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What Is It?

Urban agriculture/urban farms refer to many types of small and mid-sized agricultural operations designed to serve urban communities. This includes community gardens and farms located in urban areas, as well as those outside of urban areas that serve urban populations. This tool addresses urban agriculture efforts focused on serving low-income communities and communities of color. These urban agriculture projects can improve access to healthy, affordable food for low-income communities and improve residents’ health. They can also provide supplemental incomes and in some cases local jobs, build job skills and confidence for youth and people transitioning from homelessness or incarceration, revitalize neighborhoods, increase community economic development, reconnect communities with their cultural traditions and skills, and make productive use of vacant land.

The concept of urban agriculture in the United States is not new. In the 1940s nearly 20 million people planted “victory gardens” to lessen the strain placed on the U.S. food system during World War II. During this time, the government rationed food such as dairy, sugar, meat, coffee, and canned goods, but labor and transportation shortages made it difficult to harvest fruits and vegetables. Victory gardens were encouraged as a way for communities to provide for themselves and do their part on the home front. These victory gardens accounted for 44 percent of the fresh vegetables produced in the United States. Citizens planted these victory gardens in their backyards, empty lots, and even on city rooftops. Neighbors joined together to pool their resources, plant different types of crops, and exchange their food with one another. The victory garden program was a federal program that utilized state extension agencies to provide seed, fertilizer, and simple gardening tools for victory gardeners. When the war ended, government promotion of victory gardens did also. However, over the past several years an enthusiasm for urban gardening has been revived. In 2009, First Lady Michelle Obama planted a White House garden as part of her Let’s Move Initiative. See here for a video describing the White House garden.

Urban farms can be planted on private or public property including vacant lots, city parks, churchyards, schoolyards, and rooftops and on land owned individually, by a community group, institution, municipality, land trust, or other entity. This tool will help you understand the opportunities urban agriculture brings, the main challenges to starting an urban farm or garden, and how challenges can be overcome.

Why Use It?

Urban agriculture can bring multiple benefits to communities.

  • Improve health. Rates of obesity and associated health problems are highest and have risen the most rapidly among low-income communities and people of color. A healthy diet that includes fruits and vegetables has been shown to reduce incidence of obesity and other chronic illnesses in children, adults, and seniors.

Individuals make choices about their diet, but their decisions are influenced by the food that is locally available. Unfortunately, too many Americans live in unhealthy food environments. There is increasing evidence that our eating habits, obesity patterns, and related health conditions are influenced by the foods available in the neighborhoods in which we live.

