Grow City investigates the relationships between landscape architecture, planning and agriculture. Designers are uniquely positioned to impact where we grow our food, to re-think the physical relationships between landscapes of production and those of consumption, to question the dualities of country/city, productive/ornamental, labor/leisure. Covering stories that range from large-scale food system planning to garden design, Grow City focuses on the physical strategies of transforming our food system into one that is more secure, sustainable and fair.

Grow City is founded and written by Ellen Burke, a landscape architect practicing in San Francisco. She has been researching at the intersection of agriculture and architecture since 2002, when she travelled to Yunnan Province in southern China to study how exotic ornamental landscape plants could empower small farmers to stay on their land. In 2007 she travelled across the U.S. and to Europe to visit 'hybrid agricultural landscapes' - built landscapes that integrate small farms or farm programs into diverse projects such as housing or recreation. In her professional work she seeks projects that address issues of farmland conservation and creation.
An architect by training, and a farm manager at the Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems at UC Santa Cruz, Dan Tran comes to food systems and design work from a large family of grocers. Grocery and garden work from an early age cultivated his passion for food and community as well as architecture and sustainable design. Dan has worked toward their synthesis ever since in hopes of establishing new urban and rural contexts capable of addressing the growing challenges cities and communities face. As part of his work, Dan regularly visits various farming projects which he hopes to share as a contributor to Grow City.

Pablito (Paul Underhill) is a guest columnist at Grow City. He is a partner at Terra Firma Farm in Winters, CA, and Grow City re-publishes select writings with his permission.

Have a story you'd like to contribute? A project you've worked on that you'd like to write about? Grow City happily considers all pitches. Send an email to ellen@growcitystudio.com.

Follow on Twitter @GrowCity


  1. Thrilled to discover this blog and wondering what you discovered in your travels within the state of New Jersey. Are there any 'hybrid agricultural landscapes' here? Haven't lived here that long but finding this a very complex state with regard to agriculture/cities/politics.

  2. Linda,
    Glad you found Grow_City, and thanks for the kind words! I don't have any case studies in New Jersey yet! From living back east I know that although NJ has a reputation for industry, it's actually a very productive ag state - especially tomatoes. You might google Holly Grace Nelson, a landscape architect who teaches at Rutgers - she recently wrote a letter about her work in design & agriculture in the LAM magazine. Thanks for reading, hope to hear more from you as you explore NJ.

  3. Hi Ellen,

    I just found this blog - it is fantastic and I am thrilled to have come upon it! I have a BIG question. My husband (an LA in SC) and I own and have run a landscape architecture design/build firm for 12 years and are now looking to restructure and focus on architecture and agriculture: farm development, whether it be large scale or small. This is his true passion, especially considering the environment of food and where it's going these days. My question to you is this - Where do we best market this service? He has successfully designed and installed an organic farm here to a local doctor and his family who desire to grow their own food, etc - he knows his stuff and has been recognized by Sustainable Sites and awarded all creative points for landscape to a LEED Platinum certified home. All that to say I can see him doing this successfully - but where do you see more of a demand for this type of service? Loaded question??? Thanks for any feedback!

  4. Bette,

    Sounds like an exciting time for your practice! Besides homeowners, I think schools (including universities), hotels, healthcare and business campuses can be good markets for this kind of work. There are lots of examples of these sorts of institutions developing gardens to feed their employees, or as a give-back to the community. The key is always in the management plan - who will be in charge, and where will the food go? Cities may also be a good area to focus marketing efforts on - either for development of community gardens, or for transforming vacant lots in partnership with a community group.

    What is your firm's name? Would love to follow along as your agricultural practice develops. Thanks for reading!

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  6. Dear Ellen / Dan,

    I am part of a cutting edge educational project in which we take our high school students to a different city every three months, in order to give them a global context within which to develop themselves and learn about the world. We usually remain in each location for 3 / 4 months.

    We are visiting San Francisco for 3 weeks starting mid November 2017, and during one of these three weeks we are planning several projects. Each will take between 7 and 12 students, and I am in charge of planning one of such projects, of duration 7 days.

    Our proposals have to be already detailed by the 31st of august, so I am contacting a number of interesting initiatives, to see if it would be possible to plan a set of workshops / lessons / community integrated experiences for the students to learn hands on. Ideally, they should cover the 7 days. San Francisco is well known for a number of things, and your organisation was recommended to me as doing excellent work with linking architecture to agriculture, within the context of innovative and practical design.

    I would like to know if there is someone I could have a Skype or email conversation with, to find out if we could find an interesting way to work together. We have a reasonable budget and we would love to contribute to the excellent work you are doing.

    I look forward to hearing back from you.
    Thank you very much for your time
    Guillermo Machado