Urban agriculture helps to address local food insecurity issues in cities and suburban areas. Growing food in cities can take the form of backyard, roof-top and balcony gardening, community gardening in vacant lots and parks (sometimes spanning several city blocks), roadside urban fringe agriculture, livestock grazing in open space and intensive indoor hydroponic or aquaculture facilities. Urban agriculture eases access to food, reconnects communities to the practice of growing food, and engages the community on a variety of levels. This fast-growing phenomenon has the potential to nourish the health and social fabric of communities, improve the physical landscape and create economic opportunities for farmers and neighborhoods. Although the urban agriculture movement is gaining momentum, it also comes with a unique set of challenges and opportunities.
Changes in climate and extreme weather have already occurred and are increasing challenges for urban agriculture. Many of the impacts are expected to intensify in the future. Over the past century, temperatures have risen across all seasons, growing seasons have become longer, precipitation patterns have changed, and extreme precipitation events have increased in frequency and severity. Because of the sensitivity of agriculture to weather and climate conditions, these impacts can have substantial direct and indirect effects on farm production and profitability.
Many urban producers have recognized the need to incorporate climate change considerations into urban agriculture, but often lack the specialized training or knowledge to explicitly address this in their planning and practices (Janowiak et al 2016). The USDA Climate Hubs and partners are coordinating efforts to address the major challenges that urban farmers face when considering how to integrate climate change into their planning and management activities. Working closely with urban farmers, and ranchers, the USDA Climate Hubs seek to help others implement voluntary, incentive-based practices that improve environmental conditions while also preparing these communities for the impacts of climate change. Tools and resources are compiled on this website, not to be prescriptive but to be supportive and to help provide pathways for individuals to devise management responses suitable to specific agricultural goals and objectives.
- USDA's Urban Agriculture Toolkit lays out the common operational elements that most urban farmers must consider as they start up or grow their operations. It also contains a special section on resources for developing indoor growing operations, such as aquaponic facilities. For each element, the toolkit identifies technical and financial resources that have been developed by federal, state, and local partners. While some of the elements require local-level solutions (e.g. zoning), federal programs and services can support a variety of activities related to urban farming.