Photo by Alana Siegner

Sustainable Urban Farming for Resilience and Food Security

Fostering Innovative, Sustainable Urban Farming Methods to Meet Food Needs

Project Team: Jennifer Sowerwine (Environmental Science, Policy, and Management; UC Cooperative Extension), Céline Pallud (ESPM), Tim Bowles (ESPM), Charisma Acey (City and Regional Planning), Rob Bennaton (UC Cooperative Extension), Paul Rogé (ESPM), MESA

Funding Level: $295,000

Read about new research findings from the Sustainable Urban Farming for Resilience and Food Security project on urban agroecology in the East Baythe intersection of urban agriculture and food security, and biological controls in urban agriculture.

Project Summary

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This project combines research and outreach to foster innovative, sustainable urban farming methods to improve ecological resilience and meet urgent food needs. Lead investigators and community collaborators will help develop transformative solutions to improve the ecological sustainability of urban farming systems by building soil health, conserving water, and promoting beneficial insects. The project will also foster economic viability by improving distribution of urban-produced nutritious food to make it more accessible and affordable for urban populations and to minimize on-farm food waste. This project will benefit farmers, low-income consumers, and the educators, advocates and lawmakers who serve them. Research is taking place in the Bay Area, and lessons will be valuable for other urban communities throughout the state and country. This project is funded through the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research.


  • Increase the ecological resilience, sustainability, and economic viability of urban/peri-urban farming systems.
  • Improve metropolitan food distribution systems to reduce food waste on farms and meet fresh produce needs of low-income urban consumers.
  • Help realign the East Bay food system toward achieving food justice.

Main Objectives:

  • Evaluate existing urban/peri-urban food access and food distribution methods and assess their effectiveness in meeting food needs of urban low-income, food insecure communities;
  • Evaluate urban agriculture policies nationwide to identify effective policies that support resilient urban farming systems;
  • Conduct research on soil health and soil contamination to determine strategies for improving the quality, safety, water retention capacity, and productivity of urban soils;
  • Evaluate how urban landscape composition harms or promotes beneficial insects and their habitats which play a critical role in urban pest control due to limited use of chemical control;
  • Translate research results into policy briefs, extension, and educational materials and disseminate widely to decision makers, community advocates, and urban food producers and distributors.

Strategic Impact Framework Diagram

Long Term Goals Diagram


We are using participatory research methods engaging students, farmers, urban farming apprentices, community members and stakeholder institutions to inform and conduct research and translate the results into effective educational tools, policy briefs and learning modules.