A Citywide Plan for Urban Agriculture in NYC

From Design Trust for Public Space

The Design Trust for Public Space recently announced a project to asses the state of urban farming across New York City and “to create the nation’s first citywide plan for urban agriculture.”  The initiative, called the Five Borough Farm, is designed to bring together leading experts in sustainable development, urban policy, landscape architecture, and key stakeholders in order to “help transform underutilized lots in all five boroughs into urban farms.”

There are plenty of reasons to be excited about this initiative, but the folks here at the institute are especially keen on hearing how the Trust will define metrics to measure the benefits of urban agriculture.  While the idea may seem a little insipid, a lot of us see it as the crucial next step for urban sustainability in general.  While more and more municipalities begin implementing policies to become more sustainable, the task of measuring success and comparing results between places becomes imperative.

Five Borough Farm will inventory existing agricultural activity in the five boroughs and assess underutilized arable land in order to identify opportunities for City agencies to support urban agriculture. Using Added Value’s holistic, community-development model as a guide, the project will develop metrics that measure urban agriculture’s broad range of benefits, including youth empowerment, impacts on obesity rates, employment opportunities, access to healthy food, stormwater retention, and many other indicators. Finally, the project will create a pilot project that demonstrates the vitality of urban agriculture and its importance to New York’s public realm.

The anticipated timeframe for the project is 12 months, beginning March 2010. For the first phase, the Design Trust will select two fellows in the fields of metrics/evaluation and policy/sustainable development.

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