Growing in Recycle Containers on Urban Farms

One of the biggest complications of urban agriculture is growing food in soils that previously had types of hazardous substance or contaminants on the property. Growing just near buildings has also led to serious concerns, due to the elevated levels of lead in the soils close to buildings where lead based paint has been used. Many urban agriculture communities especially in southern California have faced growing in soils that may have contaminants and this is because of limited areas to start urban farms in dense urban areas.  

It is important to understand what is in your soil and how this can lead to ongoing exposure to people who are involved with the soil. One way to better understand what contaminants you have in your soil is by doing a soil test. Soil tests may be expensive and federal funding is available to certain properties by getting involved with brownfield grants. 

The greatest risk for exposure to contaminants is by breathing in the dust or getting soil in your mouth. Another exposure pathway is edible plants that can accumulate and also take up contaminants from the soil. Root vegetables have the highest potential to store and accumulate contaminants 

Using recycled containers is a solution to growing food in urban areas, and this method is used to help limit the amount of leached soil contaminants into the food crop. My leading question is, does growing in recycled containers such as tin cans or recycled car tires also have the potential to leach contaminants into the soil and eventually the crop? 

Growing vegetables in old tires can contribute to three environmental risks, disease, chemical and fire. Although when we first think of car tires, you think rubber but in fact these rubber tires contain a lot of petrochemical plastics. 

 One article by Jerry Coleby-Williams states that car tyre rubber has toxins that leach into soils over many years. Tires contain chemicals such as aluminum, cadmium, chromium,copper, iron,magnesium,sulfur and high levels of zinc. Over time these toxic substances found in tires will contaminate the soil. The leaching rate can be affected by multiple factors such as areas with higher rainfall and soils with high acidity, as this would make the leaching rate faster. Leaching is one way growing vegetables in old tires contribute to disease, especially among kids who do not have a full grown immune system. 

Fire is one of the three major environmental risks tires pose in urban agriculture, and it may not seem that possible but if you do unfortunately have a fire on your farm, tires can pose serious risks. EPA does not consider tire scraps as hazardous waste but in the occurrence of a fire the tires will cause a reaction where hazardous compounds can end up in soils or waters nearby. According to the U.S Environmental Protection Agency for every million tires consumed by fire, there is about 55,000 gallons of runoff oil that pollutes our ecosystem. 

Urban agriculture faces many challenges when growing in such urban dense cities, and as mentioned one of the biggest problems is soil contaminants. There are many factors that can contribute to soil contaminants in an urban farm. You can personally reduce them by thinking about what products you are bringing on to your farm. Growing containers is one major way to limit the amount of contaminants that are being added to your soil. If you did get a soil contaminants test and decided not to plant directly into the ground, it is extremely important that you do not make the mistake of plant vegetables into containers that will eventually leach contaminants. 


Refusing Potentially Contaminated Landscapes. (2011). Retrieved November 11, 2020, from

Tire Fires | Scrap Tires. (n.d.). Retrieved November 10, 2020, from

Bradley, —, & Written ByDr. Lucy BradleyUrban Horticulture Professor and Extension SpecialistCall Dr. Lucy E-mail Dr. Lucy Horticultural Science NC State Extension. (2019, February 22). There Are Better Options Than Using Tires in the Garden. Retrieved November 10, 2020, from

Urban agriculture: The potential and challenges … – Agronomy. (n.d.). Retrieved November 13, 2020, from

Food Insecurity Impacts on Students: Availability, Affordability, and Accessibility.

In an attempt to bring things closer to home, I have analyzed how food impacts students and how they perceive food. In this particular case study, many of the students shared some of the concerns that we have all commonly said or heard of. Many of the students had expressed a deep concern in that the food on campus was rather expensive especially the healthier options so they instead opted for things like hamburgers. In some instances, it was less of an economic concern but rather a “why waste my meal plan on something I won’t like”. Some students are used to a way of living or eating and for them it may not be a natural part of their dieting to actually use vegetables or fruits.

