Tag Archives: urban agriculture

Philadelphia’s Vacant Property Journey

Philly-Cover-ImageWith support from the Ford Foundation, Virginia Tech’s Vacant Property Research Network (VPRN) recently published a new case study on the City of Philadelphia’s approach to reclaiming vacant property and developing a healthier, more resilient city.

The case study identifies
policy reforms and program innovations to reclaim vacant properties, discusses Philadelhpia’s capacity
and networks for adapting to ever-shifting vacant property problems, and offers recommendations
for improving and sustaining a more resilient approach to urban regeneration.

The case study is the first in a series of three, that will also include Cleveland and Baltimore. By
synthesizing the strategies and initiatives across these three pioneering cities, the case studies
bring to life the elements of a holistic and resilient policy process for vacant property reclamation that can assist practitioners, policymakers, and researchers in the design and development of a more resilient system for reclaiming vacant properties and regenerating distressed communities.

The study team included Joseph Schilling, LLM, Director of the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech, and Kimberley Hodgson, MURP, MS, AICP, RD, founder of Cultivating Healthy Places.

Community-Based Farming in Southern British Columbia


Many farms and organizations throughout North America are interested in the social, economic, and environmental benefits of community-based farming. Innovative programs and food system enterprises aimed at enabling community-based farming include examples such as Intervale (Burlington, Vermont), Serenbe (Atlanta, Georgia), 21 Acres (Woodinville, Washington), Zenger Farm (Portland, Oregon), Fairview Gardens (Golita, California) and Prairie Crossing (Grayslake, Illinois). More recently, new community-based farms such as the Black Creek Community Farm in Toronto have been planned and are currently being launched.

The Delta Community-Based Farm District Plan – developed by Tara Moreau, Owner of Grow Moreau Consulting, and Kimberley Hodgson, Founder of Cultivating Healthy Places – provides an example of how a community-based farm can be developed in southern British Columbia.

What is community-based farming?

Community-based farming is the production, processing, distribution, and marketing of food and other products that cultivate direct connections between farmers and the adjacent community. Community-based farming:

  • Builds community through the interaction of people with the land;
  • Promotes small-scale, sustainable agriculture;
  • Protects and enhances natural habitat for wildlife;
  • Creates aesthetically pleasing landscapes, and;
  • Embraces the local and regional context.

Community-based farming generally occurs at a smaller-scale, allowing for a greater diversity of farm types; depends on cooperative government systems, such as shared facilities and equipment, for economic short-term feasibility and long-term viability; encourages interaction between farmers and residents; and provides economic activity through direct market sales neighborhood farmers markets and other supportive economic infrastructure.

The Delta Community-Based Farm District Plan

The Southlands property, a tract of land in the southeast quadrant of Tsawwassen in Delta, British Columbia, is currently owned by Century Group Lands Corporation. In October 2006, Century Group outlined a broad, sustainable land use vision for Southlands. To achieve this vision, Century Group’s proposal includes mixed-use development on 20% of the site, and agriculture, natural habitat, and recreation uses on the remaining 80%. This proposal dedicates 279.2 acres for agricultural uses.


The Delta Community-Based Farm District Plan illustrates how the agricultural area of the Southlands property can support the development of community-based farming over the next 30 years, by:

  • Identifying a 30 year vision and goals for community-based farming and related food system activities on the land;
  • Identifying and describing a diversity of community farm types that could be used to achieve the long-range vision and goals;
  • Proposing a potential governance and management structure for how to connect, coordinate, and manage the various farm types;
  • Exploring potential steps and estimated costs required for implementing the farm types; and
  • Exploring the potential economic, ecological and social benefits of the farm types to the immediate and surrounding communities.


The Delta Community-Based Farm District has the potential to provide a number of health, social, economic, and ecological benefits to Delta residents and surrounding communities, including: increased access to healthy food by increasing the production of a diverse range of fruits and vegetables; empowerment and mobilization of new farmers by providing access to land, education and farming communities; and ecological stewardship by ensuring that farmers meet specific sustainability standards.

An exploration of this specific scenario reveals significant economic benefits for Delta and its residents. These estimated annual benefits include over $2.39 million per year in net revenue for farmers, approximately 26 full-time jobs per year created, and $281,645 per year in net revenue for the proposed governing non-profit organization. Total net revenue for the 30-year time period would be approximately $2.8 million for the proposed governing non-profit organization. Startup costs for this scenario would be $1.9 million for farmers and $1.6 million for the governing entity.

This scenario demonstrates how such a community-based farming endeavor could be economically self-sufficient after only ten years of operation and serve as an innovative model for community-based farming in Metro Vancouver and beyond.

