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Urban Agriculture and Localization Research Paper


Urbanization has grown to become a popular phenomenon in contemporary society. The increased rate of rural to urban movement has caused urban food shortage, a high cost of food, and a huge reliance on imported food, among other challenges. To counter these challenges as a way of guaranteeing sustainability, towns have developed a deep interest in urban agriculture. This phenomenon helps cities to enhance the quality of life for their residents, control climate change, and stabilize economic and social development.

Urban agriculture may seem an easy concept. Introducing and implementing urban agriculture is a strenuous process that results in a myriad of benefits. Furthermore, urban agriculture faces several challenges that hamper its success. Although most urban agricultural practices began as social initiatives, most of the projects are not supported by critical scientific knowledge regarding food production.

The situation has ended up endangering their sustainability. This paper analyzes the issue of urban agriculture in various cities such as San Diego, New York City, and Philadelphia, among others. The goal is to show the interrelationship between urban agriculture and localization.

Overview of Urban Agriculture

The US has an approximated population of 324,874, 430 people. This figure represents about 4.45% of the global population. The American inhabitants live a highly developed life. In fact, close to 85 percent of them live in the municipal regions. Hara, Murakami, Tsuchiya, Palijon, and Yokohama, conducted research in one of the Philippines’ urban regions, namely Metro Manila, where they investigated the level of vegetable farming in the region.1

The researchers found that the region had a high potential for producing more vegetables, which could be used by the region’s growing population. The rate of urbanization in the Philippines and other regions has also been on the rise. This situation has raised questions among authorities concerning how to sustain the huge urban population with respect to transportation, accommodation, and food supply. Currently, the world population is approximated at 7.1billion.

The number is anticipated to double in the near future, thus posing a threat to the food supply. Urban agriculture provides a platform to circumvent food insecurity. According to recent statistical findings as Islam, Rabiul, Siwar, and Chamhuri reveal, “UA is a means of stabilizing household food security and prevents massive malnutrition.”2

As urban areas become more populated, food becomes scarce. Thus, cities must develop to provide food for the residents. As Lam confirms, promoting urban agriculture makes urban communities learn to be independent to the extent of reducing malnutrition that has been evident in the global society.3 It limits the complexities of the food supply network where food has to be transported through various cities before it reaches the ultimate destination.

According to Hara et al., urban agriculture refers to the cultivation of crops and vegetables in metropolitan areas such as Metro Manila.4 However, it also involves the rearing of animals and farming activities that occur in and around towns. Its main difference from other types of agriculture, such as rural agriculture, is that it is incorporated into the towns’ economic and environmental organizations. Laborers, consumers, and any input largely come from urban centers.

Its negative and positive impacts influence the urban residents, similar to urban policies that are ratified to govern the towns. Moreover, cities occupy a vast land that is mostly used for residential and commercial purposes. The land is barely tilted. Thus, most of the food supply comes from neighboring rural areas and foreign producers.

For example, London occupies about 160000ha, with a huge population of the UK residing in the town. However, most of the land in the city is not cultivated. Instead, it is used for other reasons, such as residential purposes. Consequently, to feed the city, most of the food products are imported. The tea that London residents consume is imported from third-world countries.

Urban Agriculture in Major Cities

San Diego City

Located in California, San Diego is one of the major cities in the US. The city has encouraged its residents to utilize the phenomenon of urban agriculture. Farming in San Diego is distinct from other areas in California, particularly because a big part of the agriculture involves scarce animals and plants. Nonetheless, the importance of farming in San Diego cannot be ignored. It is ranked the fifth most central economic activity in the area.

Since the land is rich in terms of soil nutrients, the place has recorded a high agricultural production and impressive profits. However, the city also faces various challenges that inhibit the success of urban agriculture in the area. For instance, the increased movement into the town has led to the occupation of land that could be used for farming.

The process of initiating urban agriculture appears to be technical in the town due to the bureaucratic pressure that requires participants to be skilled. Furthermore, as Ricci, Mattogno, Monardo, Palazzo, and Valentino observe, the witnessed stiff competition on agricultural products in San Diego has led to an increased interest in high-quality production.5

To overcome the challenges that are associated with urban agriculture in the city, local authorities have launched several initiatives to enhance urban farming. For example, the City Farmers Nursery was introduced in the 1970s to educate farmers on urban farming, especially poultry farming. The city also has the San Diego Foodscaping as an organization that is committed to guiding the residents on organic farming techniques.