This particular case study was conducted in an area where the students where in a “food desert”. As defined by the USDA a food desert is anywhere that is urban but 33% of its residents do not have access to nutritional food within a one mile radius(Dhillon, et al., 2019). As students we all know the impact even a five minute break can have. When the students are at least a 4 mile drive it becomes more of a hassle. It is especially hard for students who cannot afford a car and depend on public transportation it is time consumed that they feel they could’ve spent studying. In considering healthier option such as a Farmer’s Market it is seen that students don’t have the time to go to these areas where there is healthy food. Most people who go to Farmer’s Markets typically are there more so as an entertainment where they can walk, shop, and spend their leisure time.

In Philadelphia, there is an initiative in the right direction to create more Farmer’s Market at low-income neighborhoods. Not only is there the convenience of being located where people can walk or bike to but they are equipping vendors to be able to have customers use things like Philly Bucks or Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Programs (Young et al., 2011). What was found was that more people of color due to proximity and affordability were using these assistance programs to be able to access healthy food.

For students around colleges or universities like Cal Poly Pomona there are vast options that can aid in closing the gaps that people of color have when it comes to food insecurity. When considering the topic of minorities we do not typically consider students as a major group. This is interesting as students can fall under more economic stress than they may have experienced before and can be of a minority group. There are options in areas like Mt. Sac College, La Verne, Brea, Rancho Cucamonga, Claremont and more.

Having this food security in this crucial stage where students become autonomous in all regards even their diets sets them up for their future. Now it is up to us to see how we can spread awareness of food nutrition and figuring out alternatives that are affordable and delicious.

Young, Candace R, Aquilante, Jennifer L, Solomon, Sara, Colby, Lisa, Kawinzi, Mukethe A, Uy, Nicky, & Mallya, Giridhar. (2013). Improving Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Among Low-Income Customers at Farmers Markets: Philly Food Bucks, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 2011. Preventing Chronic Disease10, E166–E166.

Dhillon, Jaapna, Diaz Rios, L. Karina, Aldaz, Kaitlyn, De La Cruz, Natalie, Vu, Emily, Asad Asghar, Syed, Kuse, Quintin, & Ortiz, Rudy. (2019). We Don’t Have a Lot of Healthy Options: Food Environment Perceptions of First-Year, Minority College Students Attending a Food Desert Campus. Nutrients11(4), 816.

To Be or Not to Be Certified Organic

As urban farms grow in popularity, especially in California, it will become a more viable option for consumers especially with an increase in their produce being sold in markets as well as an increase in farmers markets and programs such as community supported agriculture. Many people expect the food they buy from urban farming efforts to be grown in a sustainable manner with one of the most common indicators being the USDA certified organic seal or any sort of acknowledgment that their food is certified organic. It is important to consumers because as the distant between where food is produced and consumed decreases and agricultural becomes a fixture of the community in urban areas, the sustainability of food becomes something that people are more conscience about.

Why Is CBD Not a Certified Organic Product? - Royal CBD

This new consciousness can be problematic when considering how many urban farms are not certified organic although they claim they are still practicing organic agriculture. In a case study with 14 urban farms from throughout the United States, there were only two urban farms that are certified organic. Some farms are USDA certified organic such as Mellowfields urban farms in Kansas and claim there are important benefits such as a willingness of consumers to pay more for produce and a stronger relationship with local grocery stores. Whether the other urban farming organizations have experienced such benefits or not, there is still a common notion that the cost of becoming USDA certified organic will create barriers to production. West Sacramento Urban Farms claims to grow their food solely on organic sustainable practices but find the cost of becoming certified organic to be “prohibitive.” From statements such as this it seems that the managers of these urban farms find not only the annual certification cost to be an issue but also the additional staff and time to keep the necessary documentation and attend to regular inspections in efforts to maintain certification.

These Shipping Containers Have Farms Inside - Bloomberg
Local Roots Terrafarms constructed out of repurposed storage containers.

