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Beyond backyard chickens: A framework for understanding municipal urban agriculture policies in the United States

Journal Title Food Policy
Published Date August 01, 2021
Research Type
Authors Jill Clark


The growth of interest in urban agriculture (UA) has paralleled an increase in municipal policy to enable, regulate, or otherwise support UA, particularly over the past decade. Yet, there has been no systematic documentation and characterization of the myriad UA public policies emerging across different cities within the United States (US). To address this gap, we developed a framework to understand the landscape of municipal UA policy, focusing on authority, policy instruments, and topic areas. We systematically compiled and catalogued policy recommendations, city plans and priorities, regulations, guidance, and city-operated programs from the 40 most populous US cities. The results demonstrate the wide variety of ways in which cities address UA through public policy, employing an array of policy instruments with different levels of authority and topics addressed, ranging from accessory structures and compost to public land access and soil safety. The growing frequency in which governments are engaging in public-private partnerships illustrates the increasing role of civil society groups as collaborators instead of stakeholders in municipal government processes. This shift towards a shared governance approach raises questions around who is leading the advocacy, creation, and enforcement of UA policies, and how that may affect concerns around equity and food justice. Furthermore, our results highlight the need for cities to more clearly synthesize their UA policies to assist practitioners in navigating a landscape of numerous policies stemming from different government departments and partnerships. Our findings lay the groundwork for expanding, refining, and adapting UA policymaking in varying governance context.