Last week Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack released a new “Urban Agriculture Toolkit” for urban farmers and agricultural entrepreneurs. The online resource was created by the USDA’s Know Your Farmer team and a number of partners to help urban and small farms access and navigate more than 70 resources, providing useful information on everything from land access and creating infrastructure to production strategies and applying for grants. University extension service partners in Chicago and Indianapolis even developed cost estimates for starting urban farms and the toolkit includes information on best practices and checklists for new outdoor or indoor operations.
“Urban agriculture helps strengthen the health and social fabric of communities while creating economic opportunities for farmers and neighborhoods,” Vilsack said. “USDA’s Urban Agriculture Toolkit compiles guidance from our Know Your Farmer team and many private partners into one comprehensive resource to help small-scale producers manage all aspects of their business. From protecting soil health to marketing to schools and grocery store chains, USDA has tools to meet the needs of this new breed of innovative urban farmer and small business owner.”
Some of the USDA resources featured in the Toolkit include:
- Natural Resources Conservation Service technical and financial assistance for drip irrigation and seasonal high tunnels to extend the growing season.
- Farm Services Agency microloans that provide up to $50,000 in financing for equipment, working capital or other expenses.
- Food and Nutrition Service assistance to help urban farmers become authorized to accept SNAP, WIC and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program benefit cards.
- Agricultural Marketing Service Farmers Market Promotion Program grants that support direct-to-consumer marketing activities in cities, and Local Food Promotion Program grants that support food hubs, farm-to-retail, and related projects.
- National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program support for field trials in urban settings and urban farm planning and marketing guides.
The Urban Agriculture Toolkit is available to download as a PDF from the USDA website. As a side note, we were excited to see LET um EAT Collective member Stacey Givens of The Side Yard Farm & Kitchen featured in the main photo on the Urban Agriculture Toolkit website! Stacey is an incredible farmer and chef in Portland, OR and is a great example of someone creating community, opportunity and good food in an urban environment.