Farming the City: thesis possibilities

Thesis possibilities at the Rural Sociology Group

Contact person: Petra Derkzen.

Growing food in and around cities is gaining momentum (see urban agriculture on our blog). From allotment gardens to vertical farming and rooftop production, new initiatives are appearing on a daily basis. Reasons are divers but urgent; the fight against obesity, the need for social cohesion in neighborhoods, reduction of food miles, education about the origin of our food, climate change buffering and preservation of green space in cities. The exact contribution of urban agriculture to these divers goals, however, has so far received little systematic attention. Contacts with initiatives in the Netherlands and worldwide make interesting research possible, for example:

1. To research small scale intensive urban agriculture farms

According to the conventional norms for agriculture, it is not possible to make a living from half a hectare. However, different types of urban agriculture farms show they can. How can this be the case?

2. To research the development possibilities and constraints for urban farmers

To start a farm outside the city, a few million euro’s are needed. Urban agriculture, however, has not the same costs for land acquisition. In this respect, urban agriculture is accessible for newcomers from all ethnic backgrounds. There are, however, other constraints such as planning legislation and policies which are focused towards food production outside the city, leaving those inside the city unrecognized. What is the background of people who are or who want to be active as urban farmers? What are the possibilities and constraints for these farmers?

3. To research the effects of urban agriculture

Over half of the population lives in cities nowadays. The Netherlands too, is a highly urbanized society. The current trend is that more affluent urban citizens seek a better living space in suburban or rural places. The future city will have to be a more attractive living space to keep a divers population. How can urban agriculture contribute to the quality of life of inner cities? What are the disadvantages and risks of food production in high density environments? What are the (potential) effects of urban agriculture?

4. To research to role of urban agriculture in the local food economy


Farmers market Des Moines

The current food system is dominated by long chains and a lack of connection between the place of production and the place of consumption. Urban farmers are exploring new local markets for their produce. How do these emerging local chains relate to larger and global chains? Which crops and livestock are suitable for urban farming and which products can better be sourced globally?