urban farming pros and cons

The Downside To Urban Farming (Pros And Cons)

Last Updated on May 15, 2021

Is there a downside to urban farming?

Urban farming is currently at the peak of agriculture. It is said to be the future of agriculture in general, as more people move into cities and peri-urban areas. Entire localities can feel the effects of urban farming. The impacts are both good and bad. So, what are the downsides to urban farming?

The downsides to urban farming involve the following factors: land access, legal frameworks, and water utilization. In contrast, the pros of urban farming involve food security, efficient resource utilization, climate resilience, and awareness.  

This article will tackle the pros and cons of urban farming. They will base on societal and worldwide impact. For more elaborate explanations on these factors, keep reading to help you understand the overall impact of agriculture’s current protégé, urban farming. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Urban Farming 

The advantages and disadvantages divide into different factors that will aid in the overall categorizing process. It will allow you to base their advantages on the different impacts of farming. Here’s a table to help smooth out the process. 

Advantages of Urban Farming Disadvantages of Urban Farming 
Food security and provision of ecosystem servicesLand access
Efficient use of Resources Legal framework
Climate ResilienceUtilization of water
Creating awareness

If you’re looking for a great read about urban farming, although I don’t agree with all of his politics and ideals, Curtis Stone does a decent job of teaching all the basics in his book The Urban Farmer that you can find here on Amazon.

The Advantages of Urban Farming 

two ladies shop for local produce grown by urban farmers
  1. Food Security and the Provision of Ecosystem Services 

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) shares that food security defines as the availability and accessibility of sufficient, safe, and nutritious food to people at all times. [1]

Urban farming contributes to food security because food is grown in municipal areas making it easily accessible and easily distributable to cities. Not only that, but the food is considered a perishable product, and this would require storage to transport. 

These costs do not apply to municipal farming because the distance between the farms and the suppliers is relatively short, and as soon as the produce is ripe and ready, it’s ready to hit the market. It is known as the food mile, and because of this aspect, urban farming is considered sustainable. 

Not only that, but municipal gardening has improved the overall handling of produce post-harvest. Post-harvest management is a vital part of the farming process. The minute the fruit or vegetable separates from its parent plant; it will begin deteriorating. 

Post-harvest management involves the packaging and storage of the produce. Urban farming contributes to post-harvest management because produce takes a shorter amount of time to get to the customer. 

The produce now only requires to be packaged and distributed to avail customers of fresh produce; there is an excellent transport reduction, and therefore urban farmers may also reduce packaging. 

Another advantage is that urban farming has resulted in increased employment opportunities. Municipal farming is easy, and resources are easily accessible. You can also learn to grow food as a hobby. It is also a lucrative means of income. 

Urban farming is also considered therapeutic to some people. Gardening or growing food is considered a wonderful pastime where people can indulge in gardening projects where they release the stress from daily activities. 

  1. Efficient use of Resources 

Urban areas consist of buildings that may utilize methods through which they can harvest resources. For example, rainwater can be harvested using gutters and used to water the crops. 

Farmers can also utilize regenerated rainwater to help them in their irrigation projects. It is a great way to reuse resources and cut down on wastage of resources. 

Another resource saved through municipal food production is energy. Because municipal food production and farming provide food to the immediate municipal areas, they can save on transport energy. It is an environmental conservation method because the savings in the fuel used to transport the produce is now limited. 

Not only that, but through this, air pollution reduction occurs. Air pollution would result from the vehicles or transportation channels used to transport the product, as seen in traditional farming. 

Moreover, urban farming also uses compost waste as a means to produce organic food. It is an environmental effort and will reduce the carbon footprint of every farmer using such methods. 

Farmer Jer's urban farming setup in his backyard in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
  1. Climate Resilience 

Because municipal gardening and farming occur in urban areas, there is a reduction in the risk of flooding. The farms in urban areas tend to be in small controlled areas with a low risk of flooding. 

Furthermore, municipal farming reduces heat waves. A study showcased how renewable energy sources present in urban areas reduced heat waves. [2]

Renewable energy sources like solar power and biomass are present in urban areas, usually as environmental conservation. These sources of energy offer environmentally friendly options for municipal farms and greenhouses. 

These alternative options are also great because they release less heat in comparison to traditional sources of energy. Not only that, but urban farms tend to have heat absorption pumps and coolers. 

When they produce heat, they use these heating and cooling pumping systems to heat or cool buildings or the farms themselves. Hence creating their controlled environment. Hydroponics systems often employ this method of heat exchange. 

  1. Creating Awareness 

The 2nd SDG or Sustainable Development Goals set by the UN is Zero Hunger [3]. Urban farming is at the forefront of the crusade trying to combat poverty and lack of food security worldwide. Municipal farming sets a platform where for both citizens and the local farmers to engaging. 

