The Politics of NYC’s Urban Farming: The City Notices Urban Agriculture


Photo: La Finca del Sur, South Bronx.

On December 11th, 2017, the New York City Council unanimously passed the city’s first-ever urban agriculture policy bill (Int. No. 1661-A: A Local Law in relation to requiring the department of city planning, department of small business services, and the department of parks and recreation to develop urban agriculture website).

By Rob Stephenson
for Design Trust for Public Space
Jan 3, 2018


Regardless of whether food is grown in an indoor aquaponics system or by community gardeners, it remains uncertain whether urban agriculture can contribute enough food to make a difference. A 2016 report from the Center for a Livable Future at Johns Hopkins University concluded that while growing food in cities has benefits, and urban farming plays a role in community health and development, it is insufficient as a unique tool to address food insecurity and dietary quality. Even if all the available land in New York City were to be transformed into urban farms, the total output would provide produce to between 103,000 and 160,000 of the cities 8.4 million residents—just shy of two percent of the population.

Nevertheless, urban agriculture can complement traditional supply channels, be it through community gardens growing culturally specific vegetables or large-scale commercial farms producing locally grown salad greens year-round. Many community gardeners and indoor farmers don’t see urban agriculture as the sole solution for feeding New Yorkers. Rather, farming within city limits is but one tool among many for increasing access to fresh produce and addressing inequalities within the food system. “Urban agriculture is a part of food justice and food sovereignty,” said Qiana Mickie, the executive director of Just Food. “It’s giving people the option to grow the food they want to grow and be able to determine not just how it is grown but how it’s disseminated.”

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