Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Urban and Public Affairs

Degree Program

Urban and Public Affairs, PhD

Committee Chair

Ruther, Matthew

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Sluss, Tamara

Committee Member

Sluss, Tamara

Committee Member

Exmeyer, Patrick C.

Committee Member

Levinson, Ariana R

Author's Keywords

Barriers; collective action; food desert; funding; land access; Louisville; sustainable; urban agriculture.


As the urban populations continue to increase, food insecurity will continue to affect urban residents as well, depriving them of access to abundant and nutritious food. This has captured the attention of many policymakers, urban planners, nonprofits, grassroots movements, and other stakeholders. As a result, there is growing interest in developing new sustainable strategies and policy measures that improve food security through the promotion of sustainable urban agriculture. More than 100,000 Louisville residents, of which 20% are from West Louisville, do not have access to adequate and nutritious foods, and are at a higher risk of developing health issues. West Louisville, with the highest population of the city’s most marginalized residents, is the home to almost 10,000 households receiving federal food assistance (SNAP benefits), and about one-third of these households lack mobility to have access to fresh, healthy, local food. Relatively, little research has documented the barriers to sustainable urban agriculture in Louisville, Kentucky. Specifically, the aim of this study is, “to examine the barriers (social, economic, cultural, and political or policy barriers) to sustainable agriculture in Louisville, and how these barriers can be addressed in a more holistic approach with the full and active participation of all stakeholders.” This study identified gaps in achieving a more sustainable form of agriculture in Louisville and proposed potential policy recommendations. With a mixed-methods approach, inclusive of a survey of forty-two urban farmers (growers) and twenty-six Louisville consumers, semi-structured interviews were conducted with twelve key stakeholders (policymakers, planners, and representatives of non-profits) with knowledge and experience about urban agriculture in Louisville, KY. Background information and data about the activities and potentials of urban agriculture in Louisville were also collected and analyzed. This study identified that the two most frequently mentioned barriers were limited access to land (76%) and lack of financial resources or funding (76%). Other barriers were restricted market access (45%), insufficient government or community support (43%), zoning policies (38%), water access and affordability (36%), lack of farming skills/knowledge (30%), and pests and diseases (27%). Addressing these barriers requires significant policy and program initiatives, including, but not limited to: increased access to land and tenure through favorable urban policies (e.g., zoning); increased funding, or provision of more resources; better access to markets by connecting producers to consumers, and the presence of more markets with extended hours and days of operation (especially in West Louisville); more support for urban agriculture from the Louisville community and Louisville Metro government; more education, training, and extension outreach; innovative ideas and solutions; and lastly, creating new models for collaboration among stakeholders to collectively identify and find common solutions (co-production).