This way, both parties are aware of their local food systems and how they can correlate with getting access to these foods. 

Through the awareness created by urban farming, there is an increased number of citizens towards better living. People have a higher chance of having healthier dietary habits. 

Lastly, there are education and training opportunities presented through urban farming awareness campaigns. It is killing two birds with one stone. 

The Disadvantages of Urban Farming 

overhead view of urban farming layout
  1. Land Access 

When it comes to urban farming, there is a discrepancy between specific expenses. Those expenses are land costs and profits. Municipal food production doesn’t necessarily bring in massive loads of profits because of the limited agricultural production. 

There is limited production because of the small-sized plots of land. Cities have limited spaces, and because farming occurs on small plots of land, there will be lower economies of scale. Economies of scale refer to the cost reductions done by a company or organization when they die into increased production. 

It means that municipal farmers do not have any cost deduction despite trying to increase their crop production. Their profits remain limited. 

The space issue is one of urban farming’s biggest problems. It could also lead to less sustainability because of allocated space concession agreements. The periods allocated in the contracts may not support long-term municipal gardening and growing projects. 

  1. Legal Framework 

The law will always catch up one way or another, and urban farming isn’t exempt from this. Municipal farming is very new and part of the growing trend. Because of this, there is a lack of regulation in urban or peri-urban areas. 

Not only that, but traditional farming methods are also inapplicable in urban areas. It leads to the fact that taxing will ultimately differentiate in how it works. 

Finally, there is a lack of a marketing infrastructure where farmers can reach out to their target audience. They opt for a more physical approach, such as a farmer’s market. 

  1. Water Use 

Water conservation is regarded as necessary worldwide, but with the rise of urban farming, there is an increase in inefficient water use. Unfortunately, many farmers are uneducated on water conservation and how they can efficiently use water in their urban farming projects. 

Increased use of tap water also occurs, leading to inaccessibility of water to others in the same system. 

  1. Resource Mismanagement 

A study showed that resources such as material and labor were highly inefficient and wasted in urban farms. There was a lack of balance when it came to production costs versus input costs. This wastage of resources posed a threat to the overall sustainability of urban farming and its ability to provide food on a global scale. 

Urban Farming FAQs

eight urban farming graphics

More Thoughts On Urban Farming 

Urban farming is spearheading agriculture, but it’s not perfect. It does have shortcomings. It is essential to be aware of its societal impacts. If you liked this article, we would love to hear from you; please leave a comment and share how urban farming has impacted you. 

Garden Or Greenhouse?

If you have a little bit of land, you have a lot more options. There’s nothing wrong with setting up a micro-farming concept if you’re low on space. However, if you have a decent sized lot, you could get into setting up a small greenhouse.

I have a very small yard but wanted to have my plants out in April and early May. The issue is that where I live, you aren’t supposed to put most plants outside until the May 24 weekend. Basically, the rule is that June 1 is safe and before is not for most vegetables. I know this is true for tomatoes because I lost a lot of tomatoes to the cold my first year growing them.

inside view of my urban farming screenhouse
Here is my small urban farming screenhouse/greenhouse I constructed in 2019.

To avoid the cold and jump-start my growing, I set up a small greenhouse using the following materials:

There were a few other small items like staples and screws, but those materials listed are the basis of the build. If you’re looking for a larger, more professional greenhouse, Bootstrap Farmer has some great all-metal hoop house kits you can see here.

a small urban farming greenhouse

Sources

  1. Features and Functions of Multifunctional Urban Agriculture in the Global North: A Review – Scientific Figure on ResearchGate. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/PROs-and-CONs-of-Urban-Agriculture_tbl1_346020675  Accessed  May 4, 2021
  2. Stewart, R., Korth, M., Langer, L. et al. What are the impacts of urban agriculture programs on food security in low and middle-income countries? Environ Evid 2, 7 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1186/2047-2382-2-7  Accessed May 4, 2021
  3. International Food Policy Research Institute, Food Security, International Food Policy Research Institute, https://www.ifpri.org/topic/food-security  Accessed May 4, 2021. 
  4. Suzanne an er Meulen, Simone Verzandvoort, Climate benefits and environmental challenges related to urban food systems, https://library.wur.nl/WebQuery/wurpubs/fulltext/384152#:~:text=’Open%20air’%20forms%20of%20urban,cooling%20mechanism%20through%20increased%20evpotranspiration.&text=As%20a%20result%2C%20GHG%20emissions,and%20ventilation%20can%20be%20reduced. Accessed May 4, 2021. 
  5. Sustainable Development Goals, Goal 2: Zero Hunger, United Nations, https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/hunger/ Accessed May 4, 2021. 

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