In the context of the social and economic challenges associated with Buffalo’s loss of population and jobs since the 1950’s, urban agriculture provides important benefits. While by no means a solution to the broad problems of poverty, vacancy, and lack of access to healthy foods, easing the institutional barriers to urban agriculture is a commonsense way to address all three of these issues while also promoting less tangible benefits like the sense of community people experience around community gardens and urban farms.
The United States and Buffalo have a rich tradition of urban agriculture, especially in times of economic distress. Accordingly, the practice is seeing a recent resurgence city- and nationwide in the beginning of the 21st century. Despite broadly stated policies generally favoring urban agriculture in the City’s Comprehensive and Land Use Plans, there are obstacles hindering urban agriculture’s proliferation. A lack of access and security in land and an onerous and hard-to-navigate regulatory regime are preventing Buffalo from fully realizing the benefits urban agriculture can bring.
Part I of the paper embedded below briefly examines the social and economic challenges from Buffalo’s deindustrialization and how urban agriculture can address them. Part II is a study of the regulatory framework around urban agriculture, both as codified in the City Code and as practically applied, and provides recommendations (summarized immediately below) for policymakers and legislators to help Buffalo reap urban agriculture’s rewards and become a model other cities can follow in this area.