  • Improve access to fresh, healthy, affordable, locally produced food. Urban farming operations are being established in underserved neighborhoods in cities across the country to allow greater access to healthy, affordable produce for local residents. Local food from urban farms/community gardens is very fresh since the food does not need to travel long distances before being purchased and eaten.
  • Urban farms can sell their produce through farm stands, farmers’ markets, and community supported agriculture (CSA). For example:
    • The Food Project in Boston, Massachusetts sells its produce at four farmers’ markets (all accepting EBT) in low-income neighborhoods in eastern Massachusetts.
    • City Slicker Farms in West Oakland, California operates a farm stand on a sliding scale, allowing very low-income West Oakland residents to pick up produce for free, those with limited means to purchase produce at below market rate prices, and higher-income customers to purchase at a standard rate.
    • Added Value Farm in Brooklyn, New York helped establish a new farmers’ market in the underserved neighborhood of Redhook in Brooklyn, New York and also runs a CSA for the surrounding Red Hook community that offers a sliding scale and work shares. In 2009, the P Patch community gardening program in Seattle, Washington donated 25,000 pounds of food to local food banks and The Food Project in Boston, Massachusetts contributed 48,668 pounds to anti-hunger organizations in eastern Massachusetts.
  • Community gardens increase healthy food access for the farmers themselves, along with their families, friends, and neighbors.
    • In Seattle, the Department of Neighborhoods found that some families were able to cover up to 60 percent of their family’s produce needs through the city’s gardening programs.
    • City Slicker Farms in Oakland surveyed their backyard gardeners and found that 61 percent of garden participants reported improving their diets by eating produce from their garden.
    • Many community gardeners and urban farms, such as The Food Project, Clean Greens, and many others, donate a portion of the food they grow to local food banks.
In Seattle, the Department of Neighborhoods found that families were able to cover 30 to 60 percent of their families’ produce needs through the city’s gardening programs. 
  • Increase access to culturally appropriate food, and help residents rediscover their community’s food culture. Community gardening and urban farming can help residents eat an often healthier traditional diet. When communities have closer connections to the farmers or are the farmers themselves, they can choose to grow foods that may not be readily available locally.
  • Many urban agriculture projects, such as The Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture (KCCUA), The Seattle Market Gardens Program, and Viet Village provide recent immigrants with the opportunity to grow culturally appropriate foods for their families and communities.
  • Urban agriculture projects such as The Detroit Black Food Security Network and Nuestras Raíces, in Holyoke, Massachusetts, provide opportunities for urban residents to rediscover their food culture, by connecting younger residents with elders in the community who can share their skills and perspectives on food.
  • In Brooklyn, New York, East New York Farms! runs 12 community gardens that connect youth gardeners with older gardeners who need help tending their plots. Many of the seniors receive food stamps and their garden plots help supplement their diet with healthy and culturally appropriate food for this predominantly African American, Caribbean, Puerto Rican, Bengali, and West African community.
  • Improves the economic health of a community. There are several ways that urban agriculture can improve job and economic opportunities for local residents.
  • Create new jobs. Researchers estimate that urban farmers could make reasonable incomes if they select the right crops and use the most appropriate growing techniques.
    • A for-profit cooperative urban agriculture business called Green City Growers Cooperative is being started in Cleveland, Ohio. The cooperative will include a five-acre hydroponic greenhouse growing leafy greens and herbs to then sell to grocery stores and wholesale produce businesses. Green City Growers expects to provide 35 to 40 long-term, living-wage jobs for low-income residents living in the surrounding area and worker-owners will build about $65,000 in savings in eight years.
    • SHAR has created a collaborative effort involving over 50 organizations and seven universities to help launch one of Detroit’s largest urban farms. The SHAR program will encompass approximately 30 acres of vacant land and will use an efficient, three-tier system and have three growing seasons. The farms will also have a packaging company on site. SHAR estimates that the project will create 150 jobs in around six months and 2,500 to 3,500 permanent jobs for local low-income residents over the next ten years. These jobs are expected to pay around $10 to $12 per hour plus benefits.
    • Viet Village Farm in New Orleans plans to cultivate a community farm on 28 acres of land in a predominantly Vietnamese American residential area, next to a Catholic church that serves this community. Project leaders estimate that the farm will create 26 new short- and long-term jobs for local residents, mostly full-time.
Green City Growers, a new for-profit cooperative based in Cleveland, expects to provide 35 to 40 long-term, living-wage jobs for low-income residents living in the surrounding area and worker-owners will build about $65,000 in savings in eight years. 
  • Provide job training and skill development for youth, homeless, and formerly incarcerated individuals. The majority of urban farms are small operations with small staffs and so are limited in the number of new jobs they can create. However, many urban agriculture projects across the country are specifically dedicated to helping individuals find other jobs and/or providing basic job skills that will allow individuals to enter other job markets, all while using urban agriculture to provide productive and empowering transitional employment.
  • The Food Project employs approximately 150 youth per year from diverse backgrounds in urban and suburban eastern Massachusetts. They build leadership by providing teens with deeply meaningful work—growing food—and placing then in highly responsible roles. Through distributing the food they grow, teens also gain job experience and greater awareness of food justice issues.
  • Added Value farm, in a low-income neighborhood in Brooklyn, has provided year-long training to more than 175 neighborhood teens since it began its program in 2001. Youth develop new skills, build their leadership capacity, and engage with their community, as they help operate the Red Hook Farmers’ Market and explore issues of food justice. They also engage in educational and advocacy activities through media projects and other events.
  • Growing Home in Chicago has trained approximately 150 formerly incarcerated individuals on its farms in and around the city since the program began in 2002. As of 2008, 59% of participants had been homeless and 76 percent had been previously incarcerated. Of those who had been previously incarcerated, 95 percent did not return to jail, compared to the average recidivism rate in the state of Illinois of 50 percent. Ninety percent of Growing Home’s formerly incarcerated and/or homeless participants end up renting their own apartments or finding stable housing, and over two-thirds get either full-time jobs or further job training after graduating.
  • The City Harvest project of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS)works with inmates in the Philadelphia Prison System and teaches them to grow vegetable seedlings, which are then grown to maturity at 30 participating community gardens. In 2010, PHS established an additional program for recently incarcerated people, including a work release landscape job training program and job placement program for inmates. The program focuses on re-entry and connecting greenhouse work at the prison to workforce opportunities. The participants receive landscape skill training as well as training for resume writing, presentation skills, and are helped with housing issues, restoring licenses, etc. In the first year, 12 of the program’s 18 participants now have jobs and nine of those jobs are full-time.
  • Incubate businesses. Urban agriculture operations can provide land, supplies, training, and technical assistance for community members to develop their own urban farming and food- related enterprises.
    • Nuestras Raíces in Holyoke, Massachusetts assisted the primarily Puerto Rican immigrant community of Holyoke with the creation of some two dozen food and agriculture businesses estimated to have added $2 million dollars of economic activity to southern Holyoke per year.
    • Clean Greens in Seattle establishes farm stands within parking lots and provides spaces where local entrepreneurs can also set up stands and sell local products.
  • Save families money and generate supplemental income. Studies have estimated that a community garden can yield around $500 to $2,000 worth of produce per family a year, and that every $1 invested in a community garden plot yields around $6 worth of produce. Community gardeners can supply all or some of their family’s produce needs, saving money. Community gardeners sometimes sell their surplus produce as well, generating a small income.
    • City Slicker Farms in Oakland surveyed its backyard garden participants and found that 92 percent of the participants saved money because of their garden, and 62 percent grew half or more of their families’ produce in their gardens.
    • The Seattle Market Gardens Program, run through the city’s P Patch Program, focuses on the large immigrant and refugee community in Seattle and helps these residents earn supplemental income while acclimating to their new home. The training honors the agrarian skills that many immigrants and refugees bring with them, while teaching necessary business skills for doing business in this country, such as how and where to market their produce.
    • The Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture (KCCUA) trains local community members interested in urban agriculture to become farmers in either full-time or supplemental businesses. KCCUA runs a New Roots to Refugees program that currently works with 17 refugee farmers, each with one-fourth an acre for a garden. Each refugee farmer sells their produce to area markets and participates in a CSA with one to six members, and is able to provide traditional foods to their community.
    • East Bay Asian Youth Center operates a four-acre organic strawberry farm in Sunol, California, for Oakland-based Mien families from Laos to grow strawberries commercially, as well as other products for their own consumption.
City Slicker Farms in Oakland surveyed its backyard garden participants and found that 92 percent of the participants saved money because of their garden, and 62 percent grew half or more of their families’ produce in their gardens. 
  • Transform vacant urban property into safe, appealing spaces and foster a sense of community. Many urban farming operations make use of previously vacant or underused urban spaces, beautifying the area and cultivating a greater sense of community.
    • Provide an attractive and welcoming space for neighbors to gather, volunteer, or just enjoy the scenery. Many urban farms and community gardens incorporate gathering spaces within their overall site plan, and they often run educational workshops, gardening training, and food preparation classes for the surrounding community. In neighborhoods where access to parks and open space is limited, these urban farms can be a valuable asset for outdoor recreation and physical activity.
    • Foster a sense of community. Community gardens link different sectors of the city— including youth and elders, and diverse race, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups— in pursuit of a common goal. Research indicates that communities with high-participation gardens and farms have reduced rates of crime, trash dumping, fires, violent deaths, and mental illness, and even increased voter registrations and civic responsibility.
    • Increase home values. A New York University study examined over 636 New York City community gardens and found a statistically significant, positive effect on sales prices of residential properties within a 1,000 foot radius of a community garden when compared to properties outside the 1,000 foot ring, but still within the same neighborhood. This is beneficial for current home owners, but care should be taken to ensure that current renters are not forced to leave the neighborhood. Other tools in this toolkit provide strategies to address gentrification.
  • Divert organic waste from city landfills into compost. Some urban farmers make productive use of food wastes from local food retail outlets, restaurants, and residences. They use these wastes to generate compost for their farms.
    • Growing Power in Milwaukee, obtains massive amounts of organic waste from Milwaukee businesses, such as the byproducts from the various breweries located in the city, to use in its composting operation. Last year they produced over 11 million pounds of compost.
    • City Slicker Farms in West Oakland has a bicycle compost pick-up program, where it removes compost from local restaurants by bicycle and brings the waste back to their farms to compost.

Data and Maps

See the Access to Healthy Food tool for information and examples.

How To Use It?

For great tips on how to start urban agriculture projects, visit the American Community Gardening Association’s website. For additional tips, see this tool’s Success Factors and Policy sections.


People/organizations wishing to develop an urban farm typically face several challenges in getting it established and maintaining a successful farm/garden.

  • Urban farms are often built on vacant land which offers little security in terms of long-term land access. Community gardens are typically established on vacant or abandoned land, and the farmers/gardeners often do not own the land they tend. Many operations lease or have permission to use land and do not own it outright. One recent survey found that only 5.3 percent of gardens in 38 cities were permanently owned.

Gardeners farming on vacant public land run the risk of losing years of hard work if a developer wants to purchase that land and there is no protection from eviction. This lack of security makes urban farmers reluctant to invest in infrastructure inputs such as water line access, machinery, sorting and refrigeration/storage facilities, educational /community gathering centers, or cooking/processing facilities. 

