The Unattainable Trifecta of Urban Agriculture
Keywords:Urban Agriculture, Food Access, Food Systems, Employment, Job Training, Sustainability, Reflective Essay
AbstractUrban agriculture (UA) has emerged as a promising way to address many important issues, including growing food for local communities, preserving open space, promoting health, and developing local leaders. A worrying expectation, however, has developed that UA can meet these important and ambitious goals while also being financially sustainable without outside funding. We call this expectation the unattainable trifecta of urban agriculture: the myth that urban agriculture, without long-term funding investments, can simultaneously do three things that are each difficult to do on their own:
(1) Provide good food to people with limited financial resources at prices they can afford.
(2) Provide job training, work experience, and/or leadership development for people typically excluded from employment and/or leadership roles.
(3) Generate income for producers and create jobs funded by profits from sales.
In this reflective essay, we draw from the academic literature on UA and from the combined 30 years of urban agriculture experience of the first two authors to document and discuss both what effects urban agriculture is having and what challenges UA operations face in achieving these social goals. We conclude with recommendations for funders, policy-makers and activists about the broader changes and supports that are needed to make these goals more attainable within the context of UA.
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