There is a movement of support for urban agriculture as one response to current deficiencies in the global food system; however, there is little empirical research about the actual potential of urban agriculture to meaningfully contribute to urban food supplies. While some geographic research has demonstrated the potential of food growing in urban areas using GIS and similar technologies, physically available space is only part of the equation. Being open and/or unoccupied does not necessarily make land available for food production; usability of land in urban areas is defined through zoning, which may or may not permit food production. Thus, any exploration of urban agricultural potential must attend to land use policy.
To address this gap, we investigated land availability within the city of Denver. We asked three questions:
- How much land could “theoretically” be farmed?
- How much land can “practically” be farmed, considering zoning/ policy constraints on agriculture within the city?
- How much could urban agriculture potentially contribute to the vegetable needs of Denver residents?
Land that is “theoretically” available is any open space that could potentially be farmed including vacant land, parks, yards, and other open space. Land that is “practically” available is a subset of this, but limited to land that could be gardened and farmed without major changes in zoning, policy, or infrastructure.