Over the last decade, urban agriculture has emerged as a powerful movement addressing a range of issues from food security to community revitalization to economic development. In broad terms, urban agriculture is the raising, cultivation, processing, marketing, and distribution of food and food products in a town, city, or metropolitan area.
Growing food in cities has numerous social, economic and environmental benefits. Though backyard plots and community gardens provide many benefits, this Guide is focused on the more entrepreneurial forms of urban agriculture. The defining characteristics of entrepreneurial urban farms are their scale and intensity of operations, as well as their unique role in ransformingt the urban landscape. Urban farms have proven to be an effective model for reusing vacant and underutilized spaces, including brownfields. Agricultural enterprises generally require less capital and time than many other commercial or industrial reuse options, and the benefits to the ommunityc are immediate. The pervasiveness of neglected properties in low-income communities around the region, especially following the economic downturn, coupled with the rise in demand for high-quality local food, presents an interesting and viable business opportunity for urban entrepreneurs.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that local food sales via
direct-to-consumer and intermediated channels totaled $4.8 billion from
over 107,000 farms in 2008, representing 1.9 percent of total U.S. farm sales
and 5.5 percent of all farms (Low & Vogel, 2011). Furthermore, small- and
medium-sized farms accounted for 95 percent of local food sales. While
efforts have been made to document the contribution of individual urban
farms to this movement, no comprehensive statistics have been gathered to
date. Nevertheless, the USDA expects local food production to continually
increase as demand from the consumer market steadily rises. Since most
of these markets are based in larger cities, entrepreneurs and nonprofit
organizations have begun to test various methods and models for urban food
This Guide will you help understand the basic options and key considerations
in starting an urban agriculture enterprise, and provides resources for
further reading along the way.