Furthermore, it also has [email protected] Urban Firm, which seeks to promote farming among urban youths. These programs have helped the city to make impressive progress towards investing in urban agriculture. They have helped the town to protect its endangered plants and animals while assuring the urban dwellers of their food security. Moreover, they provide an easy platform for youths to get employment, especially in underserved communities.6

The New York City

New York City is one of the most populated cities in North America. It is highly developed with reference to its impressive real-estate project. While one would not expect urban agriculture in New York, many projects have been established here to promote farming within and around the city.

In fact, the city is a leader when it comes to urban farming in the US. It has over 700 farms with an average minimum size of 2500feet. Urban farming in the town is not only meant for the residents to get a variety of fresh crops but also to help in accomplishing community goals such as education, conservation of the environment, and storage of rainwater, among other goals.7

Despite the success of urban agriculture, farmers in this city face various challenges. For example, issues such as getting enough input for production, such as adequate land, skilled workforce, and finance, remain a challenge. Most of the farmers in the city aspire that the government could be more committed to initiating policies that favor urban agriculture. Moreover, financing has been a challenge mainly because of social disparity where people of different races and social classes are treated differently.

Stakeholders have launched many programs to coordinate urban farming activities in the town. There is a need for the government to formalize its empowerment plans and eliminate social discrimination. Currently, over 400,000 residents engage in urban agriculture with notable projects such as Brooklyn Grange, Battery Urban Farm, and Bushwick Campus Farm being among the main sources through which New York receives fresh farm products.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Philadelphia is among the most populated cities in the US. It has an estimated population of 1.5million dwellers. Urban agriculture is a popular phenomenon in the city, with most of the framing projects being the initiatives of the citizens. The growth of urban agriculture in the city has been witnessed because agriculture provides an easy solution to economic hardships as citizens opt to farm and taking advantage of the good climate and fertile land.8

Nonetheless, urban agriculture in Philadelphia has faced inconsistent growth, recording a sharp decline between 1996 and 2008. Effort from the stakeholders successfully helped to reinvent urban agriculture in the town. Various local organizations such as the Neighborhood Gardens Association and Marathon Loves Philadelphia have helped the gardeners to get and manage their farms.

The unity of the non-governmental organization and the city authorities has helped to integrate urban agriculture as part of Philadelphia’s urban lifestyle system. The city is still committed to improving the state of agriculture, as evidenced by the various legislative amendments and the ratification of new policies to favor urban agriculture.

Of great importance is the Urban Agriculture Use Category (UAUC), which outlines various categories of urban farming in the city. According to Ricci et al., UAUC is an effort that is meant to localize urban agriculture in the area since it matches the city’s vision of “promoting land-use policies and programs recognizing the value of small farms preserving regional lands.”9

Role of Localization in Urban Agriculture

The US has been moving towards producing and encouraging the consumption of local foods. Several factors, including climate change, which has reduced the quality of some imported food products, have triggered this transition. Moreover, obesity that is seen as a national threat has prompted the need to produce healthy products to eliminate the complications that come because of taking junk foods. Urban agriculture is a good illustration of the localization of agriculture in the US.

Urban farming provides a good platform for citizens to produce and consume their local foods. Indeed, localization is likely to become the norm in the American continent, particularly because importing food products, just like other commodities, is affected by fluctuations in the transportation cost. The increased fuel cost will alter the transportation cost, thus making imported food products more expensive than the current prices.

The situation will encourage the growth of a localized food economy. In a span of five years, beginning from 2002 to 2007, farms in the US increased by 4 %. Approximately 2.2million US citizens have declared farming the best practice. Most of the farms are small and owned by women. Thus, they serve the local markets. Urban agriculture also received a strong boost from the inspiration by the US First Lady Michelle Obama, who initiated farming projects in the White House.

Her inspiration has seen a 40% upsurge in the number of gardens in various towns in the US. Urban agriculture is increasingly becoming a popular concept in the US with reference to the way it has captured the awareness of many scholars who want to investigate the issue of food integrity and people’s health in the region as Wortman and Lovell confirm.10 It needs a lot of support from residents, the government, and other relevant stakeholders.

As Mok confirms, localization of urban agriculture can occur through the implementation of various strategies, which include boosting people’s awareness of the benefits that are associated with the production of family-based agricultural products.11 The aforementioned three cities have made efforts to introduce programs that encourage the production of local food products.

Philadelphia has a huge vacant land that can be used for the purposes of urban agriculture. To encourage the cultivation of local products, instead of importing them, stakeholders in cooperation with the government have introduced the Vacant Land Management in the Philadelphia project, which identifies any bare land in the city with the view of determining if the land can be used for urban agriculture. Urban farming is seen as an opportunity to promote the localization of food products.

Mok demonstrates how urban farming remains a practical phenomenon where people have grown food on the rooftops and verandas of their houses.12 The opponents of using urban agriculture to promote the localization of food products say that the setup of urban centers, which are full of real-estate projects and heavy traffic, does not provide a serene environment for agriculture.

Urban farming in New York City largely involves the cultivation of indigenous and organic products. The essence of cultivating these products is that the plan helps the residents to produce healthy farm products that enhance their quality of life while also conserving the environment. Furthermore, the production of local foods plays an essential role in increasing community wealth in various ways. First, the cultivation of local crops in New York City has created employment for the locals.

It has also boosted farmers’ income since the market is readily available, as the residents buy most of the products. Localization also ensures that the products that are taken to the market are of good quality. Lam presents the issue of re-localization as a move that has provided an opportunity through which urban dwellers can have a proper food supply, maintain good health, and/or conserve the environment.13

For instance, industrial farms prefer to use machinery to produce their products in bulk because of the large market that they to satisfy. On the other hand, in the case of urban agriculture, farmers always pay more attention to the quality and safety of products they release into their communities. A similar case can be witnessed in San Diego City, where consumers, farmers, and students work to promote the cultivation of local foods.

Their claim concurs with Beckford and Campbell’s position that consuming regionally produced foods helps in establishing a healthy community that has a stable local economy.14

Beckford and Campbell focus their study on the Caribbean region where both mature males and female family members are actively involved in agriculture to guarantee self-sustainability.15 One interesting project that operates under the Wild Willow Farm and Education Centre is committed to educating the citizens on how to initiate sustainable cultivation practices.16

Comparison between Urban Agriculture in United States Cities and Malaysia

Just as in the case of the United States, urban agriculture plays an important role in ensuring food security in Malaysia. However, in the case of Malaysia, it faces a lot of challenges and particularly external forces. According to Islam and Siwar, since Malaysia is a huge importer of food products, it is largely exposed to various forces such as land accessibility and the typology of individuals who engage in urban farming in the country17 For instance, a rise in transportation costs leads to an increase in food prices.

In the case of tragedies and harsh climatic conditions in the exporting country, Malaysia is likely to face food insecurity. To avert the insecurity matter, it must invest heavily in local farming. Although major efforts have been made to implement urban farming projects, most of them have turned futile due to poor planning and implementation policies, such as the top-down implementation approach.

Issues such as the minimal political goodwill, lack of harmonization of ideas among stakeholders, and poor land registration programs have left most of the land untilled. The government and its rural counterparts do not take urban farmers’ issues seriously.

As a result, their products do not attract a high demand as compared to the situation for the rural farmers. Poor division of land has resulted in poor land use and land disputes. In Malaysia, individuals who have stayed for long in towns find it easy to engage in farming because they are aware of the procedures that one has to follow to access land for agriculture.18

Although the poverty level in the countryside is high, food security is evident in relation to the situation in the urban areas because a big portion of rural dwellers cultivate food while those in the urban areas have to purchase it. People who live in densely populated urban neighborhoods are exposed to poor sanitation and unsafe drinking water.

Besides, they can barely access medical care. It is evident that stakeholders should invest in urban farming. Proper investment in urban agriculture can provide a solution to many problems that urban dwellers experience. Malaysia needs to invest in urban agriculture. Indeed, the success of urban agriculture in the United States can be replicated in Malaysia if the country implements some of the strategies that the United States has adopted.


Many citizens, organizations, and authorities in the United States are embracing the idea of urban farming as a concept that can help to strengthen food security, influence the economy positively, and/or advance the universal quality of life for the Americans. The practice of urban agriculture has been adopted in many towns, owing to the benefits that people have reaped from it, including a reduction of charges that they initially paid for purchasing imported food products.

Towns such as New York City, San Diego, and Philadelphia have successfully implemented urban farming to reinforce food security as a way of barricading themselves from the effects that come with importing food. The success of urban farming in these cities has largely been due to political goodwill and good farming practices.

Localization has played an imperative role in the success of urban farming. Besides creating community-based employment, it has enhanced the production of healthy food products and the provision of a ready market, hence boosting the economy of the cities. However, in the case of Malaysia, urban farming projects have failed because of poor implementation strategies. Malaysia should borrow some of the strategies that the US has adopted to maintain successful urban agriculture.


Beckford, Clinton, and Donovan Campbell. Domestic Food Production And Food Security In The Caribbean. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.

Hara, Yuji, Akinobu Murakami, Kazuaki Tsuchiya, Armando Palijon, and Makoto Yokohari. “A quantitative assessment of vegetable farming on vacant lots in urban fringe in Metro Manila: Can it sustain long-term local vegetable demand?” Applied Geography 41, no. 1 (2013): 195-206.

Islam, Rabiul, and Chamhuri Siwar. “The analysis of Urban Agriculture Development in Malaysia.” Adv. Environ. Biolo 6, no.3 (2012): 1068-1078.

Lam, Sun. Urban agriculture in Kingston: Present and Future Potential For Re-localization and Sustainability. Canada: Queens University, 2007.

Mok, Hoi-Fei. “Strawberry fields forever? Urban agriculture in developed countries: A review.” Agron Sustainable Development 34, no. 1 (2014): 21-43.

Ricci, Manueala, Claudia Mattogno, Bruno Monardo, Anna Palazzo, and Pietro Valentino. “Feeding the City-Foodsheds and Urban Agriculture in San Diego.” City Safety Energy Journal 2, no. 1 (2014): 29-35.

Wortman, Sort, and Sarah Lovell. “Environmental Challenges Threatening the Growth of Urban Agriculture in the United States.” Journal of Environmental Quality 42, no. 1 (2013):1283-1294.


1 Yuji Hara, Akinobu Murakami, Kazuaki Tsuchiya, Armando Palijon, and Makoto Yokohari, “A quantitative assessment of vegetable farming on vacant lots in urban fringe in Metro Manila: Can it sustain long-term local vegetable demand?,” Applied Geography 41, no. 1 (2013): 195

2 Rabiul Islam and Chamhuri Siwar, “The analysis of Urban Agriculture Development in Malaysia,” Adv. Environ. Biolo 6, no.3 (2012): 1069

3 Sun Lam, Urban agriculture in Kingston: Present and Future Potential For Re-localization and Sustainability. Canada: Queens University, 2007, ii

4 Hara et al., 197

5 Manuela Ricci, Claudia Mattogno, Bruno Monardo, Anna Palazzo, and Pietro Valentino. “Feeding the City-Foodsheds and Urban Agriculture in San Diego,” City Safety Energy Journal 2, no. 1 (2014): 31

6 Ricci et al., 31

7 Lam, 34

8 Wortman and Lovell, 1283

9 Ricci et al., 32

10 Sort Wortman and Sarah Lovell, “Environmental Challenges Threatening the Growth of Urban Agriculture in the United States.” Journal of Environmental Quality 42, no. 1 (2013):1283

11 Hoi-Fei Mok, “Strawberry fields forever? Urban agriculture in developed countries: A review,” Agron Sustain. Development 34, no. 1 (2014): 24

12 Mok, 25

13 Lam, 1

14 Clinton Beckford and Donovan Campbell, Domestic Food Production And Food Security In The Caribbean (New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 23

15 Beckford and Campbell, 23

16 Mok, 26

17 Islam and Siwar, 1070

18 Islam and Siwar, 1070

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