allotment gardens” or “family allotment gardens”).  UA is practiced in a variety of places, both private and public (field plots, vacant public land, but also public spaces such as parks, gardens, rooftops etc.), and its form or profile resulted from various cultural, demographic, political, geographical circumstances (local traditions, land property, climate, size of the population, spatial planning regulations etc.). (Fox-Kämper et al. 2018) .

UA main characteristic is its focus on producing food, thus seems it directly addresses  the SDGs connected with food, food quality, food accessibility (1. No Poverty, 2. Zero Hunger) – and this is a case of new urban farms which use IT and innovative technologies (f.i. Food and the City: Urban farming in Paris - YouTube  however, UA goes in line with all the SDGs, especially: (3) Good Health and Well-being,  (5) Gender Equality, (6) Clean Water and Sanitation, (7) Affordable and Clean Energy, (8) Decent Work and Economic Growth, (11) Sustainable Cities and Communities, (12) Responsible Consumption and Production, (13) Climate Action, (15) Life On Land, (16) Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions, (17) Partnerships for the Goals.  

In many  cities UA, and especially Urban Gardens, are focused on inclusiveness, social integration, local community development, education in  sustainability, ageing-friendly communities, gender mainstreaming policies  (workshops, activities for children, parents, older people), education on sustainable way of food production and consumption (f.i. implementation of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle approach). (Paris: A city that is turning streets into gardens - BBC News; How urban agriculture is transforming Detroit | Devita Davison - YouTube 

In some cities urban farms and gardens are the sites of experimentation of new bottom-up and transectorial cooperation (among informal groups, municipalities, NGOs, business, academia), included into urban policies (e.g. RU:URBAN project: the leader: city of Rome: Are Urban Gardens the place for modern community hubs? | URBACT). In some cases (Detroit, Paris) where the farms and gardens are interlinked with the shops, restaurants, school canteen etc. urban gardening and urban farming can be seen as an element of a broader urban food practices.  

It seems many urban farms and gardens successfully combine different functions (food production, sociability, education, leisure and recreation, rehabilitation of neglected urban spaces etc). Regarding these various functions, how can urban farms and urban gardens inspire “fashion practices”?  

Detroit urban gardening – as a recovery strategy 

Urban farms/gardens addressed to specific groups to answer their needs or problems (homeless people, ethnic minorities, parents with small children) however in general a locality/proximity of the garden/farm is important to build the sense of attachment, to reduce necessity of commuting etc.  

a) Academic/peer reviewed 

Beilin, R. & Hunter, A. (2011) Co-constructing the sustainable city: how indicators help us “grow” more than just food in community gardens, Local Environment, 16:6, 523-538, DOI: 10.1080/13549839.2011.555393 

de Zeeuw, H. & van Veenhuizen, Rene & Dubbeling, Marielle. (2011). The role of urban agriculture in building resilient cities in developing countries. The Journal of Agricultural Science. 149. 153 - 163. 10.1017/S0021859610001279. 

Fox-Kämper, R., Wesener, A., Münderlein, D., Sondermann, M., McWilliam, W. and Kirk, N. (2018). Urban community gardens: An evaluation of governance approaches and related enablers and barriers at different development stages. Landscape and Urban Planning, 170, 59-68.  

Fox-Kämper, R. (2016). Concluding remarks. In S. Bell, R. Fox-Kämper, N. Keshavarz, M. Benson, S. Caputo, S. Noori, & A. Voigt (Eds.), Urban allotment gardens in Europe (pp. 364–369). Abingdon: Routledge.  

Morstein, J., 2018. Urban Gardening between Agency and Structure. In Moving Cities–Contested Views on Urban Life (pp. 189-203). Springer VS, Wiesbaden. 

b) Other sources 

How urban agriculture is transforming Detroit | Devita Davison - YouTube 

Farm on a Paris rooftop: Urban farm aims to be Europe’s largest - YouTube 

Food and the City: Urban farming in Paris - YouTube 

Are Urban Gardens the place for modern community hubs? | URBACT 

Watts, T. (2016), Beyond the pleasure garden: urban agriculture in Ancient Rome (PhD dissertation) https://alexandria.ucsb.edu/lib/ark:/48907/f3r211j8