A commonly cited reason for city governments getting behind urban agriculture is the belief that it can serve as a tool for economic development. While urban agriculture itself isn’t new, urban farms as commercial endeavors have only been sprouting up in the last decade or so, making evidence for these claims somewhat scarce. With this in mind, researchers are on the hunt for evidence that shows how urban agriculture is impacting local economies.
Many studies have shown that there is indeed money to be made in urban farming. Last year, researcher Marc Schutzbank undertook the first urban farm census in Vancouver. While he found that earned income varied greatly across Vancouver’s farms, one thing was clear: urban farms create almost three times more revenue per acre than traditional rural farms in British Columbia. His findings have been echoed by researchers in the US as well. This is likely owed in part to more intensive farming methods employed in urban agriculture and lower input costs for things like machinery, fertilizers, and pesticides.
Efforts are underway to look beyond simple farm profits, and attempt to calculate the broader economic reach of urban agriculture. Some studies are looking into the impact of job training on urban farms. Others have examined the effect community gardens have on property values (spoiler alert: it’s positive).
In New York City, The Design Trust for Public Space has attempted to create a rubric by which to evaluate the economic impacts of urban agriculture. Five Borough Farm is a project that goes beyond tallying bushels, and recommends tracking things like hours of donated volunteer time, number of people trained in job skills, and % of sales through food access programs.
This week’s video features Noah Wilson-Rich of the Best Bees company out of Boston. His is just one example of the many different kinds of urban agriculture businesses that become possible when cities remove barriers to urban ag practices. Not only is Best Bees a successful, growing business, but it’s also making a contribution to research aimed at supporting healthy ecosystems. Watch the video, then visit their site.
Post and video by Andy Cook.