Urban agriculture has become increasingly popular, as the population of urban areas continues to rise (Mougeout, 2006). Urban agriculture is a sustainable and economic industry located within a township or city which grows, processes and distributes a diversity of food products (Mendes et al., 2008). It leads to mitigating social, environmental and economic problems by constructing green spaces in urbanized areas (Mougeout, 2006). Overall, the implementation of urban agriculture sites are beneficial to a local community and the environment. The developments of urban agriculture around the world have resulted in opportunities for low-income, urban communities to uphold a standard of food quality and productivity (Smit et al., 1996). Prioritizing the location of an urban farm within low income community areas must be done as these local residents are susceptible to economic instability and thus unable to purchase food products (Mendes et al., 2008). Analysis of the social, environmental and economic factors are therefore necessary when determining appropriate vacant lands for urban agriculture. Furthermore, urban agriculture can also be a profitable business that creates community empowerment and involvement (Golden, 2013).
The relationship between socio-economic and environmental implications on urban agriculture is an identifiable gap which needs to be addressed (Kirkpatrick & Tarasuk, 2003). Urban agriculture provides employment opportunities for the community as well, generating on average one job for every 100 square metres in farming production (Golden, 2013). The implementation of urban agriculture provides an opportunity to provide job opportunities to immigrants and low income community members (Golden, 2013). The McVean Start-Up Farm in Brampton has provided empowerment to specific ethnic groups within low income communities through urban farming (Farmstart, 2013). As well, Montreal and Vancouver are working to meet their urban farming objectives and recognizing urban farming as a significant permanent urban land use. Vancouver is currently working with urban farmers to meet their policy goals of enlarging their community food assets by an increase of 50 percent (Shuztbank, 2010). Currently, the City of Vancouver has numerous commercially viable urban farms, but no lands set aside for agriculture or licenses for urban farms to sell their produce (Shuztbank, 2010). On the other hand, Montreal has added four percent of the city’s lands to Quebec’s Permanent Agricultural Zones to be assigned for urban agriculture and related projects (Oswald, 2009). Therefore, both of these case studies demonstrate the growing appreciation for the importance of urban farming and the need for understanding how to appropriately site an urban farm.
The benefit of using GIS to address this environmental problem is that the suitability of any location depends on the specific type of land use (Joerin et al., 2001). The suitability of urban farming areas depend directly on the results of the environmental, social and economic land evaluation criteria (Carsjen & Knaap, 2002). The characteristics of a location must meet these demands, or criteria, to finally be suitable for the particular type of urban farm (Carsjen & Knaap, 2002). In this way, it can provide optimal site locations based on these analyzed factors to ensure the most benefit from urban agriculture (Yeh, 1999). GIS software can be used to manage spatial data to analyze a variety of spatial problems and can mitigate these research gaps (Store & Kangas, 2001). A multi-criteria evaluation (MCE) provides a good analysis when determining the most suitable sites when multiple factors must be taken into consideration (Carsjen & Knaap, 2002). An MCE model will produce a number of potential urban farm sites each with an assigned suitability value based on the relative importance of each factor and therefore, would be an effective option in locating land areas where urban agriculture could be implemented (Chen et al., 2001). GIS offers a wide variety of tools that enable the manipulation and analysis of any data that have spatial components (Carver, 2007). The model can also be modified and applied to diverse situations, making it useful for siting urban farms as it can then be applied to communities globally.
This research study aims to determine the optimal location for a large scale urban farm in Guelph using a multi-criteria evaluation model.
1. Identify factors important in determining an urban farming site.