Using Land Inventories to Plan for Urban Agriculture: Experiences From Portland and Vancouver

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Marijn Meijering

Authors: W. Mendes, K. Balmer, T. Kaethler, A. Rhoads

Publication Year: 2008


Journal: Journal of the American Planning Association

Volume: 74

Issue: 4

Categories: Resilience


Problem: Urban agriculture has potential to make cities more socially and ecologically sustainable, but planners have not had effective policy levers to encourage this.

Purpose: We aim to learn how to use land inventories to identify city land with the potential for urban agriculture in order to plan for more sustainable communities by answering two questions: Do land inventories enable integration of urban agriculture into planning and policymaking? Do land inventories advance both ecological and social dimensions of local sustainability agendas?

Methods: We use case studies of two Pacific Northwest cities (Portland, Oregon, and Vancouver, British Columbia), comparing the municipal land inventories they undertook to identify public lands with potential for urban agriculture. We study how they were initiated and carried out, as well as their respective scopes, scales, and outcomes.

Results and conclusions: We find that the Portland inventory both enabled integration of urban agriculture into planning and policymaking and advanced social and ecological sustainability. In Vancouver similar integration was achieved, but the smaller scope of the effort meant it did little for public involvement and social sustainability.

Takeaway for practice: Other local governments considering the use of a land inventory should contemplate: (a) using the inventory process itself as a way to increase institutional awareness and political support for urban agriculture; (b) aligning urban agriculture with related sustainability goals; (c) ensuring public involvement by creating participatory mechanisms in the design and implementation of the inventory; (d) drawing on the expertise of institutional partners including universities.

Research support: The Centre for Urban Health Initiatives at the University of Toronto provided financial support for writing up this research.


Marijn Meijering