    • The 14-acre South Central Farm/South Central Community Gardens in Los Angeles lost their farm when the city sold the land back to a previous property owner under a right to repurchase clause in the original contract the city used to acquire the land. The landowner, who wanted to put the property towards a more profitable use, had the farm raised and the farmers evicted, resulting in multiple court battles and protests by the farmers.
One recent survey found that only 5.3 percent of gardens in 38 cities were permanently owned. 
  • Much of the available urban agriculture land is contaminated and requires clean-up. Many of the available, vacant plots for community gardens and urban farms may be contaminated with lead and other toxic chemicals from former industrial uses or lead paint or gasoline.
    • It is expensive to clean contaminated soil. Conventional brownfield clean-up, where tainted soils are removed and disposed of in toxic waste facilities, is cost-prohibitive without state and federal funding support (See brownfields tool for more detailed information about brownfield cleanup.)

      EPA's Brownfields Program provides grant dollars for brownfields assessment, cleanup, revolving loans, and environmental job training. The EPA Brownfields Program presents two obstacles, however, for urban farmers wishing to use these grant dollars: (1) the brownfield assessment program is limited to government or quasi-government entities (while the brownfield clean-up program is available to government, quasi-government, and nonprofit entities); and (2) municipalities wishing to establish urban agriculture projects on former residential land are forced to undergo the same stringent, and typically unnecessary, assessment standards that former industrial properties must meet to be eligible for cleanup funding.
    • Large urban farms often consist of several parcels of land often with different historical uses, thus making it hard to determine the soil quality for the entire farm. SHAR in Detroit is working to identify effective ways to ensure, on large tracts of land, that soil is suitable for growing food.
  • New urban farms/gardens must address start-up and operating costs. This includes expenses associated with gathering soil, seeds, and tools. The initial expense of tapping into water lines can be quite costly. Larger-scale farms often need refrigeration, sorting/packing facilities, delivery areas, compost areas, and trucks and tractors. Often urban farms face problems with soil contamination and need to pay for soil testing and/or building raised beds. Most urban agriculture programs struggle to understand and address a mix of city permits and policies that affect their ability to garden/farm, which can lead to increased time and costs.
  • Training in food production, distribution, marketing, and business planning are often needed. Agricultural training can help ensure greater farming success. Business training and support can help operations that are selling food increase their ability to make a profit – contributing to increased incomes for the farmers and more funds for the farm’s ongoing expenses.
  • Urban farms often only generate small or supplemental incomes, for a limited number of people. The income generated from farm sales typically does not provide sufficient wages for full-time employment for farmers. In addition, there are often limits on the number of farmers that can farm on relatively small plots of land in urban areas.

Success Factors

Many strategies are being used to address these challenges.

