Benefits of Urban Agriculture

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Transforming underutilized land into productive urban farms is an issue which was presented by Jerome Chou, past Director of Programs at the Design Trust for Public Space at Kansas City Design Week. Chou presented his unique experience with the implementation of the Five Boroughs Farm in New York City and the impact that urban agriculture can have on low-income areas of a city.

Having the land available for an urban farm is only half of the battle. The other half involves changing local zoning laws, influencing political opinion, garnering economic support, and proving the project will have a net benefit to a community. These challenges where not unique to just New York City but also to Kansas City’s 18th and Broadway Urban Farm which was also presented at Kansas City Design Week.

The constraint of influencing the community and political leaders is what forced Chou and the multi-disciplined team lead by Design Trust for Public Space to rethink how urban farms were a beneficial investment for New York City. Chou knew from past experience that the re-purposing of vacant lots provided both fresh produce and employment for local residents in the Red Hook Community Farm. Chou also pointed out that the city officials were very reluctant to provide their support for the project, particularly in a city where Mayor Bloomberg was famous for tweeting “In God We Trust. Everyone else, bring data.”

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The team’s first step was to find studies on how urban farms influenced local communities and present their collective data to gain political support. Design Trust had difficulty finding studies on urban farms, but did find miscellaneous pieces of data such as how having bees in a city increases biodiversity of plants and access to healthy food improves the health of local residents. The team realized they would have to retool their approach and the end results would be the first of its kind.

Full story: Data Farming: The Benefits of Urban Agriculture

Published 26 March 2013 in This Big City