The Socio-Cultural Benefits of Urban Agriculture: A Review of the Literature
Ilieva, Rositsa T.
Kirby, Caitlin K.
Newell, Joshua P.
Despite extensive literature on the socio-cultural services of urban open spaces, the role of food-producing spaces has not received sufficient attention. This hampers advocacy for preserving and growing urban agricultural activities, often dismissed on justifications that their contributions to overall food supply are negligible. To understand how the social benefits of urban agriculture have been measured, we conducted a systematic review of 272 peer-reviewed publications, which drew on insights from urban agriculture sites in 57 different countries. Through content analysis, we investigated socio-cultural benefits in four spheres: engaged and cohesive communities, health and well-being, economic opportunities, and education. The analysis revealed growth in research on the social impacts of gardens and farms, with most studies measuring the effects on community cohesion and engagement, followed by increased availability and consumption of fruits and vegetables associated with reduced food insecurity and better health. Fewer studies assessed the impact of urban farming on educational and economic outcomes. Quantifying the multiple ways in which urban agriculture provides benefits to people will empower planners and the private sector to justify future investments. These findings are also informative for research theorizing cities as socio-ecological systems and broader efforts to measure the benefits of urban agriculture, in its many forms.