    • Secure long-term use of land through local government policies, land trusts, or by securing permanent land ownership. In many instances, a partnering organization or local government owns the land and has dedicated its use to urban agriculture through easements or more informal agreements. In other cases, organizations are able to purchase the land for their farming operations or hold it in trust for community farmers/gardeners.
    • This chart provides examples of policies and programs established in cities’ general plans and zoning codes that can help ensure the long-term use of the urban farm land and protect farmers’ efforts.
    • Chicago City Council created a city-funded entity called NeighborSpace which operates as a land trust and is authorized to purchase properties to protect them as open spaces, including community gardens.
    • Growing Home in Chicago owns their land outright as they obtained their land through the McKinney Act, which offers federal surplus land for organizations working with homeless individuals.
    • Southside Community Land Trust (SCLT), in Providence, Rhode Island, holds title to five acres of inner-city land in trust for community farmers to use. Their initial holdings were both purchased for a low price and received as donations from individuals. In addition, SCLT has supported the development of a network of community gardens, market farms, and school gardens built on land owned by churches, city parks, the state, schools, and businesses. Currently around 750 low-income families grow food in 37 Providence-based community gardens; and seven limited-resource farm businesses collaboratively manage a 50-acre farm on the outskirts of the city. The growers include immigrants from Southeast Asia, Africa, the Caribbean , and Central and South America, as well as residents of the low-income neighborhoods surrounding the gardens and farms.
    • Growing Power in Milwaukee and Chicago have multiple sites, some of which they own and some of which they lease or have permission to use. One site was purchased from the city, another site was secured under a 20-year lease agreement with the city, another was purchased in partnership with a local church, and another was established in partnership with the Chicago Parks District and Moore Landscapes, Inc., a private landscaping firm.
  • Address potential soil-quality problems. Farmers and gardeners should address soil quality before attempting to plant food. Soil testing can help growers assess toxin levels. Farmers may also want to get a detailed land use history of the site they are considering gardening, since all organic contaminants may not show up in a soil test. Additionally, many large urban farms consist of several plots of land which may have varying levels of lead and other toxins depending on where the soil is tested. If the land is polluted, farmers can use raised beds/hydroponics, remediate the soil, or choose another location. Solutions for planting in areas with contaminated soil include:
    • Build raised beds/hydroponics to protect food from contaminated soil. Some farmers, such as Growing Power, choose to use raised beds and hydroponics to avoid potentially contaminated soil and ensure a high-quality growing environment. These methods also help keep out weeds and some common garden pests. The cost of constructing a raised bed ranges from about $50 to $125.
    • If planting directly in the ground, test the soil.There are labs (for example, see UMASS) that will test for heavy metals. Agricultural soil tests will look more at nutrients, pH, and other qualities important for growing plants. Remediation techniques for cleaning soil include phytoremediation (using highly absorptive plants to take up heavy metals), bioremediation (using microbes to eat certain harmful chemicals), and mycoremediation (using fungi to remove toxins from the soil). Urban farmers/gardeners more commonly use the raised bed method, since it more directly avoids problems of potential soil contamination.
  • Identify ways to access water. Tapping into a water main for an urban farm can be very expensive, costing as much as $20,000.
    • In cases where the use of the land for a garden/farm is not permanent, some farmers address this by making arrangements with neighboring residents and paying them for use of that home’s water.
    • In Cleveland, the city water department allows people to access fire hydrants for urban agriculture use. This is a creative stopgap measure until the city is able to address issues of land tenure, which will encourage farmers to invest in formally linking to the city water main.
  • Identify and use technical instruction on how to grow, market, and sell food. This instruction can maximize yield for farmers/gardeners and profits for farmers selling their food.
    • Just Food in New York offers an adult Farm School, which will provide professional training in urban agriculture through a two-year certificate program.
    • The Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture (KCCUA) runs programs to train urban farmers. In addition to teaching farming skills, KCCUA trains farmers in financial management, customer communication, marketing, and setting up CSAs.
    • The Latino Farmers Cooperative of Louisiana, based in New Orleans, provides education and training assistance in Spanish to address the needs of emerging Latino farmers, so that they can ultimately run their own sustainable urban agriculture micro enterprises. Participating families also receive access to farmland, tools, and other supports.
    • State extension services, which have traditionally supported individual farmers across the country, can provide technical assistance. State extension services’ funding has been rapidly declining, but they may still be a good urban farming resource.
The Latino Farmers Cooperative of Louisiana, based in New Orleans, provides education and training assistance in Spanish to address the needs of emerging Latino farmers, so that they can ultimately run their own sustainable urban agriculture micro enterprises. 
  • Collaborate with other farmers to secure tools, trucks, refrigeration, and other farming needs. Small farmers can work together to create and reach new markets by sharing expenses such as liability insurance, trucks, refrigeration, sorting, and distribution systems. They can also supplement their own offerings by selling other farmers’ produce and added value products.
    • Programs such as the MUD’s Truck Share allows the Missoula community to borrow a truck for occasional use. A $5 nonrefundable application fee is required and a farmer can borrow the truck for $5/hour and $0.45/mile in usage fees.
    • Urban Tilth in Richmond, California, is working to offer a tool lending library that allows community gardeners to borrow tools instead of purchasing them permanently.
  • Increase potential revenue by extending the growing season and/or creating economies of scale. Net revenues can be increased by extending the production of the season or area. Expanding the size of urban farms can be helpful in reaching greater economies of scale, though small-scale farms can also be very successful.
    • Farms such as Growing Power use hoop houses to extend the growing season.
    • Green City Growers Cooperative will use a greenhouse to grow lettuces and herbs year-round.
    • SHAR in Detroit is spearheading an effort that will use 30 acres of land for farming as well as value-added food production.
  • Work towards greater profitability and long-term sustainability by diversifying urban agriculture operation. Operations with multiple income generating activities tend to have larger total revenues.
      • Sell food from the farm to the consumer. Community supported agriculture, farmers’ markets, and farm stands are all good ways to reach consumers directly.
        • Some farmers use community supported agriculture (CSA)as a distribution tool. This allows farmers to start small, with a consistent set of clients. In some cases, CSAs allow farmers to skip some expensive infrastructure investments such as refrigeration, but in other cases refrigeration is needed to ensure that produce stays fresh in mid-summer.
        • Farmers can sell produce at farmers’ markets and farm stands, whether they are existing markets or new markets/stands that the farmers develop themselves.
      • Sell food to small grocery stores, corner stores, and community co-ops. Small stores and co-ops benefit from sales directly from farmers, and the produce is often less expensive compared to produce sold by large-scale distributors.
        • In Oakland, Mandela Foods Co-op buys produce from local farmers to sell at the worker-owned cooperative, benefitting the farmers, and also the community residents who can purchase fresh, locally grown produce.
        • Nonprofit organizations such as Red Tomato in Massachusetts and Community Alliance with Family Farmers in California serve as a middleman and connect local farmers with markets.
      • Prepare and then sell foods. Some urban farms create value-added products, such as jams or prepackaged cut fruit, which employs more people and generates additional income.
        • Nuestras Raíces transformed an abandoned building on a vacant lot into the Centro Agricola, a community center for small-scale business development. Included is a shared use community kitchen, whose space can be rented by community members for the development of small-scale food preparation enterprises, such as catering, food processing, and the production of sauces.
      • Sell foods from the urban farm along with foods from other local farms. Urban farms can supplement their offerings with goods from other local farms and food producers, acting as a distribution site for locally produced food. This allows the farmers to offer a larger, and more consistent, mix of foods.
        • Added Value, in Brooklyn, operates a CSA that sells produce from their urban farm combined with fruit and eggs from regional rural farmers.
      • Identify other ways to diversify the urban farming operation. Urban farmers can also operate a nursery selling food or non-food plants, raise bees, or provide consulting and trainings to local gardeners.
        • Greensgrow Farm, in Philadelphia, brings in significant revenue to support the overall farming operation through sales of nursery plants, including many non-food plants.
  • Identify your market early. Some urban farms make plans for selling/distributing the food they grow as an important first step of their operation.
  • Green City Growers in Cleveland is developing agreements to supply lettuces and herbs to local institutions, including a variety of retailers and restaurants. This arrangement helps ensure a consistent, reliable client base. The project is estimated to provide 35 to 40 living-wage jobs for low-income residents from the surrounding community. It is projected that the project will break even in one and a half to two years of operation. They predict that in approximately eight years worker-owners will accrue about $65,000 in patronage accounts in addition to good wages and affordable benefits.
  • Evaluate success. Data can help advocates highlight the importance of their work and can provide helpful information for making changes to their operations. Evaluating an urban farming project often requires different metrics from project to project, as different urban farms are typically developed to meet a range of different goals.
    • Urban farmers do not select the same goals or approach them in the same way. For example, some farms focused on jobs may work toward permanent job creation, while others may focus on supplemental income generation or general job skill development. Others may be focused on healthy food access, reuse of vacant land, community revitalization, etc. The measures used must fit the goals of that particular farming operation.
    • Some operations seek to reach full financial sustainability without ongoing operating support, while others do not have this goal but believe that the services they provide merit ongoing investment.Evaluators should account for the farming operation’s philosophy and approach in developing an evaluation plan.


The cost of starting and maintaining an urban farm varies widely depending on the size, location, and purpose of the farm. Community residents running a community garden may need approximately $1 per square foot per year over five years for soil, seeds, soil testing, basic turkey wire fence, and initial cleanup, assuming volunteer labor and a free water source. Other farming operations can be much more costly to start.It is often difficult to recruit banks to invest in start-up loans or other capital needs necessary to get a larger-scale urban farm operating, and smaller-scale farmers often need assistance as well. Donated supplies and grants from foundations or individuals, along with government-based grant and loan programs, can provide assistance with initial infrastructure investment and in some cases ongoing operating support as well. See the section on grants and low-interest loans in the policy section of this tool for more details on government supports. For additional funding resources, see the American Community Gardening Association’s funding opportunities page.


There are many opportunities to provide urban agriculture at the local, state, and federal level. Policies should be developed in ways that ensure that low-income communities and communities of color will benefit. To achieve this, low-income communities and communities of color should be involved in policy development and advocacy steps to identify and advance an urban agriculture policy agenda.

Here are examples of potential policy approaches:

  • Help identify and provide land for farming. Local governments often are eager to identify ways to make productive use of vacant land—and urban agriculture can be an ideal way to address this challenge. Localities can inventory vacant and private lots and make this information available to the public through a computer database and mapping program. They can also authorize contracts with private landowners for the lease of lots, authorize use of municipal land, and clear contaminated land.
    • The City of Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods has inventoried land and locations for community gardens, food bank gardens, and community kitchens that would strengthen and maximize accessibility for all neighborhoods and communities, especially low-income and minorityresidents.
  • The City of Cleveland and the nonprofit Neighborhood Progress in 2009 created a competitive vacant land-reuse grant program to empower neighborhood residents and community leaders to turn vacant land into community gardens/farms. Currently, 30 urban pilot projects are creating community and market gardens, orchards, vineyards and farms.  The city also has passed an “urban garden district zoning code.”
  • Chicago City Council created a city-funded entity called NeighborSpace which is authorized to purchase properties to protect them as open spaces, including community gardens. NeighborSpace secures land against potential development, provides basic liability insurance for those using the land, and supports community control of and engagement in local green open spaces.
  • The Sustainable Food Center in Austin, Texas is working with the City of Travis County to map land, advertise the available land to the community, and help arrange lease agreements with the city.  It has also created a single point of contact to ease the process of creating new urban gardens.
  • Provide grants and low-interest loans. Localities, states, and the federal governmentprovide financial support for start-up and/or operating costs.
  • Localities can help farmers with start-up costs and/or operating support.
      • The City of Cleveland’s economic development department started a program in 2008 that provides grants up to $3,000 to urban farmers for tools, irrigation systems, rain barrels, greenhouses, display equipment, and signage, through a program called “Gardening for Greenbacks.”
      • Cities such as Madison, Cleveland, and Boston use Community Development Block Grant funds to develop urban agriculture projects.
  • Localities, states, and/or the federal government can allocate workforce development funds for urban agriculture operations.
      • The Food Project in Massachusetts has received money from the North Share Workforce Investment Board to support their youth programs.
      • Growing Home in Chicago has received state and city government support for their workforce development work with homeless and formerly incarcerated residents.
      • The Department of Labor Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) and Federal Bonding Program could potentially be helpful in supporting urban agriculture efforts that create jobs. WOTC tax credits are provided to incentivize private sector businesses to hire employees, such as formerly incarcerated individuals, who have consistently faced significant barriers to employment. The Federal Bonding Program provides no-cost Fidelity Bonds that offer reassurance to employers hesitant to hire formerly incarcerated individuals based on fears of theft or damage to property.
      • Department of Justice Second Chance Reentry Grants could potentially be used to train formerly incarcerated workers for urban agriculture jobs. Second Chance Act Reentry Grants focus on reducing recidivism rates and state and local spending on corrections. The funding for reentry programs address a number of areas, including job training, education, mentoring, substance abuse and mental health treatment, family-based services, literacy classes, housing, and employment assistance.
  • State park bond initiatives can be used to support urban agriculture.
      • City Slicker Farms in West Oakland was awarded a $4 million grant to construct a new 1.4 acre urban farm park, designed through a community-based planning process with local residents.
  • USDA programs can help support urban agriculture and community gardens. These programs can be a great resource for urban farmers, but there is a need for greater coordination on urban agriculture opportunities across programs, and a streamlined application process for urban farmers who wish to access resources. In addition, many of these resources are oversubscribed, making it challenging for urban farmers to access these resources.
      • The Community Food Projects Competitive Grant Program (CFPCGP) provides grant dollars for projects that fight food insecurity and help promote the self-sufficiency of low-income communities. Food Project funds have supported food production projects, including urban agriculture. Projects are funded from $10,000 to $300,000 and from one to three years.
      • The Business and Industry Loan Program (B&I) can support regional food systems. B&I loans are traditionally available only in rural areas, but loans may be made to cooperatives for value-added processing facilities in non-rural areas provided they service agricultural producers within 80 miles of the facility and help improve producer income.
      • The Value-Added Producer Grants Program dedicates $18 million in grant dollars to farmers for adding value to their foods, including making pesto, jams, salsas, etc.
      • Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food. This USDA-wide effort seeks to create new economic opportunities by better connecting consumers with local producers. Farmers and ranchers who are not quite ready to obtain financing from commercial lending sources can apply for direct and guaranteed loans. Targeted funds are available to smaller-scale beginning farmers and ranchers who have been in business for less than ten years, as well as to farmers who are women, African Americans, American Indians, Alaskan Natives, Hispanics, Asian Americans, or Pacific Islanders.
      • The Healthy Urban Food Enterprise Development Center (HUFED) at the Wallace Center at Winrock International is funded by the USDA’s  National Institute of Food and Agriculture (formerly Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service or CSREES). HUFED provides grants and technical assistance for enterprise development and focuses on getting more healthy food—including local food—into communities who have limited access. The program provides grant dollars for local and regional approaches to aggregate and distribute healthy foods.
    • The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) could support urban agriculture.
      • If HUD’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) is funded again, legislators should authorize that funds can be used for urban agriculture projects. NSP, a program established to help stabilize communities suffering from foreclosures and abandonment, currently restricts funding to housing exclusively. The first round of NSP funding was more flexible, and could be used for other areas such as public parks, mixed residential and commercial uses, and urban agriculture.
      • Green City Growers has been able to access BEDI grants through HUD. The Brownfields Economic Development Initiative (BEDI) is a competitive grant program that HUD administers to stimulate and promote economic and community development. BEDI is designed to assist cities with the redevelopment of abandoned, idled, and underused industrial and commercial facilities where expansion and redevelopment is burdened by real or potential environmental contamination. BEDI grant funds are primarily targeted for use with a particular emphasis upon the redevelopment of brownfields sites in economic development projects and the increase of economic opportunities for low-and moderate-income persons as part of the creation or retention of businesses, jobs, and increases in the local tax base.
    • The Environmental Protection Agency can ensure that non-governmental entities can apply for EPA Brownfields Program assessment grants for urban agriculture projects, and can ensure that projects to transform former residential properties into urban farms are not held to the same Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and Superfund assessment standards used for former industrial land. This will enable more urban agriculture projects to use brownfields funding for their efforts to reclaim vacant and abandoned land, and will address the differing contamination assessment needs at former residential sites compared to former industrial sites. The EPA should develop alternative guidelines that can be used to assess former residential property.
    • Other federal agencies, such as the Department of Health and Human Services, the Treasury, or other agencies may be able to play a role in supporting urban agriculture in the future as well.
  • Provide city services to reduce costs. Localities can provide trash collection service, compost from the locality’s recycling program, and access to water, tools, and storage facilities to support community gardens and urban farms.
    • In Cleveland, Ohio, the City’s water department allows urban farmers to use fire hydrants for urban farm use based on a predetermined rate. They have set water usage rates determined on a tiered system based on the size of the parcel.
    • Minneapolis helps provide access to water and compost for local community gardeners.
  • Include urban agriculture-friendly policies in general plans, and adopt urban agriculture-friendly zoning policies. Cities can make long-term commitments to community gardens and urban agriculture by adopting language in its zoning codes and general city plan. Supportive zoning designations can protect urban farms or community gardens from redevelopment and encourage farmers and gardeners to invest in infrastructure development. Some of these policies have an equity focus and give priority to low-income, underserved communities including the cities of Berkeley and Seattle.
    • Berkeley designates space for community gardens in its general city plan and prioritizes community garden development in high-density residential areas and low-income communities.
  • Seattle has committed to an “urban village” concept that assigns one garden per 2,500 residents and is committed to serving all residents. Seattle developed land use codes to encourage urban agriculture throughout the city. Some of the land use codes will allow people to grow food in their backyards and sell it, increase the number of chickens allowed in a backyard, allow greenhouses on buildings and vertical spaces, allow more flexibility in farmers’ markets locations, and reduce permitting and fees.
  • Pass resolutions, initiatives, and legislation supporting community gardens and urban agriculture. Broad policies supporting urban agriculture can be promoted at the local, state, or federal level.
  • Seattle’s City Council President passed a resolution in 2008 supporting community garden and urban agricultural development. The resolution called for the Department of Neighborhoods (DON) to identify land and locations for community gardens, food bank gardens, and community kitchens that would strengthen and maximize accessibility for all neighborhoods and communities, especially low-income and minorityresidents. DON will work with the Seattle School District, the Seattle Public Utilities, Seattle City Light, and Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation to propose a process and strategic plan for creating programs and policies to support urban agriculture.
  • Philadelphia’s Mayor Michael Nutter has created a food policy council and released the Philadelphia Food Charter, which includes a focus on urban agriculture. The city's "Greenworks" initiative, designed to turn Philly into "the greenest city in America," has a goal of increasing commercial agriculture within city limits.
  • The City of Minneapolis adopted a resolution that will expand the consumption, production, and distribution of local, sustainably produced and healthy foods. The resolutions came from a series of convenings coordinated by the Mayor that included several city departments and community representatives. This group (calling themselves Homegrown Minneapolis) met over a six-month period and focused on advancing community gardens, small enterprise urban agriculture, farmers’ markets, and the commercial use of locally grown food.
  • Local governments could designate a “point” person to help local urban gardeners and farmers navigate these city permits and comply with city policies.
  • States can enact legislation or provide allocation of funds for programs that help support urban agriculture. For example, in 2009 North Carolina (SB 1067), Montana (HB 583), Oregon (HB 2763), Vermont (HB 313)), and Minnesota (HF 1122), enacted legislation supporting local and regional food systems. (See National Conference of State Legislatures for a detailed listing of state policies.)
  • At the city, state, or federal level, a pilot program could be developed to support financially sustainable urban agriculture operations that would only need limited, one-time start-up loan and grant assistance. Green City Growers Cooperative in Cleveland and SHAR in Detroit are both working to develop a financially sustainable model that will provide jobs and other benefits for residents. These types of efforts could be replicated in other parts of the country.
  • Federal CongressionalRepresentative Kaptur introduced legislation entitled Greening Food Deserts Act in 2010. The act would create a Department of Urban Agriculture within the USDA and boost backyard conservation, community gardens, and farmers’ markets.
Seattle’s City Council President passed a resolution in 2008 supporting community garden and urban agricultural development.  
  • Increase funding for programs that provide community gardeners and urban farmers with training and technical assistance. For urban agriculture projects to operate most efficiently and effectively, the farm managers and leaders must have strong skills in nonprofit management and/or business operations, and must have staff who are skilled in agricultural production.
    • The USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), formerly the Cooperative State Extension Services Programs (CSREES) can provide technical assistance through its extension programs. These provide research and educational assistance to help farmers, ranchers, and community gardeners. Extension programs operated throughout the country can work to address the needs of urban farmers. For example:
        • University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee County Cooperative Extension program has several opportunities for urban gardeners, including a rent-a- garden program, certified beekeeper activities, and a project that creates a network to link individual farmers and gardeners with each other.
        • Ohio State University Extension in Cuyahoga County has several urban agriculture and community gardening programs. Those programs include a market gardener training program, gardening for greenbacks program (grant program providing up to $3,000 to help establish market gardens), and programs to provide water access to gardeners.

