Defining Urban Farming

In order to ensure I stay on task I am going to develop a working definition of urban farming so as to track how my perspective on urban farming changes and evolves.  Accompanying the definition will be essential components of urban farming that should be considered as important aspects of the definition, though not within the definition itself.

When defining urban farming I think we can work from a simple definition of urban agriculture.  And in saying that I should immediately make clear that the two are not the same.  We would start with urban agriculture as an overall concept of urban food production, of which urban farming would be one approach.  Urban agriculture is often synonymously used with community and allotment gardens, so the development of these definitions helps differentiate between the different forms and functions of urban agriculture.

Urban agriculture: The growing, processing, and distribution of food or livestock within and around urban centres.

  • UA can be for profit, sustenance, recreation, education, demonstration, protest, restoration, or other uses
  • UA can involve groups or individuals
  • UA growing and processing can take place in residential yards, public parks, community gardens, right-of-ways, private lands, rooftops, windowsills, kitchens, parking lots, driveways, bicycles – anywhere the creative mind will allow it to occur.
  • UA distribution can take place by car, van, bike, foot, skateboard – you name it!

What does urban agriculture offer?

I’ll come back to this.

Urban Farming: The growing, processing, and distribution of food or livestock within and around urban centres with the goal of generating income.

The above points from urban agriculture hold true with urban farming, with several additions, differentiations and addendums:

  • Income generating urban farming can be done by private individuals, private companies, or non-profits.  What happens with the income is somewhat irrelevant.
    • Income could simply go the the urban farmer doing the work or could be a way for a non-profit to raise funds for programming while a the same time serving an educational goal (SOLEfood).  Private farmers could also have an educational and community component to their operation.
  • Urban farming is less likely to take place in park land (though produce from community gardens could be sold).

Oh, I can see this is going to be a challenge.   I can think of a few projects that do not generate income yet I would still consider urban farming.  So I have been thinking how to redefine the term to be more encompassing.  I am also realizing that the definition may not be so important.  One of the reasons for the definition is to differentiate between the different types of urban agriculture, but there is a broad array of projects that can exist in many categories.  So maybe I simply need to define the types of urban farming that this thesis is trying to support.  or maybe define what it is not trying to support.

One thing it is not trying to support (though really it still is) is community gardens.  I say this only because there seems to be pretty good involvement already at the community garden level.  And while the possible outcomes of this thesis may be directed at urban farmers who are trying to make a living by growing food, they will be beneficial to all who grow food in the city.  For example: bylaw changes, workshops, tool sharing, and a resource website would be beneficial to more than just urban farmers.

So now what?

So may be urban farming needs to only be loosely defined and the definition can be sharpened by whoever needs to in order  to narrow the scope of urban farming to meet their needs (e.g., grants).  This may require making differentiations of different aspects of urban farming.

Let’s try this again:

Urban farming often consists of many of the following criteria and circumstances:

  • The farming activity is being done in an urban area
    • Differentiating urban farming from peri-urban and rural farming
  • Takes place on relatively small parcels of land
  • Takes place on private land
    • Not in publicly owned space such as parks
    • But through guerilla gardening/farming, could take place on public land
  • Often takes place on multiple pieces of land
  • Income is generated from the sale of produce
  • Produce is used for personal consumption in an effort to be more self-sustaining (beyond basic community gardening or backyard gardening)


TO BE CONTINUED (ongoing editing will take place on this post to keep all this info in one place).


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