Sustainable Urban Farming Initiative

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Concept:

A summary of the idea, the needs it serves, and a description of a possible pilot program

Many Pittsburgh neighborhoods are scattered with vacant lots and unused land, sitting dormant and in need of development. Reclaiming these lots for productive community-use green space addresses issues of community connection, health and nutrition, and urban decay.

Urban farms can serve a variety of community needs:

  • inspire and educate residents about the environment and nutrition
  • encourage personal investment in and cooperative ownership of community assets
  • reverse the effects of urban blight and revitalize community life

By partnering with existing community garden organizations, sustainability advocates, youth groups, schools, and CDCs, this project would develop an organization supporting a network of green sites, community gardens, and urban farms.

This organization could facilitate the sharing of best practices to develop a model for successful urban farming. This model could then be put to the test.

The project would acquire land to establish a pilot sustainable urban farm in a suitable vacant lot. The site would employ a small team of experienced community gardeners/urban farmers/sustainability advocates.

Priorities:

These ideals are integral to a successful project design

  • youth and adult training and education
  • providing a safe and healthy gathering place
  • community and land revitalization
  • producing a successful and sustainable annual ground yield

Concerns:

Possible difficulties, pitfalls, and obstacles to consider

  • land acquisition and tenure
  • insurance and policy issues
  • soil and site conditions
  • vandalism
  • staffing

Idea History:

Learn more about the idea, from genesis to dialogue

The Sustainable Urban Farming Initiative is a composite of five ideas:

Entreperennial from room 337, Grow Your Own from room 620, and Lots of Food from room 433 all advocated the use of vacant and abandoned lots as green space for gardening and farming. These ideas described a place to bring the community together, to provide healthy and educational activity, and to supplement the limited food available in some neighborhood grocery stores.

Terroir du Pittsburgh from room 345 outlined a similar program of community-use land, but suggested an elaborate study of the grounds to customize the project to the growing capabilities of the chosen site.

Groundworks from room 523 described the development of a coordinating organization to support and unite a network of community green spaces and ideas for expansion.

For further context, consult Hop Skip Farm Kids from room 429. This idea described the production of a television documentary for children about community-run gardens and farms and the inner-city youth working on them.

Related Links:

Get to know these groups, organizations, projects, and authorities, their current and past activities, the possibility for consultation or partnership, and in-roads to collaboration.

General Questions:

These important questions are asked of each idea. Try your hand at answering them as a way to explore the idea and how to make it happen. Answers to these questions help to demonstrate the Idea's strength and potential for success.

  1. What level is the idea at? (Research, Planning, Fundraising, Advocacy, Deployment, other (explain))
  2. What is a reasonable next step/phase for the concept? How can investment move the idea forward?
  3. What other resources or opportunities are available or necessary to make the idea happen?
  4. What existing activities or organizations in Pittsburgh duplicate some or all of the program components? How can this idea compete with, complement, and/or learn from these other activities?
  5. Who should be included in this discussion? Does the concept call for outside consultation or assistance from other organizations?
  6. How should the idea be promoted?
  7. How should project success be measured?
  8. What questions should be asked of a proposal for this project?

Starter Questions:

These questions address some of the anticipated programmatic concerns that come with administering small projects. Consider them test questions for model projects-- responses should be incorporated into the project's design.

  1. How will the initiative be organized? As a business? As co-operative/collective? A community organization? A facilitation/promotion service?
  2. Where will the pilot site be located and who decides?
  3. How will the site be acquired and kept?
  4. How will the team be assembled, organized, and compensated?
  5. Who will have access/be served by the site?
  6. How will a successful pilot site develop into a network of similar sites?