Funding for many extension programs has been declining and therefore extension agencies are constrained in the breadth and variety of services they can offer. With increased and targeted support, extension programs could operate throughout the country to address the needs of urban farmers in underserved low-income communities and communities of color.

      • Community colleges are starting to offer certificates and coursework in urban agriculture. Many courses are offered within a broader agriculture or “agro-ecology” concentration and add a business component as well.
        • Starting in 2010, Engaged Community Offshoots (ECO) began a partnership with Prince George’s County Community College in Maryland to offer a course in Commercial Urban Agriculture. The course focused mostly on farming techniques, but also how to plan and design a farm-related business.
        • The Sustainable Agriculture Education (SAgE) program in the Science and Math Division of the Seattle Central Community College focuses on food systems, ecology, and business practices
      • Business training can also be important for running a successful operation. Many urban farmers have difficulty finding people that have both agriculture technical training as well as the skill set to run the business; this includes skills such as balancing the books, advertising, and analyzing existing markets.
        • Cooperative extension agencies could provide this type of capacity building (in addition to technical agriculture training and assistance); however, these programs are severely underfunded and many states no longer have cooperative extension agents able to provide this type of service.
        • The Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) could be a good resource for urban farmers who would like help with business planning, accounting, marketing, or other business skills. SCORE receives grant dollars from the SBA to offer free and confidential small business advice for entrepreneurs. SCORE has over 364 chapters throughout the U.S. and relies on over 13,000 volunteer mentors. Most volunteers are working or retired business owners, executives, and corporate leaders.

There are exciting opportunities to grow the urban agriculture movement in ways that promote equity, with the help of supportive policies at the local, state, and federal levels. Policies that focus on low-income communities and communities of color help promote communities of opportunity—transforming abandoned lots into thriving community spaces, providing access to healthy food, sharing cultural traditions across generations, and promoting much needed economic opportunities. The seeds of change are taking root—and with the support of policymakers, advocates, and other stakeholders, it can spread and flourish in even more communities across the nation.

Case Studies

Growing Power, Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Providing Healthy, Affordable Food to All Communities

In Milwaukee, near a large affordable housing complex, 14 greenhouses, livestock pens, and hoop houses stand, filled with salad greens, arugula, beets, tilapia, perch, beehives, hens, ducks, beehives, goats, and turkeys. The project is run by Will Allen, a charismatic farmer who has become a national spokesperson for urban agriculture and a more just food system.

“From the housing project, it’s more than three miles to the Pick’n Save,” Allen says. “That’s a long way to go if you don’t have a car or can’t carry stuff. And the quality of the produce can be poor.” In 1993, Allen created a national nonprofit and land trust organization called Growing Power, which works to provide communities like this one in Milwaukee with better access to healthy, high-quality, and affordable food and fosters a more sustainable, equitable food system. Growing Power has more than 25 employees—many from the neighborhoods served—and more than 2,000 volunteers.

The organization produces food using a sophisticated, organic system, which relies on recycled waste from local restaurants, breweries, farms, and coffee houses, and worms to help generate nutrient-rich compost to help their crops thrive. The organization also uses an aquaponics system that farms fish while breaking their waste down into fertilizer, by filtering the fish tank water through a gravel bed and then a crop of watercress that filters the water a second time. Growing Power distributes the food through retail stores, restaurants, farmers’ markets, schools, and a community supported agriculture program. The CSA offers discounted shares to low-income consumers for $16 a week, for which residents receive enough food to feed a family of up to four for a week.

The organization fosters school and community gardens throughout the city, and also provides training, outreach, and technical assistance to share their knowledge across the country, in places like Arkansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Georgia, Wisconsin, Mississippi, and Florida. One example of the organization’s expanding work is the Chicago Avenue Community Garden at Cabrini-Green. Growing Power is collaborating with the city’s Fourth Presbyterian Church to convert an unkempt basketball court into a thriving community garden. Plots are allocated to individual local gardeners. Growing Power supplies the materials, assists in designing and building the space, and provides daily staff and technical assistance during the growing season.

