skip to primary navigationskip to content

Urban agriculture

November 2019: Community gardens and urban farms under the umbrella of urban agriculture can contribute to combatting inner city ‘food deserts’, improve air quality, provide green spaces, and reduce CO2 emissions. A new paper calls for holistic and strategic interventions to expand such networks and adopt urban planning mechanisms.


A recent study assesses impacts of urban agriculture and their ability to help cities achieve their sustainability goals. It finds that urban agriculture has a positive impact in reducing so called inner city ‘food deserts’, which describe communities without appropriate access to grocery stores and retailers. The study postulates that meet up to 90% of the inner city’s demand for fresh produce could be achieved and evaluates the effectiveness of community gardens, garden networks, and farms in urban areas.

Implications & Opportunities

The study found that converting vacant lots, rooftops and building facades into community gardens and urban farms could provide green spaces, reduce energy usage and CO2 emissions savings from buildings, improve inner city air quality, and increase the absorption of rain water, which may improve ground water levels in urban areas. Further, community gardens provide alternatives to grocery stores and improve food access in deprived communities. However, wide spread application of urban agriculture faces challenges from zoning, licencing, and ownership regulations. In addition, space for urban agriculture is in competition with housing needs, and energy generation. In light of these challenges, the paper calls for urban agriculture to be included in urban development plans to provide holistic and strategic recommendations on how to coordinate and expand networks of farms and gardens.


The study’s results should be seen within its geographic context and research outcomes may vary in relation to local, legal, and cultural settings of future studies.


Uludere Aragon, N., Stuhlmacher, M., Smith, J.P., Clinton, N., Georgescu, M. (2019). Urban agriculture’s bounty: contributions to Phoenix’s sustainability goals. Environmental Research letters. DOI 10.1088/1748-9326/ab428f

Curbed New York. (2019). Can an urban agriculture plan cultivate NYC’s community gardens?. Retrieved from

Share this

RSS Feed Latest news

Clare Shine announced as next Director of the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership

Nov 23, 2020

23 November 2020 – The University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) has announced Clare Shine will succeed Dame Polly Courtice as its new Director, effective April 2021.

View all news


Adele Wiliams

| T: +44 (0)1223 768451


The views expressed in these external research papers are those of the authors and do not represent an official position of CISL, the University of Cambridge, or any of its individual business partners or clients.