Urban Farming Vs. Traditional Farming Explained

If you want to learn how urban farming vs. traditional farming works, you’re in the right place.

When it comes to distinguishing between urban and traditional farming, there are a few things to consider. These factors help in separating these two agricultural types. For those readers that may have questions on what truly differentiates urban versus traditional farming, this article will help answer those questions. 

Urban farming, also known as urban agriculture, is defined as producing produce such as crops, fruits or vegetables, in urban or peri-urban areas. In contrast, traditional farming involves small-scale production of produce in rural areas.

We can further factor out the differences between these two agricultural practices through these definitions of urban and traditional farming. Currently, urban farming is the most competitive farming method and the most yielding. For more information on the differences between urban and traditional farming, keep reading. 

How does Farming tie into Agricultural Science?

Both urban farming and traditional farming fall in their category as the art of agriculture. Agriculture is a science that is sub-categorized into other factions, such as horticulture. The two types of farming then fall into their designated faction. 

It is essential to note so that you won’t confuse farming and horticulture. Horticulture mainly involves fruits and flowers. It is something that has to look not only pleasing but also taste good. 

Furthermore, horticulture also goes into landscape architecture. It is best explained in the book: Horticulture Principles and Practices by George Acquaah. 

Farming mainly looks at the crop aspect of things. It also focuses on animals and their produce. George Acquaah introduces horticulture as a science and art of cultivating fruits, vegetables, and ornamental plants. 

Factors that make an Efficient Farming Method 

These are factors used to compare the two farming methods. These factors are what make farming, in general, efficient and consistent.

  1. Productivity 

It is one of the most critical factors that most countries all over the world strive to maintain. Productivity is part of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals [1]. Recognized as one of the driving forces that will aid in fighting world hunger, increasing employment, and eventually boosting economic growth, productivity is essential to our current culture.

A productivity study by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations shared that an enhancement in productivity led to a reduction in poverty. It is because food security is present, and farms have high incomes [2].

A study on Urban Agriculture in the developing world [3] shows that there is not only an increase in farming produce through urban agriculture but horticultural produce increases. It is a result of the new and improved farming strategies introduced through urban farming. 

For example, hydroponics is an example of an urban farming strategy. Hydroponics is a soilless farming strategy. It uses water to provide crops with all the necessary nutrients they require to have customarily grown. 

Currently, astronauts utilize hydroponics to grow crops outside of the earth’s natural environment. 

Traditional farming has stuck to its traditional cultivation systems. The study shows that the cultivation systems have four different methodologies: 

  • Mixed farming 
  • Monocropping 
  • Shift cultivation
  • Horticultural cropping 

These are the four ways through which we can measure productivity in traditional farming. Because the product from traditional farms grows on small beds or gardens, the productivity is usually low. 

Furthermore, since traditional farming occurs on small beds with diverse crops that require different needs, the farmer will manually cater to their needs. Making this an inefficient farming method. It has low productivity, and it requires numerous human resources to keep it up and running. 

One advantage of traditional farming is that it does not require a lot of starting capital to get the ball rolling. Most of the tools are easily accessible, and the resources are hand-workable. It is its way of substituting its shortcomings. 

  1. Sustainability 

Agricultural management is considered successful should the project be sustainable. Sustainability is the key performance indicator of a prosperous farming method. The Agriculture Sustainability Institute shared a report on sustainable agriculture research. [4]

The study showed that urban agriculture includes the production of food and the distribution of the produce. The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program highlights the goal of sustainable agriculture. 

The main goal of sustainable agriculture is to meet society’s needs in terms of food without resulting in a negative trade-off that will affect the needs of future generations. Thus, a farming method that produces food distributes it and meets the needs of the current and future generations. 

Urban farming meets these goals because not only are the crops grown in or close to an urban environment but because of their convenience and infrastructure, easily accessed by members of society. 

Urban farming is commercialized, and due to its sustainable nature, it is one of the most leading farming methods in the world. Urban farming is also sustainable in terms of environmental impact. The role of urban farming is to reduce the pollution present in the city with plants, vegetables, and other vegetation. 