Nuestras Raíces: Taking Root as a National Model

In the late 1960s and 1970s, many Puerto Rican farmers moved to Holyoke to work in its paper mills and tobacco farms, fleeing an economic recession. But the economy was already changing, and the mills and farms were shutting down as the new workers arrived. The Puerto Rican population stayed, and now accounts for almost 40 percent of the city’s residents. The city has struggled with high unemployment and poverty since its industrial decline, and contains nearly 100 abandoned brownfields.

Nuestras Raíces—which means “our roots” in Spanish—is working to counter this dynamic of decline. Founded in 1992, the group has grown from a single community garden to a multifaceted organization. Nuestras Raíces is led by the residents and families who participate in its programs, including community gardens and farms, green jobs training, environmental education, entrepreneurship, youth development, and leadership development.

Nuestras Raíces now manages eight community gardens and two youth gardens, and more than 100 families participate. The gardens provide access to affordable food for low-income families: on average families produce more than $1,000 of organic produce per year. Some of the plots are for market production, to supplement incomes by selling produce to local stores, restaurants, and farmers’ markets. The gardens provide opportunities for youth leadership development, as many youth sell the produce at farmers’ markets, design and build nature trails, and participate in garden-centered environmental research and education programs.

Beginning farmers go through an eight-week training to write a business plan and can then rent plots. Youth can farm rent-free, and there is a designated youth farm and a program for youth to learn farming techniques from the elder Puerto Rican volunteers. Nuestras provides the La Finca farmers with small loans, trainings, shared resources, and marketing assistance, and then helps them find land and capital to open their own farms.

As a result of these efforts, elders have been able to transfer their agrarian backgrounds, Puerto Rican heritage, and culture to the youth in Holyoke. This exchange has built a strong community that has created positive change in Holyoke, leading to greater community stability. Crime has decreased in the Puerto Rican community, and employment and youth leadership has increased. For more information about Nuestras Raíces, see this link.

Building Healthy Communities—From Farm to Market

In California, Juan Perez, along with his father, Pablo, started a small organic farm on half an acre in Monterey County, California. Today, J.P., as he is known, farms five acres filled with organic corn, cilantro, strawberries, carrots, green beans, and more. Each week he delivers his produce to local families. He keeps his prices reasonable and accepts EBT.

J.P.’s farm and business model is a result of support and training from the Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association (ALBA). Many of the aspiring farmers ALBA serves are farmworkers, and have struggled to enter California’s competitive farming economy hindered by language and cultural barriers, few economic resources, institutional exclusion, and a lack of government support. ALBA provides education and land, and connects farmers to resources like business consultants, loan officers, and training in sustainable land management practices.

ALBA helps farmers sell what they grow, creating programs to increase access to affordable nutritious foods for low-income residents of Monterey County—many of them farmworkers themselves. Staff members train farmers in marketing and sales and also connect farmers with ALBA Organics, a produce distributor that seeks to open up new direct markets for organic produce and create alternatives for small-scale farmers. ALBA has partnered with local churches and elementary schools in underserved neighborhoods to host farm stands where ALBA farmers sell their produce and has established three new farmers’ markets serving low-income neighborhoods.

The organization also promotes ecological and sustainable land management practices through bilingual conservation outreach and education programs. ALBA wants to demonstrate that farming and conservation are not mutually exclusive.

ALBA works with farmers to build leadership capacity and influence policymakers. Through their leadership development program, ALBA translates and distributes information about policy changes that might affect farmers’ businesses, coaches them to provide testimony to elected officials, and facilitates networking between farmers and policy coalitions.

Transforming Challenge into Assets: Urban Agriculture in Older Core Cities

Once thriving manufacturing cities such as Cleveland and Detroit now face huge amounts of vacant land. In Detroit, the population has dropped by more than half since 1950, and the city is demolishing thousands of homes. Detroit’s population has dropped more than half from its peak—from two million people to around 750,000 currently. Similarly, Cleveland’s population has been shrinking over past decades as the city lost manufacturing jobs. The city is now faced with more than 33,000 foreclosures, and is demolishing hundreds of deserted, derelict homes. There are vast tracts of vacant lots, abandoned warehouses, and boarded up houses. But residents are transforming this challenge into an asset through urban agriculture—making productive use of vacant land, and helping ensure that residents can live in safe, vibrant neighborhoods.


Detroit community members have been engaging in urban agriculture to help revitalize Detroit. The Detroit Black Community Food Security Network works to empower African Americans in Detroit—raising awareness about food, where it comes from, who controls it, and the role it plays in building healthy families and communities. The organization has established a four-acre organic farm within the city and organized a food co-op buying club. They also have taken leadership in promoting policy changes, successfully leading efforts to get the city council to create a food policy council and pass a food security policy, and are working to establish legislation protecting gardens and farms; create a program for organizations and individuals to lease land with an option to purchase it in order to encourage sustainability; encourage the city to provide resources for urban agriculture; identify a model state program to support small farms with funding, marketing, etc.; and encourage schools and institutions to purchase local foods. They have provided leadership to the Undoing Racism in the Detroit Food System Initiative, and have been selected as the Detroit Regional Outreach Training Center for Growing Power.

In 2008, SHAR (Self Help Addiction Rehabilitation), a Detroit-based organization treating over 4,000 clients each year, decided to expand their approach to addiction treatment by incorporating urban agriculture into its treatment program. SHAR has fostered a collaborative effort involving over 50 organizations, including the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, and seven universities to help launch one of Detroit’s largest urban farms.

The program, Recovery Park, will encompass approximately 30 acres of vacant land and will use the Growing Power three-tier system and have three growing seasons. The efforts’ leaders estimate that this three-tier growing system will generate $25,000 to $35,000 per acre, compared to a traditional farm site which can produce $5,000 to $6,000 per acre. In addition to growing food, the farms will also have a packaging company on site. For example, the farms will grow and package small two to three ounce packages of fruits and vegetables (instead of chips and other junk food) for schools. Just two school contracts for processing these small healthy snack packs will create 150 jobs in around six months. The full model, involving both growing and processing, is estimated to create 2,500 to 3,500 permanent jobs, paying around $10 to $12 an hour, over the next 10 years.

The farms within Recovery Park will not use pesticides or fertilizers—making it possible for residents to continue living in the community, next to this city farmland. The collaborative is looking to create bike trails, job training centers, and other community resources in and around the farm, helping to create a thriving community.


In 2007, Neighborhood Progress, a nonprofit organization working to restore and maintain the health and vitality of Cleveland’s neighborhoods, started a citywide planning initiative to tackle the issue of land vacancies. The group issued a study to identify productive re-uses of vacant land that could build healthy communities, and protect people, current stakeholders, investments, and the value of homes. The highest recommended strategy for vacant land re-use was urban agriculture.