For more information about the Delta Community-Based Farm District Plan and to view a copy of the full plan, click here.

About the Authors

Tara Moreau, PhD. Dr. Moreau is a sustainable agriculture scientist. Over the past decade, her research has focused on the science, planning, and policy of sustainable food systems. As the sole proprietor of Grow Moreau, her expertise around climate change, urban agriculture and integrated pest management give her a diverse background into the implementation of sustainable agriculture and food systems.

Kimberley Hodgson, MURP, MS, AICP, RD. Hodgson is the founder of Cultivating Healthy Places, an international consulting business specializing in community health, social equity, and sustainable food systems planning. As a certified planner and health professional, her work focuses on conducting policy-relevant research and providing technical assistance to the public and private sectors related to the design and development of healthy, sustainable places.

PolicyLink Webinar: Equitable Strategies for Growing Urban Agriculture

PolicyLink held a webinar today, titled “Equitable Strategies for Growing Urban Agriculture.” This webinar highlighted the challenges and opportunities faced by communities to build support within city government and to develop effective strategies for advancing policy and fostering partnerships that promote urban agriculture.

Featured speakers included, Cultivating Healthy Places’ founder and principal consultant, Kimberley Hodgson, as well as Harry Rhodes from Growing Home in Chicago, and Jennifer Ly a Sustainability Associate with the City of Richmond.

Kimberley’s presentation provided an overview of promising policies across North America that support a variety of types and forms of urban agriculture. For a copy of Kimberley’s slides, click here, and to view a list of her current and past urban agriculture related work, click here. The webinar will be archived on PolicyLink’s website, under “Past Webinars”.

Potential for Urban Agriculture in Boston

What can 50 acres of underutilized, vacant property provide for the greater Boston region?

The Conservation Law Foundation published a new report – Growing Green: Measuring Benefits, Overcoming Barriers, and Nurturing Opportunities for Urban Agriculture in Boston – that explores the economic development potential, assesses the environmental and health co-benefits, and examines policy barriers to expanding food production in the Boston region.

Key findings of the report include:

  • Land is available. 50 acres – an area the size of Boston Common – is a small portion of the vacant or underutilized land available in Boston.
  • Urban farms would stimulate the economy by creating jobs. 50 acres of urban agriculture in Boston will likely generate at least 130 direct farming jobs and may generate over 200 jobs depending on actual business characteristics and revenue.
  • Healthy, local and affordable food. 50 acres in agricultural production would provide enough fresh produce to feed over 3,600 people over a six-month retail season. If the produce is used to prepare healthy school lunches in Boston Public Schools, 50 acres could provide more than one serving of fresh produce for each lunch served to a student eligible for free or reduced school lunch over a six month period. If 800 acres of potentially available City-owned land were put into agricultural production, the food needs of approximately 10 percent of Boston’s total population could be fully satisfied during a six-month retail season.
  • Significant environmental impacts. Urban agriculture in Boston will result in a net reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. 50 acres of properly managed soils would sequester about 114 tons of cabon dioxide (CO2) per year and may result in an additional CO2 reduction of up to 4,700 tons per year.

For more information, click here.

NYC Zoning Amendment to Accommodate Rooftop Agriculture

In built out cities, like San Francisco, Vancouver, Seattle and New York City, land is difficult to come by for urban agriculture. However, many cities are discovering an untapped resource: rooftops. In December, New York City’s Department of City Planning proposed a zoning amendment that would exclude urban agriculture operations, such as greenhouses, on commercial buildings from certain height and floor-area restrictions. On April 30, 2012, the New York City Council approved the Zone Green Text Amendment. The amendment allows greenhouses to be “exempt from floor area and height limits, provided that it is located on top of a building that does not contain residences or sleeping accommodations. These greenhouses must not exceed 25 feet in height, must set back six feet from the roof edge, and must include practical measures to limit water consumption.”

According to a recent study by the Urban Design Lab at Columbia University, there is over 3,000 acres of rooftop on commercial and industrial buildings in New York City that is potentially suitable for urban agriculture. For more information, visit the links below:

Reclaiming our Food Systems: Policy and Practice

BC Food Systems Network 14th Annual Gathering

Mark your calendars…this July 5-8, 2012, the BC Food Systems Network will be hosting their annual gathering at Camp Fircom on Gambier Island (just outside Vancouver, British Columbia). The focus of this annual gathering will be policy and practice. From workshops and presentations, to a wide range of structured and unstructured activities, the gathering aims to bring people together from across British Columbia, and beyond, to share and learn from one another about how to create healthy, more sustainable food systems.