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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Urban Agriculture

Photo of Columbus skyline from a field

Urban Food and Agriculture

Farming in the city? Who does that? Where could you even do that? These are great questions that many in the public are asking. Interestingly today, there are some surprising answers and real-life examples out there. Across Ohio, both new and "old farmers" are learning new tricks. They are reclaiming open space in urban areas in order to grow food for residents of those areas.

Download Learning About Food in Urban Communities - Educational Plan for the Food District at Weinland Park

This presents a significant opportunity to provide fresh vegetables and fruits to people who live in areas that may be lacking full-service grocery stores where healthy foods are available. It also presents opportunities for farmers to develop production close to their customer base on relatively inexpensive land, and to hire workers that live in the area. In brief, opportunities abound for everyone.

Food systems and agriculture are emerging around Ohio, with significant developments in urban areas. Urban Agriculture has been defined as the growing, processing, and distribution of food and other prod­ucts in and around cities (Brown and Carter 2003). Agriculture is a critical part of any movement towards sustainability because it can have profound effects on the environment, human health, and the so­cial order (Horrigan et al., 2002).

Data for Ohio show that the most populous incorporated places and their 2010 Census counts are Columbus, 787,033; Cleveland, 396,815; Cincinnati, 296,943; Toledo, 287,208; and Akron, 199,110. The largest county is Cuyahoga, with a population of 1,280,122. The other counties in the top five include Franklin, with a population of 1,163,414; Hamilton, 802,374; Summit, 541,781; and Montgomery, 535,153.

As part of the Local Food Signature Program, the Ohio State University Extension supports emerging urban food and ag. developments in metro areas through programs for:

  • Food Production
  • Food & Business
  • Food & Family
  • Food & Community

For example, in the Cleveland area, the Cuyahoga County OSU Extension team has been recognized nationally for their outstanding work with urban agriculture, .

In Franklin County, a multi-disciplinary OSU Extension team, including members from the OSU South Centers, collaborated with the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, community organizations and other OSU Colleges on an Urban Agriculture Overlay Project, supported by a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Community Challenge Grant.  The project focused on the Weinland Park neighborhood, a community of approximately 4,600 residents located in Franklin County, immediately southeast of The Ohio State University and less than one mile from downtown Columbus.

According to the American Community Survey (2005–2009), the Weinland Park community did not rank well in regard to social and economic indicators, such as employment, poverty, public assistance, and education. This community decided to use food as a focus for transformation. The project team explored how the Weinland Park community could make the production, processing, distribution, preparation and celebration of food a catalyst for urban neighborhood development.

Learning About Food in Urban Communities

OSU Extension’s primary focus was to develop an Educational Plan for the Food District @ Weinland Park. This publication is a comprehensive guide that draws upon a foundation of national, state and local Extension research-based programming, as well as the literature, urban agriculture resources, existing community assets, and extensive engagement with those who live, learn, work, play and worship in the community. In addition, a new Master Urban Farmer curriculum was developed by a team of educators from around the state.

These are just a couple of examples of what is happening with urban food and agriculture. Ohio State University Extension professionals are committed to:

  • The Ohio State University (OSU) Discovery Themes, Food Production and Security; Health and Wellness
  • The OSU College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) Signature Areas Food Security, Production, and Human Health
  • The OSU Extension Local Food Signature Program
  • The national eXtension Community of Practice, Community, Local and Regional Food Systems

Urban Food and Ag Resources