Companies such as Los Angeles based indoor growing company local roots says they also decide not to become certified organic but maintain the argument  that they are going a step above certified organic farming by using no pesticides while many certified organic farmers still occasionally spray from a list of OMRI approved pesticides. Local roots repurposed old shipping containers for state-of-the-art vertical agriculture in what they call TerraFarms. In these TerraFarms they are able to have complete control of the environment to hydroponically grow leafy greens and claim to use only 1% of the water that is used in conventional agriculture. Like many non-certified organic urban farms, they wish to create a culture of locally grown food where in replace of having a certified organic label they opt for having complete transparency with the customer. It is important to many of these urban farming organizations that consumers have easy access to their farms and see just where their food comes from. There is a possibility that becoming certified organic is not something that will be beneficial but applies to certain companies that need to fully evaluate their prospects of certification.


Anona, L. (2020). Farming in the City: West Sacramento Urban Farms. SacMag. Retrieved from

Pamintuan, A. (2018). 5 Urban Farms Making a Difference in Los Angeles. LAFood. Retrieved from

Rangarajan, A., Riordan, M. (2019). The Promise of Urban Agriculture: National Study of Commercial Farms in Urban Areas. Retrieved from

Rosenblum, A. (2018). A Local Company is Building the Farm of the Future in Shipping Containers. Los Angeles Magazine. Retrieved from

Urban Agriculture: Its place in resiliency.

Urban Agriculture: Creating Healthy, Sustainable Communities in D.C. |  Article | EESI
A close-knit community garden is being tended to in Washington D.C.

Taking urban agriculture into ones’ own hands may be a difficult task, but if there is a community involved, people who want to help create a better homestead will be ready. In the article from Science Direct, it talked about the diverse ways to create a better place for urban agriculture, the positive impacts it can have on the immediate society surrounding it, and the ways it can bring resiliency to the community. “Urban agriculture has been considered a critical tool for poverty alleviation and survival strategies” (Nabulo, Black, 2012). Those involved in the urban farm have left handprints, memories, and created ways to bounce back from negative events that may have occurred in the town. Having a place that is cemented in the community and known for bringing people together, harbors resiliency throughout the land.

Keeping Positivity in Agriculture

Ferreira writes how urban agriculture can combat noise pollution, air pollution, and create biodiversity. The number of positives that come with urban agriculture may seem too good to be true or those who are advocating for it could not be properly informed and therefore, misguide newcomers. Using new technology, having resources and references to stand by ones’ claims, develops the incentive in a dramatic way. By educating the residents and community, the people around the farm may see it as a sanctuary and somewhere to get food that is tangibly good for them. But the draw backs on creating urban agricultural spaces are: the amount of work, the type of work being done and where it will all begin. “Even just considering economic benefits, urban agriculture is practiced against a backdrop of a general lack of support services given to farmers” (Ferreira, Guilherme, 2018). Having workers in the agriculture space is a feat in itself, but when it comes to having people who will come back and want to be a part of this society, the crops grown there, are going to be the anchor. Workers need to be paid a proper wage, perhaps have benefits and incentives to keep coming back for a place that will give back to them.

Keeping the Soil Alive is just as important as Keeping the Community Alive.

The soil and land that will be used have had such an immense history, that it is difficult to know what has happened to the soil. “Soils from urban areas often contain toxic elements, such as heavy metals and PCBs…” writes Lorena de Oliveira. If the crops grown on tainted soil are not good, then the work that has been done, will go to waste and the founders will have to start from the ground up. Using the land available is easy, but once the soil has proved to be full of materials not suitable for people to plant crops in, it becomes unusable for those who need food and need the food nearby. Testing the soil to make sure it is safe prior to purchasing land or renting it, can increase the chance of having a long-lasting urban farm that will influence a community positively.


Ferreira A., Mendes Guilherme R., Ferreira C., Lorena de Oliveira M. Urban agriculture, a tool towards more resilient urban communities? 2018. Current Opinion in Environmental Science & Health. 5(93-97).

