Almost there: On the importance of a comprehensive entrepreneurial ecosystem for developing sustainable urban food forest enterprises

Arnim Wiek, Stefanie Albrecht

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sustainable food forests offer multiple benefits to urban sustainability challenges. Research to date mostly describes structure and services of individual food forests but provides little evidence and guidance for implementation. This study analyzes and evaluates an ongoing, multiyear, transdisciplinary project developing a sustainable urban food forest enterprise in Phoenix, AZ, through a collaboration between researchers and a coalition of nonprofit organizations. Unlike other food forest projects run by nonprofit organizations, this food forest originated as a sustainable enterprise that would provide jobs and livelihood opportunities in an economically marginalized urban area while pursuing social and environmental goals such as providing healthy food and a cooler microclimate. Efforts to date have built a coalition of supporters, secured a suitable site, codeveloped a vision and an action plan, and fundraised a major start-up donation. We evaluate these outcomes against a suite of success factors derived from implementation of other food forests and explain challenges in realizing these factors through the lens of a comprehensive sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystem. Data for the accompanying research was collected through direct and participant observations, review of project documents, informal conversations, a stakeholder survey, and research diary reflections. Research findings indicate that despite achieving all the success factors, at least to some extent, the underdeveloped sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystem jeopardizes long-term success and multiplication efforts. These findings confirm the importance of a sufficiently developed entrepreneurial ecosystem for successful development of sustainable food enterprises. They offer guidance to food entrepreneurs, urban developers, and city officials on how to develop and support sustainable food forest enterprises.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere20025
JournalUrban Agriculture and Regional Food Systems
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Plant Science
  • Horticulture


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