Think Outside The Farm: Careers In Urban Agriculture


When you hear “agriculture,” you probably picture a sturdy barn surrounded by fields of green with a horse grazing nearby, its mane caressed by a warm breeze that assaults your nose with the pungent aroma of…well, farm.

But the truth is, more Canadians are moving to and living in large urban centres than ever before.

So if you love nature, being outdoors, and learning about plants and agriculture, then working in an office 9-to-5 may not work for you. But what’s an agriculture lover to do, besides farm?

Urban agriculture in education

Since January 2008, Ryerson University‘s G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education and Centre for Studies in Food Security has offered courses in urban agriculture as electives for food security students.

Recently, three more courses were added to the urban agriculture series  in partnership with the Resource Centres on Urban Agriculture and Food Security and ETC-Urban Agriculture.

Students can study policy-making and dimensions of urban agriculture from the comfort of their homes through these distance education courses. In this program, students take their interest in urban agriculture to the next level by addressing global issues such as climate change and the global food crisis. How does that sound for developing a career in urban agriculture?

Unusual jobs in the urban agriculture industry

Grads can branch out into building sustainable communities, maintaining community health through sustainable food and, of course, education.

Those who enjoy the building and structure component of urban agriculture may enjoy a career in community development, town planning and architecture.

Referring to town planning and architecture, Reg Noble, academic co-ordinator of The Chang School’s certificate in food security, says, “These two professions really need people who are knowledgeable about the value of urban agriculture in cities and how to create living space that can incorporate such development.”

After all, the way we live in the city affects the natural beauty of the countryside as well, not to mention our health and the quality of the food we eat. “Policy makers at municipal and provincial levels would gain value from this knowledge to better address issues of community development and alleviation of food insecurity,” Noble says.

This underlines the importance of food quality and its sustainability. Students of urban agriculture may seek a job in artisan food production, community health or developing policies to create sustainable cities. An urban farmer, for instance, gets the best of both worlds while maintaining and caring for a community garden within the city. And what better time than now, when eating local is becoming a global trend?

Education is always a viable option. By raising children and young adults to care about urban agriculture, it follows that we could develop a stronger understanding of what goes into our food, how our crops are handled and how best to maintain a sustainable city.

Future job prospects

Cecilia Rocha, research associate at the Centre for Studies in Food Security, remarks on the many job opportunities available to those in the urban agriculture industry. “As the interest in urban agriculture increases worldwide, our graduates can find work not only with community agencies and non-governmental organizations developing initiatives in this area, but also with municipal government departments interested in exploring the potential of UA not only for food security, but also as part of measures to reduce the impact of climate change.”

As more and more environmental issues rise to the surface and permeate cities and the countryside, those working in urban agriculture will become even more important to a worldwide commitment to sustainable, safe food and communities for all.
focus on agriculture incubator banner1 Think Outside The Farm: Careers In Urban Agriculture

Photo credit: Greensgrow Farm IV by David Barrie on Flickr