5 Reasons Why Cities Should Create an Office of Urban Agriculture

an illustration of a green space in the middle of an high density, urban environment

Images: piart/iStock/Getty Images Plus, MartinaDedic/iStock/Getty Images Plus. credit: Fast Company

Editor’s Note: Agritecture continues to advocate for cities to take a leading role in shaping urban food and agriculture policy. In our work with the City of Dallas, we laid out five key priorities for their newly created urban agriculture office, centered around reducing regulatory barriers and empowering local residents to grow their own food.


Written by: Kate Lee and Michael Shank

July 14, 2023

There’s a new movement cropping up in city governments across America. It’s apolitical enough that it can avoid the polarization that comes with other climate initiatives. And it’s easy to incorporate because it spans many aspects of city governance and life, with a variety of benefits that meet a wide array of city goals.

It’s the creation of a city office focused solely and specifically on urban agriculture. Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Boston are among the urban adopters to hire a “director of urban agriculture” in recent years. But increasingly, more and more cities are introducing such a position. There are now more than a dozen cities participating in a soon-to-be-launched Urban Ag Directors Network.

A director of urban agriculture provides valuable and impactful work that sits at the intersection of people and planetary health—the physical health of a community and the environment in which it sits. The mission and mandate of an urban agriculture office also transcends and cross-pollinates multiple city departments. It’s the nexus of many diverse focus areas for a city, from housing and health to public park use and zoning.

Urban land-use policies have traditionally favored residential and business needs and demands. And only has the recent escalation of the climate crisis highlighted the imperative of incorporating and preserving vibrant green space into city planning. Additionally, farming yields limited profits, making the cost of urban living hard for farmers. And only in recent years have we seen the growth in access to technologies that are expanding the ways we can grow produce without dirt or sunlight.

These changes make it the perfect time to incorporate agriculture into urban areas. There are five compelling reasons why cities should consider creating an urban agriculture office. But for these five reasons to be realized, and for such an office to be best developed, it’s essential to embed urban agriculture into the way cities do business and develop land-use policies.

For example, urban agriculture staff must be able to influence decisions about how city land is utilized and help weave agriculture into the traditional ways of urban planning and development. If not, the office risks serving as solely window dressing, and these following five reasons fail to germinate. With that, let’s explore the five reasons why cities should create such an office.


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