Published by City Farmer, Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture

Entrepreneurial Urban Agriculture

By Tara D. Johnson

Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Bachelor of Urban and Regional Planning
School of Urban and Regional Planning
Ryerson University
April 2005
Toronto, Ontario

The complete paper can be downloaded here. (680K Word Document) (12,466 Words) Entrepreneurial Urban Agriculture

On this web page you can read the "Abstract", "Table of Contents", "Introduction", "Conclusion" and "Recommendations" of the paper.


Currently, the issue of hunger and food insecurity is a problem challenging many, if not all, North American cities. In response to food insecurity, entrepreneurial urban agriculture has emerged within cities and is slowly gaining recognition as a community-based approach to enhancing food security. The purpose of this paper is twofold: 1) to explore the economic viability of entrepreneurial urban agriculture within cities; and 2) to explore whether entrepreneurial urban agriculture can simultaneously serve as an urban social service to respond to the problem of community food insecurity.

In order to gain a better understanding of entrepreneurial urban agriculture, this paper utilizes a case study approach by analyzing an entrepreneurial urban agriculture project within the City of Chicago and the City of Toronto. These case studies provide a "snapshot" of the dynamic ways in which entrepreneurial urban agriculture projects have addressed the issue of food insecurity and how they might bring economic opportunity to their city.

This paper will emphasize the importance and need for urban planners to be involved with urban-food growing activities. It is only until relatively recently that urban planners have recognized urban agriculture to have important social and economic implications for the enhanced livability and well-being of urban residents and communities. In order for the full economic potential of entrepreneurial urban agriculture to be seen within cities, urban planners need to accept this activity as part of the urban reality.

It hoped, that the reader will leave this paper with a better understanding of the concept of entrepreneurial urban agriculture, but more so realize that entrepreneurial urban agriculture has high potential to be an integral part of a successful city and that innovative ideas need to be integrated into planning in order to fully realize the social and economic opportunities that entrepreneurial urban agriculture could provide for cities.

Table of Contents

1.0 Introduction
1.2 Purpose of the Study
1.3 Significance of the Study
1.4 Methods of Study
1.5 Study Outline

2.0 The Context: Food Insecurity and Urban Gardens
2.1 Food Insecurity
2.2 Community Food Security/Development Approach
2.3 Urban Gardens
2.4 Barriers to Urban Gardening

3.0 Entrepreneurial Urban Agriculture: A Form of Community Economic Development
3.1 What is Community Economic Development (CED)
3.2 Definition of Economic Development

4.0 The Viability of Entrepreneurial Urban Agriculture
4.1 The Effectiveness of Entrepreneurial Urban Agriculture Projects
4.2 Economic Opportunities and Constraints of Entrepreneurial Urban Agriculture
4.3 The Significance of the Planner

5.0 Case Studies
5.1 City-Farm, Chicago
5.2 Annex Organics/FoodShare, Toronto

6.0 Conclusion

7.0 Recommendations

8.0 References

1.0 Introduction

Cities are becoming larger and further separated from food production and are showing increasing problems of food insecurity for low-income city dwellers (TFPC, 1999). Inner city food systems such as entrepreneurial urban agriculture are being explored as workable solutions to food insecurity which has been defined as the condition in which all people at all times can acquire safe, nutritionally adequate, and personally acceptable foods in a manner that maintains human dignity. Food security demands that food producers be enabled to earn a fair return on their labor and that those food production methods sustain the environment (Caledon Institute of Social Policy, 2001). Entrepreneurial urban agriculture is steering cities to a new, exciting and different urban society. A farming economy within the parameters of a city would be a dramatic new way that cities view themselves; as primary food production centers, and not just consumption centers.

Entrepreneurial urban agriculture are commercial operations that involve the production of food in greenhouses, vacant lots and other spaces within the city but it is more often small-scaled and scattered around the city (Fairholm, 1998). It is where inner city residents grow food in the soil, in raised planting beds or in greenhouses, and then market their produce at farmers markets, to local restaurants, or to city and suburban residents eager for fresh, locally grown food (Kaufman and Bailkey, 2000).

Within the literature, entrepreneurial urban agriculture takes upon many names, such as entrepreneurial gardens, market gardens, for-market or for-profit urban agriculture, urban food production and market city farming. All these labels represent the same concept, although throughout this paper, I will be using the terms entrepreneurial urban agriculture, entrepreneurial gardens and market gardens.

This study challenges the planning profession to look beyond the traditional practices of planning and to incorporate community economic development approaches towards implementing a more localized food system that will have economic benefits to the city, as well as social benefits to the community. The significance of the planner, as well the creation of partnerships with various organizations and the city, will help to break down the barriers localized food systems currently face, so that those who are food insecure can feel the best possible benefits.

Through the exploration of economic opportunities that entrepreneurial urban agriculture could bring to North American cities; this research will examine community economic development, and whether it could present an effective solution to food insecurity.

6.0 Conclusion

The concept of entrepreneurial urban agriculture and its economic viability within cities is still in its early phases of development and as a result, many entrepreneurial urban agriculture projects have not been documented in terms of tracking the farm's income and expenses. This is important to substantiating the success the successful potential that entrepreneurial gardens could have because it could prove that the project can be self-sustaining. As research progresses and data improves on entrepreneurial urban agriculture, a more precise understanding of the costs and benefits, and opportunities and constraints are needed. This exploration has suggested that entrepreneurial urban agriculture can make an important contribution to a city's economy, as well as to a community's food security.

Understanding that economic development and the community economic development approach may be the secret to improving local food security needs because of its opportunities to provide employment, incentive and long-term life skills. It is understood that entrepreneurial urban agriculture cannot by itself solve the problem of food insecurity. It exists to achieve community independence and empowerment, and most significantly, it exists so that future food security needs can be met because unlike the social programs of food banks which focus on present food insecurity needs, entrepreneurial urban agriculture looks to long-term solutions.

Cities and urban planners need to approach entrepreneurial gardens supportively and critically in order to generate sustainable gardens that encourage community economic development. Community economic development is seen to bring food insecurity to a level of reality through practicing entrepreneurial urban agriculture; a reality where communities are participating in increasing their safety net to reduce their chances of becoming food insecure. Therefore it is important for urban planners to be informed about the costs and feasibility of incorporating entrepreneurial gardens as a viable land uses in the city so that they can accept and contribute to this activity as part of the urban reality.

As a final comment to close this study, based on what I have researched and learned about entrepreneurial urban agriculture, I believe that all trial, small scale projects are successful to contributing to food security. Even though it may be a small contribution where only two people are employed, it is still two less people who are food insecure. I also believe that the "multiplier effect" that entrepreneurial gardens can create through their enterprise is significant: not only does it strengthen the local economy by creating economic opportunities for other people and businesses, but it addresses multiple issues such as building democracy, beautifying community space, empowering low-income individuals through the power of growing and selling their own food, decreasing the number of visits to food banks by introducing alternative solutions through various methods such as the good food box, creating economic opportunities to cities by putting vacant land to productive use, raising the GDP, and securing a city for any future economic disasters that may occur with food imports.

Further exploratory studies need to done on not only this topic but on the general concept of entrepreneurial urban agriculture. Below is a list of recommendations for what further research might bring.

7.0 Recommendations

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Revised March 23, 2009

Published by City Farmer
Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture