Urban farming is an actively developing sector of agriculture, with more and more cities recognizing its value by responding to residents who advocate for policies that promote urban farming. Taking California’s lead, states like Missouri and Louisiana recently passed legislation to establish urban agriculture incentive zones where urban farmers are provided with tax incentives to grow food. Other states like Maryland and Minnesota have created grants and appropriations toward the development and expansion of urban food hubs. Researchers and farmers alike are working together to develop sustainable methods to grow food in urban spaces.
While urban agriculture is not likely to match the volume of food produced by rural agriculture, it represents an important avenue for people to gain access to local, fresh and niche foods. The food produced by urban farms and urban gardens is a supplemental source of local food production, especially in communities with low access to fresh foods or during times of emergency, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, urban farming can have important community-building impacts for urban residents, such as increased self confidence and connection to neighbors, as well as a stronger connection to their food and environment.
Resources for Urban Farmers
This represents only a partial list of the many resources available to urban farmers. Consult local nonprofits and Extension specialists for more comprehensive support.
Urban Ag Law: A collection of resources hosted by the Sustainable Economies Law Center.
Urban Agriculture State Legislation: The National Conference of State Legislatures provides a database of enacted state legislation that supports urban agriculture.
Soil and Nutrient Management
Building Soils For Better Crops: This book includes comprehensive information on soil management, and includes a chapter on urban soils.
Brownfields and Urban Agriculture: An EPA report that covers guidelines for safely gardening and farming in urban areas.
Cover Crops for Sustainable Crop Rotations: An online collection of resources related to cover crops.
Farming with Soil Life: This book discusses management practices that support beneficial soil invertebrates.
Smart Water Use on Your Farm or Ranch: A guide to conserving water through management of soil, plants and irrigation.
Urban Agriculture – Water: A collection of University of California Cooperative Extension’s online resources related to water management for urban farmers.
Rainwater Harvesting: Cornell University’s Small Farms Program provides online resources that address the capture and use of rainwater.
Natural Resources Conservation Service: The NRCS provides technical and financial assistance for farmers seeking to improve water quality and conserve its use.
Rainwater Catchment from a High Tunnel for Irrigation Use: This Iowa State University Extension video describes how to install a catchment system on a high tunnel.
High Tunnels and Other Season Extension Techniques: An online collection of resources related to high tunnels.
Guide to Season Extension: This publication by the Land Connection includes management information and case studies.
Hightunnels.org: This website includes extensive information for both educators and growers, and is managed by Extension specialists from four states.
A Whole-Farm Approach to Managing Pests: A short publication that outlines ecological pest management practices.
Manage Weeds on Your Farm: This book provides in-depth guidance on the ecological management of weeds.
From Surviving to Thriving: Strategies for Urban Farm Success: This guide from University of Maryland Extension includes information on marketing as well as risk management.
EPA Urban Farm Business Plan Handbook: A guide for planning the startup of a new urban farm operations, including both nonprofit and for-profit enterprises.
Aquaponics and Hydroponics
A Practical Guide for Aquaponics as an Alternative Enterprise: A University of Florida Extension guide to setting up and managing an aquaponics system.
Oklahoma State University - Aquaponics: An in-depth aquaponics guide from Oklahoma State University Extension.
Small Scale Hydroponics: This University of Minnesota Extension guide outlines the management of a hydroponics system.