Urban Agriculture

FEW-meter: The effects of urban agriculture on cities

The FEW-meter project set out to understand what goes into urban farming and gardening and what comes out of it - social and material. To accomplish this, we measured and tracked the material inputs and outputs from about 80 urban farms and gardens across five countries - France, Germany, Poland, the UK, and the US. We also conducted surveys with several hundred participants on these farms and gardens, from individual managing their own allotment plots to volunteers at collective gardens to professional urban farm managers. This unprecedented dataset has allowed us to assess food production, quantify social benefits, and examine environmental impacts among other things, and the dataset forms the backbone of my dissertation project described below.

For more information:

The FEW-meter website: https://www.fewmeter.org/

Our framework manuscript: Caputo, S., Schoen, V., Specht, K., Grard, B., Blythe, C., Cohen, N., Fox-Kämper, R., Hawes, J., Newell, J., & Poniży, L. (2020). Applying the Food-Energy-Water Nexus approach to urban agriculture: From FEW to FEWP (Food-Energy-Water-People). Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 126934. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ufug.2020.126934

Social benefits manuscript: Kirby, C. K., Specht, K., Fox-Kämper, R., Hawes, J. K., Cohen, N., Caputo, S., Ilieva, R. T., Lelièvre, A., Poniży, L., Schoen, V., & Blythe, C. (2021). Differences in motivations and social impacts across urban agriculture types: Case studies in Europe and the US. Landscape and Urban Planning, 212, 104110. https://doi.org/10/gjsqbq

Cost-benefit analysis manuscript: Schoen, V., Caputo, S., & Blythe, C. (2020). Valuing Physical and Social Output: A Rapid Assessment of a London Community Garden. Sustainability, 12(13), 5452. https://doi.org/10/ghr9tt

Left: Images from urban farms and gardens across London

Where are urban gardens in American cities?

Although urban gardening is an important and growing land use across the world, it is extremely poorly tracked in most cities. To successfully plan for the role of urban agriculture in future cities, we must first effectively track existing urban gardening. I have worked with colleagues in the Urban Sustainability Research Group to map urban agriculture in Detroit and New York City, creating the largest known databases of community gardens in each city (and a parallel map of home gardens in Detroit). Using these datasets, we have been able to assess the distributive justice of urban gardening today. In Detroit, we have used this dataset to attempt to detect green gentrification (displacement linked to urban greening) caused by urban agriculture.

Hawes, J. K., Gounaridis, D., & Newell, J. P. (2022). Does urban agriculture lead to gentrification? Landscape and Urban Planning, 225, 104447. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2022.104447

Above: A map of home and community gardens identified in Detroit - Credit: Dimitrios Gounaridis

What is the role of urban agriculture in future cities?

What role can urban agriculture play in local food systems? Can urban agriculture be scaled up in cities to promote justice, sustainability, and resilience? My dissertation will extend the projects described above to roll out spatial planning models of urban agriculture in New York City, London, Paris, Dortmund, and Gorzow Wlkp (Poland). By integrating methods from spatial science and industrial ecology into urban metabolism frameworks from geography, I will lay out new theories and methods for spatial planning of urban agriculture and assessing its role in future cities.

Below: A preliminary suitability map of suitable farm and garden sites in New York City - Own work