Public Lab Research note

Invitation to Gardeners and Farmers

by liz | February 07, 2013 21:32 07 Feb 21:32 | #5915 | #5915

January 2013

To the Community Gardens and Urban Farms of New York City:

Every year, our city’s gardens and farms generate a wealth of benefits for the eight million-plus New Yorkers living across the five boroughs. Working together, we create beautiful and inviting spaces for our friends and neighbors to relax and reconnect with a little slice of nature. We grow thousands of pounds of vegetables and fruits that help us all stay a little healthier. We produce compost, reuse rainwater, start up farmer’s markets, share our knowledge and bit by bit we make New York a more sustainable city. We help new generations discover the pleasure that comes from nurturing plants, growing food, and working alongside friends of all ages.

Despite all the good things that come out of our hundreds of gardens and farms, few New Yorkers truly understand the value we bring to the city. We sometimes struggle to precisely describe all the great things we do.

We’re writing to invite you to take part in a new initiative that will start to change all that. Five Borough Farm is an ongoing initiative that is helping farmers and gardeners, City officials, and other stakeholders understand and weigh the benefits of urban agriculture. Current efforts of the project aim to help farmers and gardeners measure the benefits that come out of their gardens, allowing them to tell meaningful stories about the value of their work. Throughout the 2013 growing season, we will work with a small team of top-notch gardeners to accomplish three basic goals:

  1. Creating a set of easy-to-use and inexpensive garden data collection tools;

  2. Collecting basic data about garden productivity and participation for one season; and

  3. Sharing the results of our work together with other gardeners and farmers.

We have a small stipend of $200 to support the time and effort you put into participating in Five Borough Farm this year. We also hope you’ll use the data you collect to tell funders, policymakers, and the general public about the good work you do, helping you access more support for your farm or garden in the years ahead.

Participants will represent a specific farm or garden in New York City and must have the support of their organization’s leadership to get involved. Our work together will include the following tasks:

  1. Participating in a one-day workshop in March 2013 [hosted in either Brooklyn or the Bronx]. The workshop will be a space for us to develop tools and methods to collect data about them number of pounds of food produced in our gardens and the number of hours people spend working there during the 2013 growing season.

  2. Field testing the tools and methods we develop in the workshop by collecting data in our farms and gardens throughout the 2013 growing season, with support from the Five Borough Farm team.

  3. Participating in bi-weekly “check-in” conference calls and optional monthly in-person meetings to discuss challenges and opportunities and get support from the Five Borough Farm team.

  4. Submitting the data you collect throughout the season to the Five Borough Farm team. By the end of the project, you will be able to access detailed reports that summarize the data you and others have collected with us. The reports will help you tell a story about the benefits your garden creates.

Five Borough Farm was launched in 2009 by the Design Trust for Public Space. It makes a compelling case for increasing resources—from soil to growing space to funding—to grow urban agriculture throughout the five boroughs of New York City. Phase I of Five Borough Farm resulted in a wideranging set of indicators aimed at revealing the benefits created by urban farms and gardens. Phase II continues our work alongside gardeners to develop methods for collecting data toward a limited set of key indicators that came out of Phase I. Both of us bring an extensive background in community gardening, grassroots advocacy, and participatory science projects.

If you are interested in participating in Five Borough Farm, please email with the following details:

Your full name, email, and phone number;

The name of the garden or farm you would represent;

A few sentences about your reasons for wanting to participate.

If you have any questions in the meantime, please feel free to email cbauer [at] designtrust [dot] org to learn more. We look forward to hearing from you and we hope you’ll consider participating in this groundbreaking effort to reveal the value of our farms and gardens in New York City.


Liz Barry & Philip Silva

Outreach Fellows

Five Borough Farm project.

Design Trust for Public Space.


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