The Design Trust for Public Space and Farming Concrete have released the Farming Concrete Data Collection Toolkit: the first public platform for gathering, tracking and understanding urban agriculture production and the benefits of community gardens, urban farms and school gardens. The result of a six-year initiative, Five Borough Farm, the Toolkit features a user-friendly manual with simple methods of generating and collecting data at each garden and farm, with accompanying instructional videos; Barn, an online portal for farmers and gardeners to input and track their production; and Mill, a public database providing access to numbers, reports for practitioners, researchers, policymakers, funders and anyone with interest in urban agriculture.
The project, lead by a core group of farmers and gardeners from New York City, includes twenty methods across five categories to measure gains in any farm or garden:
- Food Production, measured by (i) crop and (ii) harvest counts;
- Health Benefits, measured by (iii) changes in attitude, (iv) good moods, (v) healthy eating, and (vi) beauty of the garden;
- Social Benefits, measured by participation by (vii) geography, (viii) task and (ix) project, (x) skills & knowledge in the garden and (xi) sharing with other gardens, and (xii) reach of programs;
- Environmental Benefits, measured by landfill waste diversion by (xiii) weight or (xiv) volume, compost production by (xv) weight or (xvi) volume, and rainwater harvesting by (xvii) surface area or (xviii) volume;
- Economic Benefits, measured by (xix) market sales and (xx) food donations.
“There are now over 285 urban farms and community gardens in 43 cities nationwide and across the globe that contribute data to the Farming Concrete Data Collection Toolkit. So far 75,000 pounds of food have been harvested and 4,000 pounds of compost have been recorded. While numbers can’t possibly describe the immense value community gardens bring to neighborhoods, the Toolkit is a huge milestone in understanding the significance of these spaces,” said Farming Concrete Project Director Mara Gittleman.
"Urban agriculture crosses so many policy areas and environmental issues. There has been no data available to clearly understand the value of urban agriculture until now. Design Trust's work will advance how the government conceptualizes, prioritizes and supports the food system through urban agriculture citywide with funding, land, fencing, soil, compost and technical assistance. The Toolkit builds on the grassroots momentum that would help urban agriculture enthusiasts in tackling regulatory and financial challenges in New York City," said Design Trust Executive Director Susan Chin.