The Five Borough Farm team interviewed representatives from four key groups of urban agriculture stakeholders: farmers and gardeners, support organizations, funders, and government officials.
Urban Farmers and Gardeners
Individuals who produce food for personal or community consumption, often as part of a broader set of community development goals. New York City’s farmers and gardeners are extremely diverse, with many different types of organizations, funding sources, and demographics.
“These gardens and these urban farms—people don’t understand the impact they have on community…we are a community resource center.”
- Community Gardener
Are non-governmental organizations that provide training, materials, and funding to gardeners and farmers; conduct research and outreach; and encourage elected officials and city agency staff members to develop policies and programs that support urban agriculture. The work of support organizations falls largely into these categories: provide technical assistance and training for farmers and gardeners, offer funding and resources for programs and site improvements, conduct advocacy and policy work, offer environmental education services, advocate and facilitate systems to increase the quantity of food grown, marketed, and distributed in the city, and organize networking and outreach events for urban farmers and gardeners.
"Our work runs the gamut: doing rainwater harvesting, lending tools to garden projects, plant sales. There is very little we don't do in terms of working with community gardens."
– Support Organization
Are private foundations that support urban agriculture and/or urban food systems programs. More than a dozen foundations actively fund urban farmers, gardeners, and support organizations in New York City, and interest in urban agriculture is growing within the philanthropic community. The funders interviewed for this project provide technical assistance and funding for specific programs, capacity building, and serving as a liaision to other funders.
"We want to grow with an organization, we want to invest in them over time, we want to help them build their internal capacity so that again they are invested in the community's improvement, they're invested in uplifting the entire community."
Officials at numerous federal, state, and local government agencies are involved in making urban agriculture possible in New York City, even if individual departments, or programs within departments, do not include urban agriculture as an explicit part of their mission. Government agencies provide equipment and supplies, from lumber to compost; contract with urban agriculture organizations that provide programs and technical assistance; or directly offer technical assistance, logistical support, and construction and maintenance help.
"We are committed to promoting community gardens and other forms of urban agriculture. We recognize the important role they serve in building communities, supporting local cultural heritage, and bringing individuals together around the vital issue of access to healthy food."
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) funds urban agriculture research and program development.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds the GreenThumb program, a division of the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, through its disbursement of community development block grants
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides programs and technical assistance to transform land with contaminated soils into safe sites for growing food.
New York State Agencies
The Department of Agriculture and Markets works to grow the state's food and agriculture industry. The agency supports programs to assist community gardens, enable low-income New Yorkers to purchase food from farmers markets, increase market demand for New York State food, and build the infrastructure needed by agricultural producers throughout the state. Its district office in Brooklyn supports the development of urban agriculture.
Cornell Cooperative Extension, funded through a federal, state, and local government partnership provides training in horticulture and ecology.
Department of Environmental Conservation and the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation have provided funding for urban agriculture.
New York City Agencies
The Department of Parks & Recreation (Parks) runs GreenThumb, a program that licenses the community gardens located on city property, offers technical assistance, suppliers a number of different material resources, and provides labor to help clear vacant lots for new gardens.
The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) has a program manager and several staff who focus on supporting an extensive community gardening program with some 600 gardens on Housing Authority sites, including 245 that produce food.
The Department of Education hosts an estimated 289 gardens on school property. The department's SchoolFood division, in cooperation with the nonprofit organization GrowNYC, supports the Garden to School Cafe program, which uses produce grown in school gardens in school lunches.
Several other city agencies, including the Departments of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), Education, Transportation (DOT), and Corrections control city property on which individuals are growing food.
The Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability is involved in strategic planning that includes open space and food production.
The Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) is responsible for all city-owned properties. Local Law 48 requires DCAS to publish a list of all city-owned properties that are suitable for urban agriculture.
The Food Policy Coordinator is responsible for improving food quality served by agencies and access to healthy food throughout New York City.
The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is responsible for increasing the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables in underserved neighborhoods and encouraging New Yorkers to increase their consumption of fruits and vegetables.
The Department of Sanitation (DSNY) funds community-based composting programs and has offered leaf and yard waste compost to gardens and farms. DSNY also provides assistance clearing vacant lots that are being turned into community gardens.
The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which runs the city's water and sewer infrastructure, has adopted a green infrastructure plan that provides financial support to increase permeable surfaces, including community and rooftop gardens, that stem the flow of stormwater into the city's sewage system, including community and rooftop gardens.
The Department of City Planning (DCP) addresses the land use rules that govern where urban gardens, farms, markets, and other facilities can be located.
The Department of Buildings (DOB) issues building permits for installations such as green roofs.
The New York City School Construction Authority, which builds and renovates schools, has been involved in building greenhouses and other growing facilities on school property.
New York City Elected Officials
Council Members and the Mayor are involved in enacting and carrying out urban agriculture policies, such as the initiatives outlined in the City Council Speaker's FoodWorks 2010 policy plan, including the specific local laws and resolutions that put those proposed initiatives into practice. The Borough Presidents and City Council members also have discretionary funds that they use to provide operating funds to urban agriculture programs and capital funds for garden and farm infrastructure. Finally, the City Council has oversight responsibilities to ensure that programs are carried out effectively and that proposed program budgets are adequate.