Neighborhood Progress is now working with the City of Cleveland to implement agricultural pilot projects over the next several years throughout the city.  The most successful pilot projects will be brought up to scale.  A total of 66 projects aiming to renovate vacant land have been implemented throughout Cleveland, 31 of which are urban agriculture related (13 are market gardens and the remaining are community gardens, orchards and/or vineyards).  The urban farms will provide supplemental income to many farmers and primary income for one or two farmers.  While the projects are limited to city-owned land, of the 20,000 vacant lots in Cleveland, the city owns 7,500 – well over one-third of the vacant land.  The city has agreed to a five-year lease for the pilot projects, with the goal of transferring title to the community group or individual farmer after the expiration of the lease

The City of Cleveland recognizes that converting vacant land into an asset saves the city money in the long run.  It costs the city close to $1,000 to maintain a vacant lot including costs to mow the lot, respond to police calls involving crime and violence on the sites, and clean up after illegal dumping.  As a result, Cleveland has also been progressively amending its zoning and health codes to provide increased land security to farmers by allowing for composting toilets, onsite sales, changes to fencing requirements, and farm animal and honey bee provisions.  The city has also established an agreement with the water department to provide fire hydrant access to urban farms and community gardens, so that farmers can access water without spending $1,500 to $4,500 to gain permanent access to a water line. 

Cleveland will also be home to the soon-to-launch Green City Growers Cooperative, which will operate a five- acre hydroponic greenhouse that will produce leafy greens and herbs to be sold to nearby grocery stores and wholesale produce businesses.  The greenhouse operation will be run as a cooperative and allows opportunities for neighborhood residents/workers to participate at an ownership level, select the board or become board members, and become involved with the cooperative development.  It will create 35 to 40 new jobs, all at a living wage.  The average wage in the University Circle and Central City area where the workers will reside is currently $18,000.  It is estimated that the Green City jobs will build about $65,000 in patronage accounts in eight years.  Green City looks forward to eventually expanding its operation beyond the five-acre greenhouse to include a network of greenhouses and related food processing and packaging.  All of these urban agriculture efforts work to stabilize the community, and each food dollar kept in the city will help improve the local economy.

 Urban agriculture efforts in Cleveland have benefitted a strong city council and mayor, and a strong network of community members, planners, public health advocates, extension agents, and other stakeholders. Monthly network meetings advance interest in urban farming and increase the possibilities for improving health and revitalizing neighborhoods.



Urban Agriculture and Community Garden Webinar

Equitable Strategies for Growing Urban Agriculture 


Added Value's Red Hook Community Farm


Added Value Farm

Agriculture and Land Based Training Association

American Community Gardening Association

Appalachian Sustainable Development

City Farmer News

City Slicker Farms

Clean Greens

Cleveland’s Green Corp

Community Alliance with Family Farmers

Community Food Security Coalition

East Bay Asian Youth Center

East New York Farms!

Gardening for Greenbacks

Green City Growers Cooperative

Greensgrow Farms

Growing Home

Growing Power

Latino Farmers Cooperative of Louisiana

Mandela Foods Co-op


Nuestras Raíces

P Patch


Public Health Law and Policy


Southside Community Land Trust,

State Extension Services

Sustainable Food Center

The Detroit Black Food Security Network

The Food Project

The Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture (KCCUA)

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society

The Seattle Market Gardens Program

Urban Gardens

Urban Tilth

Viet Village

Wallace Center


Federal Programs and Resources

Department of Agriculture Business and Industry Loan Program

Department of Agriculture Community Food Projects Competitive Grant Program (CFPCGP)

Department of Agriculture Healthy Urban Food Enterprise Development Center

Department of Agriculture Know Your Farmer Know Your Food

Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture

Department of Agriculture Value-Added Producer Grants Program

Department of Housing and Urban Development Brownfields Economic Development Initiative

Department of Housing and Urban Development Neighborhood Stabilization Program

Department of Justice Second Chance Reentry Grants

Department of Labor Federal Bonding Program

Department of Labor Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC)

Department of Treasury New Markets Tax Credit Program


Model Policies

Berkeley and Seattle have developed urban agriculture-friendly policies with an equity focus in their general plans. Also see Public Health Law and Policy’s Land Use and Planning Policies, which details model planning and zoning provisions for many cities.




Community Gardens. Food Security Learning Center, 2010.

Healthy in a Hurry Corner Stores. University Law and YMCA Louisville, 2010.

Kansas City Pioneers New Models for Urban Farms. Breaking Through Concrete Team. Grist, 2010.

Local and Regional Food Systems. Food Security Learning Center, 2010.

Philadelphia’s Urban Farming Roots Go Deep and Are Spreading. Tom Laskawy, 2010.

Practice Urban Gardening Zoning Practice. Nina Mukherji and Alfonso Morales. American Planning Association, Issue No. 3, March 2010.

Recipes for Change: Healthy Food in Every Community. Linda Shak, et al., Prevention Institute, 2010.

Reclaiming Abandoned Homes and Vacant Lots. Neil Conan. National Public Radio, November 10, 2010.

Rust Belt Cities Demolish Homes as Defaults Blight Neighborhoods. Brian Lous, 2010.


Cleveland's For-profit Urban Gardens Are Growing . Marty Sterpka. 2009.

Hard Row to Hoe: Can Local Food Movement Save Farmers? Courtney Stuart. The Hook, 2009.

How Does Your Garden Grow? Brownfields Redevelopment and Local Urban Gardens. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2009.


Vitalizing the Vacant. The Logistics and Benefits of Middle-to-Large-Scale Agricultural Production on Urban Land. Annie Myers. May 2008.

Re-Imagining A More Sustainable Cleveland: Citywide Strategies for Reuse of Vacant Land. Neighborhood Progress, et al., 2008.


Can Virginia Communities and Counties Seize an Economic and Social Opportunity with Farm-Based Local and Regional Economic Development? Eric Bendfeldt and Kenner Love. Virginia Cooperative Extension Bulletin, 2007.

Farming in Philadelphia: Feasibility Analysis and Next Steps Executive Summary. Urban Partners, 2007.

The Cornfield: New Ideas for a Sustainable Urban Park. Michael Woo. 2007.

A School Garden Materials and Resource Guide. Monterey County Farm to School Partnership, 2007.


The Effect of Community Gardens on Neighboring Property Values. Vicki Been and Ioan Voicu. New York University Law and Economics Working Papers, Paper 46, 2006.


On Crime as Science (a Neighbor at a Time). Dan Hurley. New York Times, January 6, 2004.


Farming from the City Center to the Urban Fringe: Urban Planning and Food Security. Anne Carter and Peter Mann, 2003.

Health Benefits of Urban Agriculture. Anne C. Bellows, et al., Community Food Security Coalition, 2003.

Community Gardens: Lessons Learned from California Healthy Cities and Communities, Joan Twiss, et al., 2003.


Who is Raising Food in Cities? From Backyard Gardeners to Commercial Growers. Community Food Security Coalition, 2002.


Community Food Security Programs Improve Food Access, Linda Scott Kantor. Food and Rural Economics Division, Economics Research Service, USDA. Food Review 24: 1; 2001.


National Community Gardening Survey. American Community Gardening Association. 1998.

Empty Spaces, Dangerous Places, Tom McKay. Plan Canada Magazine, 1998.


Living History Farm. Farming in the 1940s.