That neighbor with the chickens who lauds the quality of her eggs every time you cross paths. The guy down the way with a pear orchard bristling out of his backyard. They're small contributors to the urban agriculture community here in Los Angeles, and while the boom has been thoroughly documented, academia is wading in to take notes on the bigger players -- the school and community gardens as well as commercial enterprises. Last week, graduate students at UCLA's Luskin School of Public Affairs released a report entitled "Cultivate L.A.: An Assessment of Urban Agriculture in L.A. County," aiming to help city planners learn to take into account the broad array of such increasingly popular land uses.
The researchers learned that our country is home to 1,261 verified urban agriculture sites, of which 761 are school gardens. Eighty-seven percent of Los Angeles County's 88 cities and unincorporated areas regulate animal farming, but a mere 25% regulate the growing of fruits and vegetables.
Some of the highlights focus on the difficulty with which urban farmers attempt to go legit. Regulations are dubbed "unclear," "complex" and "conflicting." The wide-ranging definitions of what constitutes actual agriculture means urban farmers struggle to abide by local health and zoning laws -- which might be something to fix if cities want to take advantage of the economic and environmental benefits of urban agriculture.
For a nice visual representation of what the group learned, check out the interactive map on the report's site.