G. Nabulo, C.R.B. Black, J. Craigon, S.D. Young. Does consumption of leafy vegetables grown in peri-urban agriculture pose a risk to human health? Environ Pollut, 162 (2012), pp. 389-398.

Covid-19 & Soil Testing

In the last 9 months, gardening has been flourishing as a result of the Covid-19 stay in place orders. There are a few reasons why this may have occurred. Maybe it is because of the fear that individuals have regarding  food security or because more people have more time at home to pick up a new hobby; thus resulting in more and more people cultivating their yards into food hubs.  In that sense, gardeners must evaluate their soil prior to growing. Especially living in an urban setting, we have to be aware of soil contaminants that may be present in the soil. Soil contaminants can include trash, pesticide residue, heavy metals, toxic substances, and industrial chemicals. 

According to Soils in Urban Agriculture: Testing, Remediation and Best Management Practices for California Community Gardens, School Gardens, and Urban Farms states high levels of lead found commonly in urban soil can cause damage to the nervous system and affect brain development. Therefore, prior to cultivating the land, it is important to evaluate the site’s history and conduct a soil test. For instance, a building built prior to 1979 will likely contain lead based paint that can contaminate the surrounding soil. The US Environmental Protection Agency recommends a  test should include ‘pH, percent of organic matter, nutrients, micronutrients, and metals.’ If your soils do have high amounts of metal don’t be alarmed, be aware and address the issue. Don’t worry the fruits and vegetables grown will not absorb high amounts of contaminants that can harm humans. However, there are some practices that can help minimize and dilute soil contaminants to a safe level in the soil. For example, soil can be turned over with compost and amendments to dilute the contaminants. In addition the organic matter will help maintain a neutral soil pH 6.5 to 7.0, where most plant nutrients are available and heavy metals are less available.  (Surls, Borel, and Biscaro). To learn more about the best management practices regarding soil please read Soils in Urban Agriculture: Testing, Remediation and Best Management Practices for California Community Gardens, School Gardens, and Urban Farms.

To the home gardner and the starting urban farmer, I would advocate to get a soil test and evaluate the site. A soil test per sample can cost between $10-20 and results can take up to 1-2 weeks. I know you are eager to get planting however, knowing your soil will help elevate fruit production and safety. With proper planning and safe handling practices you can best protect yourself and others. Furthermore, I wanted to give a shout out to how amazing soil is. According to the Natural Resource Conservation Service, soil represents the greatest concentration of biomass in the planet. “There are more soil microorganisms in a teaspoon of healthy soil than there are people on earth!” This includes bacteria, algae, microscopic insects, earthworms, beetles, ants, mites, and fungi (USDA). It is mind boggling to think about all the millions and billions of species and organisms living in the soil. Soil is amazing and includes many beneficial properties that habitat growth.


Soils in Urban Agriculture: Testing, Remediation and Best Management Practices for California Community Gardens, School Gardens, and Urban Farms

NRCS.USDA:Soil Health Nuggets

Home Away From Home: Immigrants Creating a “Sense of Place” in Urban Farms and Community Gardens

In discussions of food deserts, food sovereignty, and food insecurity the focus tends to heavily revolve around the issues of limited access to enough food and to healthy foods. Access means that there are barriers to an adequate amount of healthy foods due to distance and obstacles relating to distance, like inadequate transportation or time, and also high prices. But in these discussions another element that isn’t as deeply explored are culturally relevant foods and peoples access to them. The U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance defines Food Sovereignty as the “…right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems” (Food Sovereignty 2007). So what does “culturally appropriate food” mean and why are they important in this discussion? 

Culture and Food

Women Cooking at South Central Farm.

Food holds deep ties to our culture. The kinds of foods we eat and show preference for play a role in our identity. Certain dishes, ingredients, and preparation practices are unique to individual cultures and can carry distinct meanings to a group of people and individuals. Food can be tied to traditions, play roles in holidays, and much more. Within the U.S., depending on the location, culturally important foods to certain groups of people can be very limited and hard to access.  The U.S. hosts a diverse number of cultures that are tied to unique foods and food related practices and within the immigrant population this can hold a great significance in creating a sense of place.

