Urban agriculture in and on buildings in North America

The unfulfilled potential to benefit marginalized communities

Map showing cities with sampled projects and number of sampled projects in each city.

Map showing cities with sampled projects and number of sampled projects in each city.

Assistant professor of architecture Martha Bohm studies potential benefits of Urban Agriculture (UB), specifically food production in cities for residents lacking good access to fresh, healthy foods. 

UA in and on buildings (herein referred to as UAB) is particularly interesting for its potential to avoid major challenges to UA, including development pressure and the perceived (or actual) contamination of urban soils. To assess the extent to which UAB fulfils these potentials, this study conducted a qualitative evaluation of nineteen example projects published in refereed sources. The characteristics assessed included the socioeconomic context of the project sites (household poverty levels, racial/ethnic identities, and vehicle access), other, non-food benefits generated, the produce-distribution mechanism, financing mechanisms, the nature of agricultural labour, the food produced, and productive area/yield. The results suggest that UAB projects are not usually located in extreme-poverty areas and tend to be investor-financed, and while jobs are usually created, non-food benefits are not more common in areas of extreme poverty than in other areas. The produce-distribution mechanism does not appear to relate to the projects' proximity to extreme-poverty areas. A range of foods supporting a healthy diet was found in each project. Further evaluation of UAB is warranted to better understand its unique characteristics within the larger field of UA; several questions are suggested for further research.

Authors

Martha Bohm,
Assistant Professor
Department of Architecture

Publisher

Built Environment

Date Published

2017