Urban Agriculture Could Bring Food Sovereignty and Empowerment to Low-Income Communities

40 million Americans, including 12 million children, experienced food insecurity in 2017. Hunger should be a solvable problem in one of the wealthiest nations on Earth, yet it continues to challenge low-income communities across the country.

There’s no neat single solution to this issue, but many smaller initiatives can help — and one of them may be urban agriculture.

When you hear “urban agriculture,” you may think of hipsters with backyard chickens or a little community vegetable garden, where growing food is treated more like a hobby than a tool for autonomy and self-determination. But some people think it could be scaled up and out to better serve low-income communities — especially in food deserts or other areas where it’s tough to get access to diverse fresh foods.

A thriving urban farm could become a haven for a community, too. In addition to producing food, particularly with sustainable practices that care for the soil while increasing yields, urban farms can become neighborhood hubs. In St. Louis, for example, refugees are growing communities and food. Black-owned urban farms are thriving in several areas, changing the face of farming in a nation where many farmers and landholders are white and they have been historically cut out of economic opportunities in the agricultural sphere.

Of course, urban farms are also good for the environment, adding air-filtering plants and creating oases of green to fight rising temperatures. The health benefits are also clear; better access to high-quality produce has benefits, but so does getting outside and getting active. A well-designed urban farm can also be inclusive, allowing disabled farmers and elders to get involved as well, rather than limiting farming to younger, nondisabled people.

Economically, however urban farming is set up, it can offer a variety of benefits. A commercial farm run by people from within the community can help lift people financially while providing employment and food for the neighborhood. A public-private partnership — like a land grant in exchange for some produce, while allowing farmers to sell the rest — is another option as is pairing a farm with a school, grocery store or other entity that can become a stable commercial partner with consistent needs.

And urban farms can also become a form of food sovereignty, a movement that has its roots in indigenous Latin American communities, but is rapidly spreading. This movement encourages people to take control of the source and production method of their food for health and autonomy, but also to tap into traditional foods and preserve culinary heritage.

For indigenous communities, this often means protecting or reclaiming foodstuffs that have been an important part of their communities for centuries. In urban farms, it might take different forms depending on who is farming and where — whether they’re growing Central American veggies or embracing traditional black Southern foods.

More and more community gardens large and small are popping up across the U.S., which is a delight to see. As we think about how to fight food insecurity by growing things in our own backyards, though, we need to be careful to work with communities, not simply for or in them.

For success, people need to be empowered to lead their own farms and community gardens — and while they may need outside training or tools to get a leg up, in the end, they need to be in control of what they grow and how. New gardeners and farmers should experience autonomy, rather than feeling patronized by people sweeping into their communities with good intentions but inadequate respect.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

67 comments

silja salonen
silja salonen9 hours ago

this woild be brilliant

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Frances G
Frances Gyesterday

thank you

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Paula A
Paula A1 days ago

Thank you for posting

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Janis K
Janis K7 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Mia B
Mia B14 days ago

tyfs

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Shae Lee
Shae Lee17 days ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Louise A
Louise A22 days ago

thank you

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Janis K
Janis K24 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Coo R
Coo R24 days ago

Great idea

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Leo C
Leo Custer25 days ago

Thank you for sharing!

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