“Sense of Place” & The Role of Urban Farms

A Plot at South Central Farm with Shade Structure, Table, and Seating.

The term “Sense of Place” is a concept within urban design in which place is defined as a location in which people hold a connection between themselves and that location. This connection is defined by the “physical settings, individual and group activities, and meanings” (Najafi & Shariff 2011). “Sense of Place” can be described as the “…overarching impression encompassing the general ways in which people feel about places, senses it, and assign concepts and values to it” (Najafi & Shariff 2011).

People who have immigrated to the U.S. can often lose all “sense of place” as they lack a connection or bond to their new home. Immigrants within the U.S. face many issues dealing with anxieties and fears relating to deportation and also feeling of isolation from their new communities and a loss of family connections (Kanstroom 2010). In California around 26.7% of the population is foreign-born (Census profile 2019). 

Urban farms can become a solution to immigrant communities’ lack of a sense of place. Culturally significant plants can evoke memories of “home” as they mimic the ecology of a person’s country of origin. Urban farms can be sites where immigrant communities can gather together and share common experiences. Shared activities like holiday celebrations, music, singing, talking, cooking, teaching, and play can help to foster a sense of place (Hondagneu-Sotelo 2015). Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo, Professor of Sociology at the University of Southern California, studied two community gardens that had a high level of immigrant participation within Los Angeles, “Franklin” and “Dolores Huerta” community gardens. She discovered that these participants felt that the look of these gardens evoked memories of their home counties and had become places where they can share and perform traditional practices involving plants and food (Hondagneu-Sotelo 2015). Many went as far as to describe the relationships they had formed at the gardens as “family-like” (Hondagneu-Sotelo 2015).  In addition to creating a sense of place for this population, urban farms can also improve access to culturally appropriate foods that are farmed following cultural traditions and practices.

An Example of Immigrant Place-Making: South Central Farm 

A Plot at South Central Farm.

We can look to the South Central Farm (SCF) as an example of how immigrants can create their own sense of place. South Central Farm was an urban farm in South Central, Los Angeles that operated from 1992-2006. Many of the farmers at SCF were immigrants largely from Latin America, many from Mexico. SCF’s features were based on many unique cultural practices found across Mexico. For example many of the types of plants grown at the farm were of Mesoamerican origin.  Some of these plants included maize (Zea may), beans (Phaseolus vulgaris), squash (Cucurbita pepo), avocado (Persea americana), banana (Musa sapientum), and many others (Peña 2006). The planting of the individual plots mimicked those that many of the farmers experienced in Mexico and which they had called huerto familiar (hometown kitchen gardens) (Peña 2006).  In 2006, Devon G. Peña, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Washington, studied the South Central Farm and interviewed many farmers about their experience of the farm. One such interviewee, a Zapotec woman, described her garden plot at SCF as “a little space like home. I grow the same plants that I had back in my garden in Oaxaca. We can eat like we ate at home and this makes us feel like ourselves. It allows us to keep a part of who we are after coming to the United States” (Peña 2006).

Census profile: Los Angeles County (South Central)–LA City (South Central/Watts) PUMA, CA. (2019). Retrieved November 12, 2020, from

Food Sovereignty. (2007). Retrieved November 12, 2020, from

Hondagneu-Sotelo, P. (2015). At home in inner-city immigrant community gardens. Journal of Housing and the Built Environment, 32(1), 13-28. doi:10.1007/s10901-015-9491-0

Kanstroom, D. (2010). Deportation nation: Outsiders in American history. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Najafi, M., & Shariff, M. (2011, August). The concept of place and sense of place in architectural studies. Retrieved November 12, 2020, from

Peña, Devon G. (2006, March 4). Farmers Feeding Families: Agroecology in South Central Los Angeles. National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies Washington State University, Pullman, WA.

