Thursday, September 8, 2011

Urban Farming Resources from EPA

As part of their Brownfields Program, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released a number of documents looking at the connection between urban agriculture and brownfields (defined by the EPA as "real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or  contaminant.")

Recognizing the industrial history of many of our urban green spaces, it is important to know what is in your land before planting food in it.  Even to sink a shovel into the soil could release hazardous chemicals or fumes into the air - not something you want to be unprepared for!  The EPA offers a number of tools and best-practices for turning a former brownfield into a healthy community space - whether for community gardening, farmer's markets, or a composting site.  Check out the Brownfields and Urban Agriculture document for Safe Gardening Practices.

Implementing Urban Farms or Community Gardens on brownfield sites are a great way to increase neighborhood social connections, food access, safety and even property values.  The EPA worked with the Toledo Community Development Corporation to create an Urban Farm Business Plan Handbook which offers tools and support for the creation and implementation of an urban farm.  From mission and vision planning to operation and marketing strategies, the handbook and its accompanying worksheets offer step-by-step guidance to build your urban business.

In addition to the two specific resources I've mentioned, there are a number of other worksheets, resources and links available on the EPA Urban Agriculture website: