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Urban Agriculture in Chicago: Pros and Cons Essay

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Updated: Sep 2nd, 2020


One of the main challenges of the process of urbanization is the fact that the land around the urban areas is allocated to other economic activities at the expense of agriculture. It is clear that every urban area in the United States is characterized by the lack of food production through agriculture, and this challenge results in the dependency on the rural areas for access to fresh food from the farms. The industrialization process in the United States led to the development of alternatives for agricultural products through processed foods.

It is clear that processed foods have more calories and are cheaper; hence, the urban populations, especially the people living in poor neighborhoods, prefer buying the processed foods rather than the expensive Fresh agricultural products. Urban agriculture is a viable solution to the underlying issues that have caused the inability of the urban populations to access Fresh agricultural products.

Urban Agriculture

Urban agriculture is a movement in different urban areas across the United States, including Chicago, which has developed innovative ways of utilizing the little agricultural land available in urban areas to produce fresh food products. The movement has developed various groups in the urban areas that provide education to the people in the poor neighborhoods on the innovative ways that can help them in producing Fresh agricultural products.

For instance, the movement has been advocating for the use of greenhouse technology in agriculture to produce vegetables within the urban areas. The climatic changes that have adversely affected the ability of farmers in the rural areas to generate high yields in their farms have led to a reduction in the number of fresh products reaching the grocery stores in the urban areas. The urban agriculture movement looks to ensure that every family in the cities can afford some fresh products in the grocery stores (“Promoting Farms, Community Gardens & Home Growing in Chicago” par. 1).

The Urban Agriculture Movement in Chicago

One of the main reasons that the urban agriculture movement has targeted Chicago is the fact that the city is one of the largest cities in the United States, and it has been associated with a dense population of commercial buildings and residential flats. This has led to the inability of the urban dwellers in the city to produce fresh agricultural products in the city. One of the reasons that the population in Chicago has been growing sluggishly is the fact that the economic vitality of the metropolitan region has lost its vitality; hence, many people have been migrating to other urban areas.

Another reason is the fact that more than 1.3 residents in the region are living in poverty, and they compete for the available, affordable resources, including Fresh agricultural products from rural areas. While more than 14% of the population lives below the poverty line in the metropolitan region, it is apparent that the unemployment rate in Chicago will continue to increase; thus, people will have a harder time in accessing Fresh agricultural products because of their elevated prices (Tray par. 2).

In 2013, the Mayor of Chicago launched the Farmers for Chicago network to enhance urban farming. By 2011, urban farmers accounted for over 13,000 pounds of the locally produced farm products, which fetched about $45,000 in sales (“Mayor Emanuel Launches New “Farmers For Chicago” Network For Chicago Urban Farmers” par. 8). The network has actively engaged in the recovery of dormant land in the city of Chicago because of the lack of land to farm is one of the main challenges facing the urban farmers. The network currently holds over 15 acres of land in Chicago, which is used for commercial farming and training farmers in the city.

The Advocates for Urban Agriculture (AUA) is one of the movements that have developed agricultural projects in Chicago to increase access to fresh products. The movement has helped the residents to start small farms in their homesteads, and group farming projects through the use of technology to utilize small lands to increase productivity (“Promoting Farms, Community Gardens & Home Growing in Chicago” par. 1). There are 62 urban farms in Chicago, and 54 business entities are involved in the promotion of vertical farms in the city. The farms have been increasing the products in the 24 seasonal markets in the metropolitan region (Popovitch par. 9).

Environmental Benefits of Urban Agriculture

It is apparent that the food miles in the United States have been increasing as access to Fresh agricultural products decreases. People have to drive long miles before accessing a grocery store with affordable products. Similarly, producers from rural areas require transportation to deliver products to various stores in urban areas. These transportation activities have led to an increase in the carbon footprint associated with access to fresh food products in the United States (Howard par. 2).

Urban agriculture has been identified as an environmentally sustainable approach to access to food products because it has a relatively lower carbon footprint. The reduction of carbon dioxide in the cities will have a positive influence on the health and wellness of the urban dwellers. People at risk because of the high air pollution rates in the urban areas will enjoy serene environments in urban farms. Additionally, in cities like Chicago, the urban farms and the associated markets will provide employment to some of the people.

Rooftop farms and other areas associated with urban agriculture will ultimately provide serene environments for people to relax in the cities because of the fresh air and green environment. It is apparent that an increase in the vegetation within the urban areas will have a positive effect on the quality of air because the plants will naturally reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the air while increasing the supply of oxygen through the process of photosynthesis (Howard par. 3).

As the world fights to reverse the effects of global warming on the climate, urban agriculture is one of the most effective ways of producing organic farm products without incurring any pollution, especially regarding water and the air in the urban areas (West par. 9). Over the past half-century, the carbon footprint of Chicago has increased by more than 25%, and the transportation system accounts for 21% of the footprint, whereas buildings and energy production and consumption processes account for 70% of the pollution (“Climate Change 101” par. 4). By increasing the vegetation in the city, the authorities look to reduce the amount of carbon in the environment.


One of the main challenges of urban agriculture is the lack of space for agricultural practices. For instance, Chicago city has been developed into a concrete forest in some regions because of the large number of buildings that hinder access to sunlight, which is required for agriculture. Lack of water is also a major issue that might hinder the success of the various projects aimed at producing vegetables and fruits in residential farms.

Additionally, the technology required to support urban agriculture is relatively expensive; hence, most of the people in poor neighborhoods cannot finance the projects. The target population also lacks the knowledge and skills to practice urban agriculture, and the various movements advocating for urban agriculture lack sufficient resources and personnel to educate the entire urban population (West par. 12).

One of the challenges facing farmers in Chicago is the lack of sufficient water for irrigation in their city gardens. The authorities have revealed that more than 86% of the farmers are still using public water networks in their farms, which could create a water shortage in the city (Baskoro par. 5). There are also worries that the use of fertilizers and herbicides might lead to soil and water pollution in the urban areas through the runoff water from irrigated farms.


Different research groups have developed innovative ways of ensuring that urban farmers use smaller amounts of water in their farms. For instance, the ‘FarmHere’ organization has developed an irrigation approach that reduces the water required in a farm by 95% (“Farmed Here: Sustainable Indoor Farming” par. 1). Additionally, urban agriculture associations are actively providing training to farmers looking to establish vertical farms. The 24 seasonal markets in Chicago have also been giving commercial farmers in the city a positive reception to their products.


The urbanization process in the United States led to the dependency of the urban dwellers on the rural populations for the production of Fresh agricultural products. The growth in population in the urban areas has led to an increase in the demand for fresh vegetables and fruits, but the environmental challenges in the rural areas have limited the ability of farmers in producing sufficient food crops. This has led to an increase in the prices of farm products, which has subsequently led to the inability of the poor members of the urban communities to afford Fresh agricultural products.

Works Cited

Baskoro, Harkyo. 2015. Web.

Climate Change 101. 2016. Web.

Farmed Here: Sustainable Indoor Farming. 2016. Web.

Howard, Brian. Urban Farming is Growing a Green Future. 2016. Web.

2013. Web.

Popovitch, Trish. 2014. Web.

Promoting Farms, Community Gardens & Home Growing in Chicago. 2016. Web.

Tray, Sarah. More than 1.3 million in Chicago metro area live in poverty. 2014. Web.

West, Cassandra. Urban Farming and Food Deserts. 2016. Web.

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