Soils in urban agriculture

In order to have a successful farm or garden, healthy soil is a necessity. Urban farmers face challenges when it comes to this. This is due to the fact that soil may get contaminated from past use and nearby activity from unauthorized dumping, construction, heavy traffic, and being too close to buildings that lead based paint has been used. But, in some instances soil can actually be clean. The most important thing to do is to get your soil tested. The alternatives to planting your garden in the soil would be with the use of raised beds or containers over paved surfaces. The other problem that urban farmers may run into is extremely compacted soil with low fertility (UCANR). Raised beds are boxes that can be built from material free of harmful chemicals and then filled with organic soil. This will provide the plants with proper nutrition to be successful. By using raised beds, the urban farmer will also eliminate any soil compaction from foot traffic as well. The installation of a membrane or bottom barrier in the garden bed will also be a great way to take extra precaution to ensure no contamination is done. It is also beneficial to add compost to the soil to aid in healthy and productive plants. is one of the most common practices used by gardeners on urban soils. This practice of using compost provides an increase in organic matter, a source of slow release nutrients, an increase in water-holding capacity, a clean growing medium, and a dilution of potential trace metals in the soil (USDA). In addition, urban soils often have higher levels of metal present because of human activity on the soil. Gardening in urban soils could potentially increase exposure to the metals if you swallow or breathe in the soil particles or if you eat food grown in the soil. These types of metals include arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, mercury, nickel, and zinc. Although certain metals are essential in small amounts, large amounts of them can lead to health concerns. In particular, lead is a major concern for health problems, especially for children. Usually in urban soils, it is not uncommon to find types of metals near or above guidance levels present in the soil. Health risks that are associated with metals in soils at a level that is slightly, or moderately above guidance values cannot be ruled out, but are usually seen to be at a lower risk. These metals can also lead to issues with plant health as well. Some metals like copper and zinc are taken up by plants and are actually toxic to the plant. Although other metals may not cause the plants harm, they are definitely a point of concern for the health of the public. Additionally, some metals are not as easily taken up by the plants in the conditions found in gardens. In order to reduce exposure to metals in your garden it is important to add compost into the soil. This can help keep metals in the soil from being taken up (Cornell University).


Different Regulations of Cottage Food Operations

Cottage food operations are a great way for people to sell homemade food to consumers from the back of their kitchen. This can be a way to earn extra income or start a small business, but the rules and regulations regarding such operations vary from state to state. For instance, some states require some sort of license or permit to operate a CFO while other states have no such requirement. There are also limitations as to what an operator can sell.

In California, AB 1616 authorized cottage food operations (CFOs). The state requires a permit and the site of operation may be inspected by the local environmental health agency. There are 2 categories that an operation can be: Class A and Class B. For Class A, the establishment must sell the product directly to the consumer, such as a farmers’ market or the home where the food is prepared. It also requires applicants to complete and submit a self-certification checklist that has been approved by your local environmental health agency. For Class B, the producer can sell their products indirectly through a medium like a restaurant, or directly to the consumer. The operations need to have an inspection and submit a permit application before actually getting their permit. After registering, the state requires an operation to complete a food handler training course within three months.

In Florida, cottage food operations don’t need to get a license or permit from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. They also don’t need to be inspected by a government agency. The cottage foods can only be sold inside the state and can’t be sold to other states. Operators can sell their food on websites, but the food itself has to be delivered directly to the customer, like at a farmers’ market. You can’t sell cottage food products along with food from a permitted food establishment because the cottage food doesn’t come from an approved source. The cottage food operator also can’t receive outside help and must do everything by themselves, including delivery. Additionally, cottage food can’t be sold as wholesale; this eliminates restaurants or grocery stores as potential customers.

The same as California, CFOs in Florida can’t make more than $50,000 in gross annual sales. Also, the food must be sold within the state and the food must be properly packaged and labeled according to each individual state. In the list of approved foods operators can sell as cottage food, it consists of select food that are deemed low risk or non-potentially hazardous foods. For instance, baked goods without dairy or meat fillings, cereals, fruit pies, etc. Typically, food that needs refrigeration or is acidified cannot be sold under CFOs.

