How do urban growers distribute their products?

Just like any industry, urban agriculture requires a distribution system. Technological advances in food transportation and processing have enabled distributors to move food faster and over longer distances than ever before. However, outside of the large-scale industrial food system and the transportation network of freeways and eighteen-wheeler trucks, small growers – including urban growers – are finding other means to transport and sell their product.


Prior to this project, no comprehensive research or data existed regarding solely the distribution methods of small, for-profit urban farmers. The research team set out to answer the following questions:

  • How do urban growers distribute their product?

  • What are the biggest challenges for urban growers regarding the distribution of their product?

  • Is there potential for a coordinated distribution system for urban growers?

Aside from gleaning information from a variety of literature sources on food distribution models and food hubs, the research team conducted interviews with local urban growers, CSAs, distributors, local food markets, and restaurants. Over forty entities were contacted, 20 of which agreed to take part in our study.


  • There are startling discrepancies between various definitions of the term “local.”

  • Urban farmers travel an average distance of 13.9 miles to sell their product whereas all vendors at farmers markets – urban ones included – travel more than three times that distance: 46.8 miles.

  • Each restaurant and food market interviewed had a different definition for the word “local.” None of those definitions limited the geographic scope of “local” to only food grown in LA County.

  • Urban farmers self-distribute their products using personal vehicles, such as trucks, sedans, and minivans.

  • The greatest challenges for urban farmers to distribute and sell their products are time, money and lack of labor.

  • Almost all urban farmers interviewed said they would be very interested in a coordinated distribution system.


  • Create an Urban Agriculture food hub.

  • Implement a coordinated marketing scheme, either with a product identity label or a growers’ association for urban farmers.

  • Establish a consumer awareness program to help educate shoppers about urban agriculture in Los Angeles.

  • Revise city laws and/or zoning codes to allow urban farmers to sell their products on site.

  • Circulate a comprehensive survey to conduct further research on distribution.

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