What is urban agriculture

Project "Future Forum Urban Agriculture"

The number of densely populated metropolitan areas is growing worldwide. The largest German metropolitan area is the Ruhr metropolitan area - a region that is continually becoming urbanized. Due to this urbanization and the loss of production areas, agriculture and horticulture in the Ruhr area are under particular pressure. Agriculture is the largest land user in this metropolitan area with a share of around 40%; but their possibilities for further development are severely limited by the urban surroundings. In terms of its expression, it shows a very mixed picture. On the one hand there are companies that produce for the world market, on the other hand, farmers are often service providers because they have adapted to regional conditions and have used the opportunities that lie therein. But maintaining the landscape is also one of the livelihoods for farmers in the Ruhr area.

In the media and the public, “urban agriculture” is often associated with the gardening of city dwellers, which is currently experiencing a renaissance, or innovative concepts from science, research and planning are related to urban agriculture. In this context, the terms urban gardening, urban agriculture, urban farming and urban gardening are often used synonymously.

With the project “Future Forum Urban Agriculture” of the Chamber of Agriculture of North Rhine-Westphalia, an agricultural institution is for the first time dealing in detail with the subject of “Urban Agriculture” from the point of view of agriculture and horticulture. The project runs from 2011 to 2014 and is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as part of the research focus “Sustainable Land Management”. The Ruhr metropolitan region is considered within the scope of the project. It extends from the Wesel district in the west to the city of Hamm in the east and corresponds to the area of ​​the Ruhr Regional Association.

What is urban agriculture?

As a result of the project, the topic of “urban agriculture and horticulture” is being dealt with in a practice-oriented manner for the first time, instead of only from a socio-cultural and planning perspective as before. The following definition of urban agriculture is a first result of the ongoing project work. It provides an approach that puts agriculture and horticulture at the center of the concept of urban agriculture and thus places the emphasis on professional, commercial agriculture, taking into account the pillars of economy, ecology and social affairs.

“Urban agriculture encompasses professional agricultural and horticultural activities in and on the outskirts of urban agglomerations. (World) market-oriented agriculture is represented in urban areas, as is the characteristic combination of a specialized and diversified production of agricultural products geared towards urban areas with a large number of agricultural services. Cities and their agglomeration areas require a specially adapted multifunctionality of agriculture. (Chamber of Agriculture North Rhine-Westphalia 2011) "

What topics does the project deal with?

In addition to the economic importance of agriculture and horticulture in the project region, the preservation of the agricultural area is a central issue.

For a long time, agricultural land was considered by planners and urban developers as a reserve of land for (urban) development concepts and planning processes. The new approach pursued in this project focuses on economic concerns and actual constraints of agriculture in this urban agglomeration. Agricultural (open) space can only be integrated into a successful and, above all, close urban cultural landscape if these are viewed with agricultural expertise. The particular importance of agriculture as an economic power and as a land user should be shown to society - from the population to politicians. Various questions are in the foreground.

What actually is agriculture in urban areas? Which positive and negative features characterize this agriculture in and on the edge of urban agglomerations? Which ideas, concepts and strategies can be collected and developed together with agricultural and horticultural entrepreneurs in order to use the urban peculiarities? How are agricultural concerns better perceived and taken into account by institutions, planners and society? How can agriculture be integrated into the concepts of sustainable land management?

What are the goals of the project?

The project ties in with the work of the NRW Chamber of Agriculture in the context of the development of the Emscher Landscape Park and agriculture in the Ruhr Metropolis. It is intended to develop a future strategy for agricultural businesses in the urban Ruhr area, i.e. for professional urban agriculture in the future. Concepts for the development and implementation of urban agriculture are designed from an agricultural point of view.

Since urban agriculture is linked to a wide range of topics, specialist and regional experts and actors must come together and all important topics must be brought together. This requires a network that, through an open and step-by-step structure, includes agriculture, administration, politics and science. The aim is to improve the status and perception of agriculture in order to be perceived as an equal partner in planning questions, in the political discussion process and in economic issues.

An important accompanying medium of the sub-project is the development of the "Urban Agriculture Future Forum" for the provision of information and the exchange of network actors involved, e.g. farmers, gardeners, decision-makers from politics and planning, citizens, etc. In terms of content, the project pursues the following goals:

  • Clarify the importance of agriculture in urban cultural landscapes in connection with the development of sustainable land management
  • Processing of specific issues and representation of agricultural issues to planners and political decision-makers.
  • Raising the awareness of political decision-makers for agricultural issues so that successful, sustainable agriculture can last in urban areas
  • Network formation / integration of the LWK into existing networks
  • Development and implementation concepts for urban agriculture
  • Development and operation of an internet forum beyond the project duration

additional Information


Rolf Born, Bernd Pölling

Author: Rolf Born, Bernd Pölling