This is because higher risk foods, like meat pies, require careful control of time/temperature to inhibit potential bacteria growth (Divison of Food Safety, 2020). It’s too precarious for a CFO to handle such foods because they aren’t an approved food facility and have not received the required permit. If food isn’t cooked to the right temperature, foodborne illnesses can occur. (STEC) E. coli is a bacterium that can be contracted when ground beef isn’t cooked thoroughly. As such, ensuring that higher risk foods come from facilities that have been approved to sell these goods will protect public health.  

With COVID-19 still ongoing, CFOs will have to take extra caution with sanitation and hygiene measures. Since Floridians have to sell/deliver in person, it’s more challenging to make sales while ensuring they are following CDC guidelines. The same obstacles face CFOs in California and with less restaurants open, producers have a smaller market. CFOs are a wonderful way to start a food business, but every state has their own regulations and should be checked. There is a list of non-hazardous food that can be sold, and it’s made this way because these foods pose a low risk to foodborne illnesses. The health of everyone is of utmost importance and even with COVID-19, CFOs should continue to maintain good management practices.


California Department of Public Safety. Cottage Food Operations.

Division of Food Safety. (2020, August). Cottage Food Operations.

Marty-Jimenez, B. (2020, April 8). COVID-19 and Cottage Food Operations: 10 Considerations. UF/IFAS Broward Extension Blogs.

Expansion of Urban Agriculture During a Pandemic

Urban agriculture has grown significantly over the past few years. Urban farming projects are being developed in several cities in the United States. In Los Angeles we are seeing urban farming projects being develop in diverse communities where families do not have easy access to healthy groceries stores and in New York City roof top gardening has been growing to provide a healthier food options to residents. When the COVID pandemic hit the country everything changed. Schools started to close, people started to work at home, and business started closed every month. There was one good that came out of this crisis which was the growth of urban agriculture. 

In an article from World Economic Forum on the growth of urban farming during the coronavirus lockdowns it explains how urban agriculture has expanded during the pandemic. There are two reasons why urban farming as increased during the pandemic according to the article, the first reason was the influences of residents growing their own fruit and vegetables in their homes as a hobby or to reduce stress. The second reason that lead to an increase of urban farming was panic buying in supermarkets. People started to grow their own food to avoid crowds and shortage of food in these markets. Urban agriculture can be a solution to many problem especially to low income communities that are suffering right now during this pandemic.  

Urban communities have already been suffering from food deserts before the COVID pandemic. Food deserts are areas where the availability to buy or acquire healthy fresh food is difficult to get. According to the USDA food desert affects mainly low-income families in urban areas. With the pandemic low-income family are suffering more because of unemployment. Most of these families now relay on food banks as their primary food source. People had to camp outside the food bank to be first in line to receive food for their families. The expansion of urban agriculture can help low income communities to have better access to healthy foods.. 

There are several forms of urban agricultures, in an article published by Food Print titled “Urban Agriculture” explains the different types of variations of urban farming. These types of urban agriculture can help low income families have access to health food in their neighborhoods or home. The forms of urban agriculture are community gardens, roof top farming, and vertical farming. 

Community gardens is a form of urban agriculture that is well recognized as lot farm and backyard farming. Lot farming is a garden fill with agricultural crops in on abandoned lots in urban neighborhood. This type of community garden is usually open to the public to plant and harvest food at no charge. This provides easy access to healthier food options to community members that have difficulties of traveling to food banks. Another form of community garden is backyard farming, this type of community garden has become very popular during the pandemic. Homeowners used their back yards space to grow fresh fruits and vegetables. This provides an easy access to healthy food source.

Roof top farming is mainly located in areas where urban space is limited because of city buildings. These sites use the rooftop of residential building as a farming zone. This type of farm has several garden beds where residents can grow low maintenance plants. Roof top gardens provides fresh vegetables to communities that do not have access to grocery stores with fresh food. 

