Urban Edge Agricultural Parks Toolkit (2005)

Project Client/Funders: United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Risk Management Agency

Project Partners: USDA Risk Management Agency, Agricultural and Land-Based Training Association, Bay Area Economics, Wallace, Roberts & Todd, LLC

The concept for Urban Edge Agricultural Parks stems from the simple idea that the most critical place to create common ground between urban and rural interests is in the interface: a place with the potential for a rich intermixing of urban and rural activities. The Urban Edge Agricultural Parks Toolkit introduces the components of the AgPark model in six units. It includes nuts-and-bolts information on site, natural resources, facilities, governance, public interaction and finances, as well as “real world examples” describing programs and strategies.

We live in a West that is far from wild. It’s been tamed by farms and contained by cities. The new frontier is within farms and cities and at their interface. On farms, expansion must take the form of stewardship of natural and human resources. For cities, growth must mean reinvestment. The urban-rural interface must become common ground, not battleground.

Small farmers have a difficult time finding affordable land, especially near metropolitan areas. They struggle to survive in an environment of competitive markets, depressed prices, rising input costs, increasing environmental degradation and regulation, and escalating land prices. Urbanization brings land-use conflicts, regulatory uncertainty, and the ‘impermanence syndrome’ of agriculture on the edge.

At the same time, urban areas are coping with a national crisis of diet-and exercise-related health problems. A dearth of fresh foods in low-income communities and insufficient access to parks and open space contribute to a host of social ills, from asthmatic school children to diabetic seniors. Clogged freeways, reduced air quality, and endangered eco-systems degrade quality of life. Daily, the environmental and economic costs of sprawl become less easy to hide.

These sets of rural and urban problems are inter-related. So are their potential solutions. Sustaining cities and sustaining their regional agriculture are part of a common effort. That’s a given. However, in this effort, the urban-rural interface is a contested zone where, increasingly, urban influence wins.

The solution posed in this Toolkit rethinks the common models and poses a new concept: the urban edge agricultural park. This concept stems from the simple idea that the most critical place to create common ground between urban and rural interests is in the interface between the two, on available land at the urban edge.

This region of interface is a place of creativity, ripe for new ideas. It is a place with the potential to be a rich intermixing of urban and rural activities. At an “AgPark,” nature trails, food production, and agricultural learning—a host of activities to address economic, health- related, educational and recreational needs—create multi-functional places that link urban residents and farmers for their mutual benefit.

This toolkit is intended for a primary audience of public agencies interested in the potential applicability of the AgParks models to lands within their jurisdiction. It was assumed that such readers would possess expertise in park functions and practices but would not be as familiar with agricultural operations. Therefore, the toolkit includes significant background information on agriculture, and includes information only on those aspects of parks which lend themselves to integration with agriculture.

Other audiences:

  • Organizations seeking solutions to land access and market needs for small farmers;
  • Private land owners and developers interested in assessing the AgParks model
  • Urban and rural community partners interested in fostering urban-rural linkages

This toolkit introduces the components of the AgPark model in six units: introduction, primer on small-scale agriculture, agriculture program, park program, design principles, and financial overview. Each unit builds upon the previous in a logical sequence, and is intended to guide agencies in assessing the applicability of the AgPark model and undertaking preliminary planning.

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