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Food production and resource use of urban farms and gardens: a five‑country study

Dorr, Erica, Hawes, Jason, Goldstein, Benjamin, Fargue-Lelièvre, Agnes, Fox-Kämper, Runrid, Specht, Kathrin, Fedeńczak, Konstancja, Caputo, Silvio, Cohen, Nevin, Poniży, Lidia, and others. (2023) Food production and resource use of urban farms and gardens: a five‑country study. Agronomy for Sustainable Development, 43 (1). Article Number 18. ISSN 1773-0155. (doi:10.1007/s13593-022-00859-4) (KAR id:101938)


There is a lack of data on resources used and food produced at urban farms. This hampers attempts to quantify the environmental impacts of urban agriculture or craft policies for sustainable food production in cities. To address this gap, we used a citizen science approach to collect data from 72 urban agriculture sites, representing three types of spaces (urban farms, collective gardens, individual gardens), in five countries (France, Germany, Poland, United Kingdom, and United States). We answered three key questions about urban agriculture with this unprecedented dataset: (1) What are its land, water, nutrient, and energy demands? (2) How productive is it relative to conventional agriculture and across types of farms? and (3) What are its contributions to local biodiversity? We found that participant farms used dozens of inputs, most of which were organic (e.g., manure for fertilizers). Farms required on average 71.6 L of irrigation water, 5.5 L of compost, and 0.53 m2 of land per kilogram of harvested food. Irrigation was lower in individual gardens and higher in sites using drip irrigation. While extremely variable, yields at well-managed urban farms can exceed those of conventional counterparts. Although farm type did not predict yield, our cluster analysis demonstrated that individually managed leisure gardens had lower yields than other farms and gardens. Farms in our sample contributed significantly to local biodiversity, with an average of 20 different crops per farm not including ornamental plants. Aside from clarifying important trends in resource use at urban farms using a robust and open dataset, this study also raises numerous questions about how crop selection and growing practices influence the environmental impacts of growing food in cities. We conclude with a research agenda to tackle these and other pressing questions on resource use at urban farms.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1007/s13593-022-00859-4
Projects: FEWmeter
Additional information: For the purpose of open access, the author has applied a CC BY public copyright licence to any Author Accepted Manuscript version arising.
Uncontrolled keywords: Urban agriculture, Urban farm, Community garden, Allotment garden, Individual garden, Sustainability, Resource use, Food-energy-water nexus, Resource efficiency, Yield
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
S Agriculture > S Agriculture (General)
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > Kent School of Architecture and Planning
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council (
Depositing User: Silvio Caputo
Date Deposited: 05 Jul 2023 09:22 UTC
Last Modified: 27 Feb 2024 11:35 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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