In terms of traditional farming, the location of most farms is in rural areas. The distance between the farms and cities where the majority of the population is present is quite far. Produce is part of perishable goods, and quite frankly, they would incur more costs to cover the costs of transportation and efficient storage. Making this an inefficient solution. 

The four different traditional cultivating systems have their shortcomings when it comes to sustainability. For example, monocropping is expensive, shift cultivation involves pollution, and mixed farming requires a lot of staffing. 

These shortcomings make traditional farming unsustainable. The traditional farming systems carry more liability in the long run and will affect their needs of future generations. It is essential to note the goals of sustainable agriculture and apply them to whether or not they match with the farming methods mentioned above.

  1. Consistency 

Should SDGs or Sustainable Development Goals (created by the United Nations) geared towards food security and food production meet their goals, there must be consistent producers. When produce harvesting is consistent, the negative impacts are less likely to be felt by society. 

For example, urban farming incorporates hydroponics as an alternative farming system. Hydroponics allows the harvesting of crops throughout the year. Not only that, but they are not affected by seasons. They are grown indoors. 

The crops tend to be organic and consistent. Not only are they grown consistently, but harvested consistently. The season is irrelevant in this equation. 

Traditional farming lacks the consistency present in urban farming. It uses the traditional tools and methods that were relied upon in previous years. These methods are consistent to an extent. 

  1. Simplicity 

Finally, the last factor in this list is simplicity. Urban farming is considered the simplest farming method on which to rely. Not only that but thanks to improvements in technology, they do not require years of expertise to yield results. 

The simplicity of urban farming is what makes it inviting to potential farmers worldwide. Not only that, but information regarding urban farming is easily accessible thanks to the internet. Podcasts, eBooks, and YouTube videos are all great sources for farmers to turn towards for information. 

It makes it even more accessible because of the ease of access to information and accessibility to tools and technology. Everything is at the touch of a button. 


  1. What is vertical farming? 

Vertical farming is an alternative farming method that involves growing produce or crops indoors. It is apparent primarily in hydroponic farms. Vertical farming became the name because of the vertical nature through which plants are grown in a controlled environment. 

  1. What is the difference between vertical farming and traditional farming? 

Vertical farming is a form of urban farming where plants, crops, or fruits are grown in an urban area in a vertical indoor controlled environment. At the same time, traditional farming involves growing produce in a rural area using traditional cultivation systems such as monocropping, mixed farming, etc. 

  1. Is traditional farming better? 

The debate between traditional and urban farming will continue. However, it is a matter of preference and perspective. Traditional farming is better for those who want small gardens to practice and learn how to grow different crops. 

Urban farming and its alternative farming systems are the future of the agriculture industry. It is highly competitive and highly lucrative. Because of this, it has commercialized, and it plays a significant role in the planet today. 

A Parting Shot 

When it comes to the debacle of urban versus traditional, the odds are not in either one’s favor. The factors mentioned above are what goes into an efficient farming method to impact the food situation in society positively. If you liked this article, we would love to hear from you. Be sure to leave a comment and share which farming method you enjoy. 


  1. Internal Labour Organization, Productivity, Internal Labour Organization, https://www.ilo.org/global/topics/dw4sd/themes/productivity/lang–en/index.htm#:~:text=The%20term%20%E2%80%9Cproductivity%E2%80%9D%20appears%20in,work%20and%20boost%20economic%20growth. Accessed May 03, 2021. 
  2. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Productivity and Efficiency Measurement in Agriculture, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, http://www.fao.org/3/ca6428en/ca6428en.pdf  Accessed May 03, 2021
  3. Francesco Orisini, Remi Kahane, Remi Nono-Womdim, Giorgio Gianquinto, Urban Agriculture in the developing world: a review, Agronomy for Sustainable Development https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-01201393/document  Accessed May 03, 2021. 
  4. Sheila Golden, Urban Agriculture Impacts: Social, Health, and Economic: A Literature Review (California: University of California, 2013) 22. 
  5. George Acquaah, Horticulture: Principles and Practices (New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2009) 817. 

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