Top 3 Cities With Urban Agriculture Policies

As the future of food becomes an issue on a widespread scale, there are many paths that can be taken to combat such issues. Urban agriculture is such a path. As urban agriculture becomes more popular, cities themselves have been getting involved in urban agriculture through government means. All cities deserve respect for fostering urban agriculture policies, even if it’s on a minuscule scale, but what cities are among the best? These are the top three cities that any individual who is invested in city urban agriculture policies can learn from.

3. Seattle, Washington

Seattle  is one of America’s most well known cities.  A leader in numerous industries and renown for its quality of life, it’s no surprise that Seattle is one of the top cities in regards to urban agriculture policies.
Seattle is guided by a comprehensive set of programs aiming to foster urban agriculture at a liveable rate. In 2008, the Food Action Plan helped spur developments in the city in regards to urban agriculture. This plan, under four goals, included support for urban agriculture under the “Grow Local” category (as well as related categories). The category aimed to support local food production by supporting efforts in regards to prioritizing, developing, expanding, and supporting urban agriculture.
Seattle truly helped spur urban agriculture even more in 2010.  The “2010: The Year of Urban Agriculture campaign was established, effectively pushing the city into a conscious mindset of the many benefits of urban agriculture.  This campaign also established a new section, known as the “Urban Farms” section. This section helped build upon the many facets of their urban agriculture, including the keeping of animals, the allowance of greenhouses and community gardens, the approval of urban farms in any residential area, and retail sales.

A Seattle community garden. Image via Sustainblog.org.

As a result of their involvement with urban agriculture from 2008 to the present, Seattle has thrived in regards to urban agriculture, as the movement spreads to the residents and establishments alike. With establishments such as the Seattle Urban Farm Company, Seattle Tree Fruit Society, Lettuce Link, City Fruit, and many others, Seattle has ample opportunities for urban gardening.

2.  Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland is a haven for urban agriculture. In order to thrive in this regard, Cleveland has laid out plans to foster urban agriculture. Impressive city involvement alongside stellar urban agriculture is what puts Cleveland on top.  Cleveland’s zoning ordinance offers freedom and growth for urban agriculture policies.
Their zoning ordinance over the years has encouraged numerous forms of urban agriculture. Their ordinances also play a big role in effectively limiting methods that may be harmful to residents. Their zoning ordinances have carefully laid out rules in regards to both urban gardening and residential districtsCleveland has permitted the use of bees and farm animals. In 2012, Cleveland approved the use hoop houses and high tunnels as well through a permitting process. Over time, Cleveland has developed an impressive set of policies, and urban agriculture has thrived in the city.

An urban garden in Cleveland. Image via Inhabitat.

The results of their support, freedom, and involvement, has brought some stunning results. The city is filled with residents and companies alike who have become involved in urban agriculture. The Fair Food Network established the Cleveland Urban Agriculture Project in 2012. This project aims to accomplish several goals, including goals that would contribute to conservation, growing produce, and new economic opportunities. The city itself offers the Gardening Greenbacks, which grants funds in order to develop urban gardens.
Aside from a few notable establishments, the city in general has been thriving and improving thanks to urban agriculture policies and programs. An article in 2012 noted that, at that time, Cleveland had 215 community gardens and 36 for-profit farms. In addition, during that same year, the city won APA’s “National Planning Excellence Award” for “Innovation in Sustaining Places”. Other structures, such as the Green Cities Grower Cooperative and the Cleveland High Tunnel Project, have also been established in Cleveland.

With a combination of municipal government involvement and a city full of residents who want to see change, Cleveland deserves a top spot on this list.

 1. Portland, Oregon

Portland has long been renowned for being a leader in sustainable living. In 2011, Portland was ranked the second greenest U.S. City by Sight Selection Magazine. In 2014, Portland has not lost their reputation for sustainable living. It seems fitting that the city is number one when it comes to urban agriculture policies. Portland has become a model city for encouraging local food production.
Portland’s history with urban agriculture dates way back to 1975, with the adoption of the Community Garden Program (CGP).  This program is the backbone of Portland’s urban agriculture policies and endeavors, and it has brought an unprecedented amount of government support. As its popularity grew, it eventually led to awareness of what Portland would be able to accomplish next.  In 2010, awareness coalesced and Portland decided to trace the next step to a greater city for urban agriculture. With the help of the Urban Food Zoning Code Update Project Advisory Group (PAG), Portland established a comprehensive plan that would push urban agriculture to its maximum potential. PAG helped establish guidelines regarding the keeping of animals and bees, farmers’ markets, food production for urban areas, distribution points for food, and community gardens. Later, the code was unveiled and enforced. With the code, Portland established a very high standard for urban agriculture.
A garden in Portland. Image via. http://www.neighborhoodnotes.com/uploads/images/hazelwood-garden-004.jpg

A garden in Portland. Image via Neighborhood Notes.

Today, Portland remains at the cutting edge of urban agriculture policies and development.  The aforementioned CGP is one such a way.  This “Community Gardens Toolkit” offers Portland residents the ability to rent their own land, in hopes of starting a community garden of their own. Using CGP lets residents grow their own food for consumption, for themselves and others in the community. The “Produce For People Program” lets residents grow their own food for donation, in order to help impoverished communities. The program has been so effective, the city successfully donated 30,000 lbs of food in 2013.
The government‘s  urban agriculture policies offer many different ways to foster local and sustainable food production within Portland. Classes are offered, as are volunteer positions available for every resident. In keeping with Portland’s high standards of urban agriculture, numerous establishments are there to support Portland’s penchant for urban agriculture. Establishments such as Slow Food Portland, Portland Farmer’s Market, and Ecotrust are all excellent testaments to Portland’s undeniable gift for urban agriculture.
It was a tough choice, but with Portland being the most conscious-driven city in regards to urban agriculture, the city is simply the best model for municipal-based urban agriculture.

About The Author

Alex Ageno earned his degree in Urban Planning in 2013 from Arizona State University. Alex's interests in Urban Planning include Urban Design, Sustainability, Form Based Codes, Zoning, and Environmental Planning. He resides in Arizona.