Rooting Resilience

Planning for the future of urban agriculture in Buffalo, New York

Lanika Sanders.

Lanika Sanders
MUP Best Professional Project for her project “Rooting Resilience: Planning for the future of urban agriculture in Buffalo, New York”.

Lanika Sanders, a 2021 graduate of the Master of Urban Planning program, was recognized with the MUP Best Professional Project for her research on Buffalo’s urban agriculture landscape, synthesizing existing plans and policies to highlight opportunities for enhancement of Buffalo's agricultural capacity. While recognizing the City of Buffalo’s foundation of community-driven efforts and local policy innovation in urban agriculture, the plan recommends several actions the City should take to build food equity.


In recent years, planning for healthy food systems has gained momentum as a means of crafting more equitable communities. Enhancing local government and organizational capacity to support urban food production, which can help cultivate social, environmental, and economic neighborhood resilience, is an important piece of this work. Planning for urban agriculture is particularly salient in Buffalo, New York, where a long history of discriminatory policy has contributed to stark disparities in health and wellbeing, while simultaneously cultivating community-driven efforts to foster neighborhood resilience through food.

Sanders found that despite Buffalo's policy innovations, urban agriculture remains largely unprotected and underfunded by the City. For example, the Buffalo Green Code (Chapter 496 of the City Charter) allows specific gardening activities in certain zones, but the municipal government does not set aside any land for gardening, nor does it provide any sustainable funding to community organizations for them to purchase land for gardening.

In her analysis, Sanders also discusses how to further integrate urban agriculture into municipal governance structures while aligning long-term planning objectives with urban agriculture considerations. 

Sanders took inspiration for the plan from the innovative and essential community-based efforts transforming Buffalo’s food system, as well as from the work of her colleagues and mentors in the School of Architecture and Planning’s Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities Lab (Food Lab) and the Community Resilience Lab. Post-graduation, Sanders will continue focusing her work and research on the role that food systems play in crafting healthier, more equitable cities.

Her research was prepared under the guidance of Samina Raja, UB professor of urban planning and director of the Food Lab, and Jeffrey Rehler, UB adjunct professor of urban planning. 

“Post-graduation I plan to continue to focus my work and research on the role that food systems play in crafting healthier and more equitable cities.”

- Lanika Sanders (MUP '21), winner of the 2021 MUP Best Professional Project Award