Urban agriculture allows for the development of a variety of environmental, economic, and social benefits to the surrounding communities. Urban farming can reduce transportation costs, help reduce runoff associated with heavy rainfall, and lead to better air quality. Beekeeping and cultivation of native plants can provide pollination services to the community. Supporting local food producers, such as through a community supported agriculture (CSA) membership, also contributes to regional economic development by keeping capital within the local economy.
Technological innovations have enabled urban farmers to move beyond traditional urban methods and expand their operations and growing seasons. These innovations include vertical farms, hydroponic greenhouses (e.g., soilless systems), and aquaponic facilities (e.g., growing fish and plants together in an integrated system).
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a history of supporting urban agriculture as part of the local and regional food systems. Examples include USDA farmers market programs, rural cooperative grants, child nutrition programs, and USDA research and cooperative extension services. This support expanded with the enactment of the 2018 Farm bill, which authorized numerous resources for urban agriculture, including:
- an Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production to encourage and promote urban, indoor, and other emerging agricultural practices;
- an Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production Advisory Committee;
- USDA grant authority to support urban agriculture development and innovative production; and
- pilot projects for counties with a high concentration of urban or suburban farms.