Urban agriculture: connecting producers with consumers

Carolyn Dimitri, Lydia Oberholtzer, Andy Pressman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose – Urban farming is becoming more common in the USA, as food-based entrepreneurs seek to make money farming in the city. Yet many urban farms are concerned with other factors in addition to food production, and thus have incorporated social goals into their missions. The purpose of this paper is to identify the social missions of urban farms in the USA, their extent, and explores differences and similarities among farms with varying missions. Design/methodology/approach – The authors use primary data collected from a 2012 national survey of urban farmers in the USA. In total, 35 questions, covering the 2012 farm year, targeted production and marketing practices, risks and challenges, information and technical assistance needs, farm size and location, age of primary farmer, and farm characteristics. A multinomial logistic model was used to analyze the social missions of urban farms in the sample. Findings – The authors find that food production is an essential part of the mission for all urban farms. Some farms have social missions, as well, which the survey results indicate are related to food security, education, and community building. The authors find that all urban farms, regardless of their mission, are relatively small and face similar challenges in terms of providing the primary farmer with a living. Farms with explicit social missions, relative to those with a strict market orientation, donate a higher share of food from their farm and are less likely to own farmland. Urban farms located in with lower median income are more likely to have social goals related to building community or improving security food security. Originality/value – Urban agriculture is becoming more prevalent in many developed nations. At the same time, social entrepreneurship is gaining traction. Given the limited ability of urban farms in terms of food production, the social mission of urban farms arises as a possible explanation for the recent growth. This paper provides insight into a new phenomenon, and uses new data to provide insight into size, types of farms, and farmer well-being and address the social missions of urban farms in the USA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)603-617
Number of pages15
JournalBritish Food Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 7 2016


  • Community building
  • Economics
  • Food security
  • Social entrepreneurship
  • Urban agriculture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Business, Management and Accounting (miscellaneous)


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