Section B: Real People, Real Farms – Case Studies of Urban Agriculture
- Students will learn about examples of urban agriculture around the country.
- Students will be able to apply the concepts taught in the module to real situations.
Background / Lessons
The best exposure to an urban agriculture operation or organization is a visit. The next best thing is to invite a farmer or staff member to speak to your class in the school. To get ideas, search the web for options in your area, or contact your city’s park department or local Extension agent. Inquire about community gardens or orchards, urban ground-based farms or rooftop gardens, or an urban agriculture organization in your area. If you invite a speaker, make sure they know in advance what aspects of the operation your class is interested in. You might want to discuss some possible activities that would be appropriate for your class to do.
Prepare your students for the visit by having them review information about the enterprise or organization and decide on what questions they want answered. The questions should address some aspect of sustainability, but they may range from questions about values and quality of life to technical questions about how crops are grown.
If you wish, you can assign the class the task of writing up a case study of the farm or organization based on the field trip or guest presentation. They can use the farm interview form as the basic template for the case study. They can also take pictures or videos, provided they get permission from the host.
If a field trip or guest presenter is not feasible, use one or more of the case studies
Activity: Evaluating Sustainability
Food Forward, Pilot: Urban Farming, 24 minutes long.
This video provides a good overview of urban agriculture. It features rooftop gardening, beekeeping, inner-city farming, community gardens, and more. The interviews with different farmers/gardeners will help students understand some of the reasons and motives behind urban agriculture. [Note: The video first aired in 2012 and most of the individuals/groups are still active. However, Sweet Water Organics in Milwaukee no longer exists. The owner of Growing Power, Will Allen, retired and the business is being carried on in Chicago, IL.]
The Food Forward, Pilot: Urban Farming worksheet can be distributed to students before you show the video so they will know what information to look for. Alternatively, you can use the worksheet questions to guide class discussion after watching the video.
Website and Written Case Studies
The following case studies have extensive information on their websites. Links to articles and/or a background write-up with additional information are also provided. A worksheet key is provided for the first three case studies in the Activity. Additional case studies are included for further student interest.
- Rooftop Farm Example:
- The Brooklyn Grange, New York City, NY. Brooklyn Grange is also briefly featured in the PBS video.
- Nonprofit Urban Agriculture Organization Example:
- Ground-Based Urban Farm Example:
- Community Garden Example:
- Vertical (hydroponic) Farm Example:
- Floriculture Examples:
- Spry Flower Farm, Brooklyn NY
News article on Spry Flower Farm
- Plein air, Paris
Note: the website is in French, but Google can automatically translate.
This news article is in English. At the bottom of the article is a short video discussing the conventional flower industry and efforts to develop local flower supplies.
- Spry Flower Farm, Brooklyn NY
- Food Incubator Examples:
- This UW Extension website features a list of food incubator businesses around the state of Wisconsin, short videos discussing how incubators work, and the types of value-added foods produced.
The Additional Reading in Section A provides a list of books that contain more urban agriculture case studies.