Urban Agriculture

Setting the Table for Urban Agriculture in Urban Agriculture: Policy, Law, Strategy, and Implementation (American Bar Association 2015)

May 6, 2015
Michael T. Roberts

The resurgence of urban agriculture reflects a variety of trends in American culture, including the continuing salience of the Jeffersonian vision and dissatisfaction with many aspects of the modern food system. This dissatisfaction covers a litany of challenges, including, among others, environmental harms, food access problems, hunger, and lack of transparency. To these ends, advocates have fought to reverse a century of laws and policies aimed at removing agriculture from city life.

This introduction first reflects on how popular support for the development of a legal framework that promotes urban agriculture is rooted deeply in American agrarian traditions. It notes the tension between the rhetoric in support of urban agriculture and the modes of urban law and planning that dominated the 20th century. This introduction considers how various approaches to urban planning have facilitated or thwarted urban agriculture and survey recent legal developments designed to accommodate and encourage urban agriculture projects as alternatives to conventional industrial agriculture.

Notwithstanding the growing enthusiasm for urban agriculture, serious equity and ecological concerns lie within modern urban agriculture. Careful strategic planning is needed to align the implementation of the legal tools presented in this book. This chapter concludes by recommending the use of key legal tools in developing urban agriculture that, if implemented, will improve food systems in general.

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