2019 Conference Themes

The 2019 Rutgers University Graduate Student Conference on State and Local Economic Development (SLED) in Camden, New Jersey will focus on the critical intersection between urban agriculture and economic development, exploring the following topics:

Measuring Urban Agriculture

Unlike conventional broadacre farming, urban agriculture is not closely tracked by the USDA or any other governmental body.  Even at the municipal level, an accounting of urban farms and gardens, let alone statistics about production or distribution, is typically unavailable.  This lack of measurement contributes to the difficulties analysts face in understanding the economic impact of urban agriculture. We encourage the participation of scholars interested in efforts to measure the dynamics of urban agriculture, including the number and tenure of farms, ecosystem services,  map locations and distribution networks.

Employment and Workforce Development

Both for researchers and aspiring urban farmers, there is a surprising gap in knowledge about the quality  and stability of jobs in urban agriculture, and how individuals prepare for employment in the field. While usually depicted as a low-barrier-to-entry form of employment, successful urban farmers require a wide range of planning, communications, and management skills.  Research on the availability and types of jobs, and the training and workforce development required to expand employment opportunities in urban agriculture is much needed.

Urban Agriculture and Economic Justice, Residential Income, and Racial Segregation

Daffarty-Steel, Herrera, and Porter (2015) coined the term “the unattainable trifecta” to describe the difficulty urban agriculture operations face in meeting three ideals: 1) the provision of food to people with limited means; 2) employment and training of the “difficult-to-employ;” and 3) how to generate enough income to remain financially sustainable.  The financial viability of urban agriculture depends upon the development of business tools to enhance cross-subsidization (e.g. selling exclusively to high-end markets, establishing sliding scale payment systems, etc.). Papers exploring these techniques and the struggles of achieving economic justice through urban agriculture are also of particular interest.

Relationship to Alternative Economic and Political Paradigms

Many urban agriculture practitioners see their work as more than the simple act of growing food in more densely populated areas.  Urban agriculture has been touted as a means for promoting radical change in the broader capitalist political economy. For example, the Transition Towns, Degrowth, Sustainable Development, and Agroecology movements are just a few of the social and economic justice movements that have looked to or incorporated the promise of urban agriculture to effect change.  We encourage papers exploring the radical possibilities and limitations of urban agriculture to contribute to progressive social change.


We are looking for empirically-grounded research employing a range of methodologies—case study analysis, historical institutional approaches, statistical modeling, and others – and seek participation from students in graduate programs in urban studies, public policy, planning, political science and related fields.  

Papers accepted for presentation will be grouped into four panels, with an invited faculty discussant from Rutgers University and other prominent research universities in our region. We are planning for a dynamic keynote speaker, and encourage controversial findings and stimulating debate. Conference proceedings will be published this website at a future date.  

The deadline for abstracts of no more than 300 words is January 15, 2019. Please submit your abstract to gsconference.blogs.rutgers.edu/submissions/.

Full papers are due March 1, 2019.