Skip to content
CityLab
Culture

Most Urban Farmers Aren't Making a Living

The strong social mission of most urban farms might not be enough for longterm viability, a study suggests.
Ali Clark displays a Mexican sour gherkin at Big Muddy Farms, an urban farm in northern Omaha, Nebraska.
Ali Clark displays a Mexican sour gherkin at Big Muddy Farms, an urban farm in northern Omaha, Nebraska.AP Photo/Nati Harnik

A new type of agriculture has recently taken shape in American cities. Vacant properties and high-rise rooftops are morphing into farms, yielding fresh produce and honey, and exposing urban dwellers to the once strictly rural activity of food production. But sadly (and perhaps nor surprisingly), it might be a passing fad.

At least that’s what a new study published in the British Food Journal suggests. Carolyn Dimitri, the lead author and an associate professor of food studies at New York University, set out to assess the viability of American urban farming and to identify what drives urban farmers. She and her colleagues found that about two-thirds had a social mission that went beyond food production and profit. She also found that, regardless of their mission, roughly two-thirds of urban farmers say they’re failing to make a living, reporting sales below $10,000 per year.