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Urban agriculture: connecting producers with consumers

Carolyn Dimitri (Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, New York University, New York, New York, USA)
Lydia Oberholtzer (Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, USA)
Andy Pressman (NCAT-ATTRA, Butte, Montana, USA)

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 7 March 2016




Urban farming is becoming more common in the USA, as food-based entrepreneurs seek to make money farming in the city. Yet many urban farms are concerned with other factors in addition to food production, and thus have incorporated social goals into their missions. The purpose of this paper is to identify the social missions of urban farms in the USA, their extent, and explores differences and similarities among farms with varying missions.


The authors use primary data collected from a 2012 national survey of urban farmers in the USA. In total, 35 questions, covering the 2012 farm year, targeted production and marketing practices, risks and challenges, information and technical assistance needs, farm size and location, age of primary farmer, and farm characteristics. A multinomial logistic model was used to analyze the social missions of urban farms in the sample.


The authors find that food production is an essential part of the mission for all urban farms. Some farms have social missions, as well, which the survey results indicate are related to food security, education, and community building. The authors find that all urban farms, regardless of their mission, are relatively small and face similar challenges in terms of providing the primary farmer with a living. Farms with explicit social missions, relative to those with a strict market orientation, donate a higher share of food from their farm and are less likely to own farmland. Urban farms located in with lower median income are more likely to have social goals related to building community or improving security food security.


Urban agriculture is becoming more prevalent in many developed nations. At the same time, social entrepreneurship is gaining traction. Given the limited ability of urban farms in terms of food production, the social mission of urban farms arises as a possible explanation for the recent growth. This paper provides insight into a new phenomenon, and uses new data to provide insight into size, types of farms, and farmer well-being and address the social missions of urban farms in the USA.



Funding for this research was provided by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Award 2012-68006-30177, Agriculture and Food Research Initiative. Small and Medium Sized Farms Program.

The authors thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and feedback.


Dimitri, C., Oberholtzer, L. and Pressman, A. (2016), "Urban agriculture: connecting producers with consumers", British Food Journal, Vol. 118 No. 3, pp. 603-617.



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Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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