Innovation in urban agricultural practices: Responding to diverse production environments

Anne Pfeiffer, Erin Silva, Jed Colquhoun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Although discussion of the role of urban agriculture in developing nations has occurred over the past decade, dialogue relating to urban agriculture in industrialized countries, including the United States (US) has only recently begun to attract significant attention. The unique factors that influence urban agriculture, including limited and non-traditional land access, use of reclaimed soils and alternative growing mediums, local legal and political environments, social and community-based missions, and involvement of non-traditional farmers, create a production system distinct from rural agricultural enterprises. In many cases, specific local environmental and external factors drive urban farms to develop unique innovations for space-intensive production systems, often creating a dominant paradigm for urban farming for a given location. Furthermore, non-production-related organizational goals are often the primary focus of urban agricultural operations, with the food production becoming a secondary objective. In order to address this information gap regarding the status of urban agriculture in the US, our project, centered at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, gathered data through site visits to and interviews of organizations in seven cities, examining how structural and strategic food system factors shape urban agricultural efforts. A broad range of operations are considered, including diverse business and production models based on both commercial and community-based management strategies and production in parking and vacant lots, warehouses, public land and peri-urban locations. Based on these observations, the unique innovations in space-intensive agricultural production that have arisen in response to urban food system factors are discussed. We conclude with an assessment of the most significant challenges continuing to face urban agriculture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)79-91
Number of pages13
JournalRenewable Agriculture and Food Systems
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Cambridge University Press.


  • alternative agriculture
  • food systems
  • urban agriculture
  • urban farming
  • urban production
  • value-added


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