The multifunctionality of urban farming: perceived benefits for neighbourhood improvement

Melissa N. Poulsen, Roni A. Neff, Peter J. Winch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Urban farming–a type of urban agriculture focused on entrepreneurial food production–serves multiple functions in neighbourhoods; yet these are not well delineated. Expectations for urban farming often centre on traditional measures of economic development, potentially overlooking other benefits. Through a qualitative case study conducted in Baltimore, Maryland, we sought to understand community perceptions regarding the ways in which urban farms can benefit cities. Interviews with residents, neighbourhood leaders, and urban farmers in three residential neighbourhoods with urban farms revealed the pathways by which community members view farms as improving neighbourhoods. Benefits stemmed from four primary changes urban farms made to study neighbourhoods: creation of public projects welcoming involvement, physical improvement of degraded space, production of local food, and creation of new businesses. These changes led to multiple perceived benefits including increased social connectedness, a transformed physical landscape, improved neighbourhood reputation, increased access to fresh produce, and educational, youth development, and employment opportunities. Our findings demonstrate the importance of a multifunctional paradigm that accounts for social and educational functions in assessing the value of urban farming and bring empirical evidence to the concept of multifunctional agriculture. Urban farms with strong social aims may appear to contribute little to economic development if measured using traditional indicators of success such as job creation or fiscal impacts, but provide numerous other benefits for community development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1411-1427
Number of pages17
JournalLocal Environment
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2 2017


  • Multifunctional agriculture
  • qualitative methods
  • urban agriculture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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