U.S. to See More Urban Farming in 2015 as Economics Improve, Consumer Demand Increases and More Incentives are Added
December 10, 2014 | seedstock
Los Angeles, CA (PRWEB) December 10, 2014 – Urban agriculture is expected to maintain strong growth in the United States in 2015 as cities and states provide more incentives, more start-up farmers enter the field, smaller operations improve their profitability and consumer demand for locally grown food remains strong, according to Seedstock.com.
The growth outlook for land, production and jobs connected with urban farming was generated from Seedstock’s recent annual conference at UCLA where more than 250 farmers, entrepreneurs, policy makers, investors and others gathered to hear experts discuss current factors driving robust local food systems in dozens of urban settings across the country.
“Urban agriculture will truly emerge as one of this country’s most visible economic and cultural forces in 2015. We’ll see strong job growth, continued innovation, more commercial-scale farming in cities and greater production numbers of locally grown food,” said Robert Puro, co-founder of Seedstock, the nation’s leading information, consulting and networking company promoting innovation in urban and sustainable agriculture.
Direct to consumer local food sales via community supported agriculture (CSA), farmers markets and farm stands increased from approximately $600 million to $1.2 billion from 1997 to 2007. USDA estimates that farm-level value of local food sales totaled about $4.8 billion in 2008 (1.7 percent of revenue from all farm production) and are expected to continue double-digit growth into 2015 and beyond.
The top five trends or changes for urban and sustainable agriculture in the U.S. in 2015, according to Seedstock, are:
- More government incentives, primarily through land-use policy changes, job training and economic programs. For example, a new law in California authorizes tax breaks for land-owners who lend their property to urban farmers. Cities across the U.S. are approving similar policies to stimulate more commercial-scale urban farming.
- An increase in aggregation and distribution centers catering to smaller farm operations. The U.S. Department of Agriculture set aside millions of dollars in the last farm bill to support these efforts, mostly through marketing assistance.
- Demand for locally grown food will continue to increase among consumers. Grocers, such as Whole Foods Market, have already placed heavy emphasis on marketing locally grown produce. Locally sourced meats, seafood and produce will remain the top trends in 2015 among the nation’s chefs, according to a survey by the National Restaurant Association.
- The rise of local food business incubators. Grocers and restaurants won’t be the only buyers of locally grown produce. Consumers already are looking to buy more regionally produced food products, which is prompting more business start-ups. In 2015, Los Angeles will open its first food production business incubator to provide entrepreneurs a staging area to develop, market and scale their fledgling food businesses.
- More controlled-environment farms. Hydroponic and aquaponic farming are increasing – driven by a scarcity of affordable land in urban areas, reductions in the costs of technology and local food demand. The popularity of an indoor-ag conference in Las Vegas, and government incentives to convert abandoned buildings to farms are two indicators this industry is taking off. Also, more rooftop gardens will appear in more urban areas.
“As start-up costs go down and consumer demand continues to climb, the U.S. will continue to see many more people enter the field of urban, sustainable farming,” Puro said. “You also can’t overlook the significant societal change we’re witnessing – more and more young people are abandoning the typical office job or changing their career search to do something good for the environment. They are discovering they can make a decent living by growing food in or near urban areas on smaller plots.”
Another key to continued growth in urban, sustainable farming is education. Groups like Seedstock have become necessary to new farmers who need resources and networking. As highlighted in one of Seedstock’s recent articles, a variety of factors will determine whether an individual urban agriculture operation will be profitable.
“Smaller farms can face greater financial risks because their liabilities are not spread over as large an area as an industrial-scale farm, or they don’t enjoy the same economies of scale when it comes to purchasing supplies,” Puro said. “Those obstacles are beginning to fade as technology improves, more small farms emerge and entrepreneurs figure out the right business model. As a result, financing is becoming more available and profits are being realized.”