Reclaiming, Restoring, and Cultivation of Land

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2014-08-14 14.08.57

The Urban Farming Institute (UFI) was created to respond to challenges faced by individuals who were passionate about growing their own food, and who would like to create an urban farming business.

Urban Farming is a “new industry” in cities, and UFI was formed to create model practices for land tenure, land preparation, cultivation, and land management. Unlike industrial Midwestern cities with large tracts of available land, Boston has a thriving urban core with small scattered plots of land. This makes Boston an excellent laboratory for urban farming in densely-built cities with small plots of available land.

For an urban farm to flourish, the farmer needs access to land and the farmer needs to know how to work the land. UFI will offer support to both aspects through its land activities and through its training programs.  Using urban land – for any purpose – requires various processes and approvals that can be daunting and costly for individuals.  By aggregating and honing expertise under a not-for-profit umbrella, UFI seeks to offer a support structure to small, independent urban farmers.

The initial focus in Boston is to develop the models and refine the processes. UFI will develop its expertise in Boston, working collaboratively with partners from across the country.  While each city is different in specifics, the overall process of developing land – for any purpose – is comparable from city to city.

UFI’s Approach

Much like the supportive housing movement, which was driven by service providers who saw the need for housing, urban farming is driven by growers who see the need for farms. Farmers bring exceptional farming and growing experience to the movement, and the information that is flowing is very much focused on the innovations of urban farming and agriculture.  See, for example, the following projects http://foodtank.org/news/2013/02/eight-innovations-in-urban-farming-in-the-united-states, which focus on information, growing, and promoting farms and food.  UFI will focus on the technical aspects of developing and holding land to secure the healthy future of urban farming in our cities.  UFI will be an organization comparable to housing intermediary organizations that will exist to streamline processes and aggregate expertise for urban farm creation.

UFI has the opportunity to create exemplary models of land practices for urban farming. There are excellent precedents that can be adapted from the lessons learned in the affordable housing movement of the last few decades about inclusive development practices, such as ownership models that protect affordability and management for neighborhood benefit.  UFI is a not-for-profit organization created to support urban farming; it is not itself an urban farmer.

Boston and UFI are poised to develop innovative systems and models. Boston does not regularly top the list of cities at the forefront of urban agriculture.  It is the mission of UFI to change this.

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UFI Land Committee

"The UFI Land Committee helps steward the mission of the Urban Farming Institute and assist with its work in neighborhood engagement to determine if urban farms are a good fit, acquisition of vacant parcels and development of urban farmland, and ongoing management and leasing of farms.

The committee is comprised of UFI board members, neighborhood residents and advocates, and community land use professionals."