An Introduction to Urban Agriculture: Past, Present, and Future

Lead Author: Matt Frank

Publish date: 11.15.2011


Urban agriculture is defined as “the practice of growing, processing, and distributing fresh food by people living in urban areas.” It involves plant cultivation from sources that may include ground crops, vine crops, and fruit and nut-bearing trees; it may also include raising animals (such as poultry) and beekeeping. Urban agriculture‘s unique feature is its direct integration with urban economic and ecological systems. It builds upon existing urban infrastructure, incorporating food crops into densely developed and populated environments. Urban agriculture can take many shapes and forms, ranging in scale from row crops grown on city lots, to rooftop farms, to backyard gardens. Urban production helps people understand where their food comes from and how it’s processed, and it can also create many environmental, economic and social benefits.


This report focuses on a re-emerging trend towards growing food within cities.  Self-sufficiency, ingenuity within the food arena, and concerns regarding food security and health has led to the growing popularity of urban agriculture. Today, non-profits, private entrepreneurs, local city governments, and even the U.S. Department of Agriculture recognize urban agriculture as a means to enhance local economies, improve environmental and human health, and support food security.


View the student version of this report - specifically re-written and geared towards students in grade school and junior high, "Food From the Neighborhood".