Most urban farms not profitable, says new study

Some harder numbers seem to finally be surfacing on the scalability of urban farming.

The lore of the urban farmer has held wider sway than reliable facts & figures (really, of whatever scope) until now. Its newness, though, is finally giving way to the inevitable lag of economic research that might point to wider outcomes. When we conceive of urban farming, it’s been largely rhetorical, socially-minded, even visceral. I like others have wonderful personal experiences where I’ve seen the value locally.

The social value of the phenomenon is not really in question, nor its potential to supplement household pantries within very specific parameters. Yet great one-off household, or even neighbourhood experiences, no matter how material, do not make economic cases.

What’s more, the term ‘urban farming’ has come to its limit. It encompasses several practices, from warehouse farming, to rooftop container farming to vertical farms fueled by aquaponic systems, etc

Yet finally, we have some hard numbers to look at from the economic point of view. The latter is no small feature of the practice, given that urban farming has been touted to go large ways in the wider plan to feed 9 billion excessively urban dwelling folk by 2050.

One study does not define the topic, so let’s hope this is the first of many to come.

Though it was published in British Food Journal, the new study was the product of NYU lead researcher Carolyn Dimitri, who polled US urban farms from coast to coast.

The study size was 370 urban farmers, defined by their farm output “in or around US cities.”

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