Vertical farming are indoor and outdoor gardening systems that can grow several small vegetables crops. The designs of vertical farms are like towards, they can either be big or small. Plants are grown in pockets of the towards and has an irrigation system distributes water from top to bottom. This type of farming is ideal for families that live in apartment or small space areas. 

The growth of urban agriculture during the pandemic has shown how it can be the solution to reduce the effects of food desert in low income urban communities. People have seen and struggled trying to find food during this pandemic. Having to rely on food banks for food can be stressful. Urban agriculture can help urban communities to have access to fruits and vegetable though community gardens, roof top farms, and vertical farming systems. Apart from feeding people urban agriculture it is also a great stress relief activity that can help people mentally. This pandemic has brought a lot of negative effects, but it did help spread the growth of urban agriculture. 


Mapping Food Deserts in the United States. (2011, December 1). Retrieved November 4, 2020, from

Chandran R., Grow your own: Urban farming is flourishing during the coronavirus lockdowns. (2020, April 9). Retrieved November 4, 2020

Urban Agriculture. (2020, August 11). Retrieved November 04, 2020, from

Bridges M., Growing Interest in Urban Agriculture. (2018, September). Retrieved November 04, 2020, from  

Benefits of Urban Agriculture in Major Metropolitan Cities

Believe it or not, urban agriculture has become immensely popular over the last couple years. Community farms, rooftop farms, and school gardens are only three examples of many forms of urban agriculture. The benefit of these urban farms and school gardens is that it brings the community members together and also teaches people what it truly takes to grow food and how much time and effort one must dedicate to it. These urban farms are usually located on plots of unused land and also on rooftops. 

            Urban farms and school gardens have the ability to promote agricultural education, it benefits the environment, and also helps increase the community’s access to locally sourced fresh produce. Urban farms and school gardens typically occupy unused plots of land where they can either prepare the land to grow plants directly in the ground, or where they can bring in planter beds and greenhouses to grow plants in. Urban farms and school gardens are wonderful opportunities to teach the general public and especially children about the importance of agriculture to our society. They also give people a chance to slow down and connect with nature again amidst a busy city lifestyle where things seem to never stop. According to an article from the New York Post from last September, urban farms are now popping up all over New York City. The author emphasizes that in New York, “urban farms are inviting city dwellers to get back to their roots, literally, this fall, and teach all of us why vibrant green space is so necessary in the growing city” (Donnelly, 2019). 

            Rooftop farms have also become quite a common form of urban farming. Although rooftop farms are limited in what they can grow due to irrigation complications and the inability to plant crops on actual land, these farms make use of their space by growing leafy greens in what are called Tower Gardens. In addition to making cities greener (quite literally), rooftop gardens are beneficial since they can help reduce carbon emissions and cool down buildings. The Director of Commercial Tower Garden Division explains that, “bare roofs in cities absorb and then radiate heat… [which] increases energy usage and contributes to the poor air quality that often plagues big cities” (Coffman, 2018). Some remarkable rooftop farms that have been very successful across the nation would include Altius Farms in Denver, CO, Bell Book & Candle in Manhattan, NY, and Rouses Supermarket in New Orleans, LA. 

            In the beginning of the year when the coronavirus pandemic hit hard, many grocery stores experienced disruptions in their food supply distribution chain. As a result, many grocery stores were out of stock in many items. This made many people turn to alternative sources like farmers markets and urban farms for their fresh produce. These local food options gave people a sense of certainty and ensured that there will always be enough fresh produce for everyone when the grocery stores could not guarantee this. Hopefully this is just the beginning of urban agriculture and that there will be more major metropolitan cities across the country that begin to integrate urban farms, school gardens, and rooftop farms into their communities.

Coffman, J. (2018, March 14). Why rooftop farming is the best solution for smart urban agriculture. Agritecture. Retrieved from

Donnelly, T. (2019, September 6). Urban farms are sprouting up all over NYC. New York Post. Retrieved from