How Well Is Urban Agriculture Growing in the Southern United States?
Trends and Issues from the Perspective of Urban Planners Regulating Urban Agriculture
In this study, we evaluate urban agriculture trends in 55 cities in the Southern United States. Our research is important for three reasons. First, as the geographic scope of urban agriculture research is limited mostly to Northeast and West Coast cities, we focus on the South, the fastest-growing U.S. Census region. Second, despite rapid growth, this region has also experienced the highest rate of poverty and food insecurity. Third, we surveyed urban planners who regulate and monitor urban agriculture sites, develop urban agriculture policies and programs, and advise local decision-makers. The study documents Southern urban agriculture changes between 2000 and 2010. It also considers types of projects, implementation barriers, and strategies used to promote urban agriculture. A survey questionnaire was mailed to planning officials in 153 Southern cities; 55 cities responded. Among respondents, 87% reported the existence of urban agriculture in their jurisdiction. Most Southern cities reporting urban agriculture experienced urban agriculture growth (69%), 21% reported decline, and 10% did not report a change. The most common projects included neighborhood gardens, school gardens, and community supported and entrepreneurial agriculture. Irrespective of urban agriculture growth or decline, the responding cities relied on the same types of regulatory and policy approaches. Only cities reporting growth in urban agriculture implemented programs to promote urban agriculture, including land acquisition, trusts, and interjurisdictional coordination. Land conversion and lack of economic sustainability were cited as main barriers to urban agriculture. The findings suggest the need to further explore the impact of external factors on the effectiveness of urban agriculture regulations, policies and programs, and solutions to urban agriculture barriers.
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