Urban Agriculture - Wortman Research

Food production in and around urban areas, often defined as “urban agriculture”, is a growing trend in metropolitan regions throughout the U.S., especially those dealing with significant population loss. The quantity of vacant real estate in many cities is increasing and food production has been proposed as a potential reuse option. Urban agriculture is an attractive option because it can provide social, cultural, health, and environmental benefits, in addition to the potential economic benefits of food production. Unfortunately, the basic food production dimension of urban agriculture is often challenging due to the unique suite of urban environmental factors influencing plant growth. Soil contamination, elevated ozone concentrations and urban heat island effects, and limited water availability are among the most pressing challenges facing urban farmers. To address these critical challenges, we are interested in: 1) developing low-cost soil remediation options that provide agronomic and environmental benefits; 2) identifying crops and cultivars best-suited to the elevated temperatures and atmospheric pollutant loads in cities; and 3) exploring opportunities for water reuse and conservation on urban farms.


  • University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign.

Related Publications

  • Miernicki, E. A., S. T. Lovell, and S. E. Wortman. 2018. Raised beds for urban agriculture: Soil properties, weeds, and vegetable yield. Urban Agriculture and Regional Food Systems 3:180002. doi: https://acsess.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.2134/urbanag2018.06.0002
  • Westerhold, C. M., S. E. Wortman, K. Todd, and D. Golick. 2018. Knowledge of pollinator conservation and associated plant recommendations in the horticultural retail industry. HortTechnology 28:529-535.
  • Taylor, J.R., S. T. Lovell, S. E. Wortman, and Michelle Chan. 2016. Ecosystem services and tradeoffs in the home food gardens of African American, Chinese-origin, and Mexican-origin households in Chicago, IL. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems. In press.
  • Wortman, S. E., M. S. Douglass, and J. Kindhart. 2016. Cultivar, growing media, and fertilizer source influence strawberry yield in a vertical, hydroponic, high tunnel system. HortTechnology. In press.
  • Wortman, S. E. 2015. Crop physiological response to nutrient solution electrical conductivity and pH in an ebb-and-flow hydroponic system. Scientia Horticulturae 194:34-42.
  • Wagstaff, R., and S. E. Wortman. 2015. Crop physiological response across the Chicago metropolitan region: Developing recommendations for urban and peri-urban farmers in the North Central US. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems 30:8-14. (Special Issue on Innovations and Trends in Sustainable Urban Agriculture)
  • Wortman, S. E. and S. T. Lovell. 2013. Environmental challenges threatening the growth of urban agriculture in the United States. Journal of Environmental Quality 42:1283-1294.
Urban Agriculture
Soil management options for urban agriculture
Urban Agriculture - Chicago
Compost-based beds in Chicago