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Basic Information about Brownfields and Urban Agriculture

Turning known and suspected brownfields,  vacant lots and abandoned structures into safe community gardens, farms and community supported agriculture benefits the property and neighborhood by removing environmental hazards and improving poor quality, compacted, potentially contaminated soils and creating more biologically diverse habitats and healthier soil that can filter storm water. Growing vegetables, fruits, flowers, herbs and spices can connect cultures and encourage healthy eating habits while teaching useful skills. Introducing communities to healthy local food varieties and choices can help improve public health and the environment. It also provides additional benefits such as:

Improve Local Skills

Community members can learn valuable skills in planning, project management, agriculture, horticulture, and environmental science. Growing food for local or farmer's markets can also teach business skills and provide additional income.

Protect the Environment

Using abandoned and vacant urban properties to develop safe community gardens or agriculture can reduce a neighborhood’s waste by reusing compostable waste to improve soil and reducing storm water runoff. Taking care of a vacant or abandoned property also has been found to discourage dumping of trash, building debris or other illegal wastes.   

Show Real Economic Benefits

Research studies on the value of creating community gardens in New York, NY shows that residential property values increased by as much as 9.5% in five years in low-income neighborhoods. Another study on creating parks and greenspace conducted in the New Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia, PA, showed that the improvement of vacant lots increased the residential property value of the neighborhood by 30%.

Promote Health and Physical Activity

Digging, moving soils, adding amendments, mixing, building, weeding, raking, pruning, watering, mulching, composting and harvesting are all potential activities needed to prepare and maintain a garden. Community gardens allow residents to meet, plan and build and improve an area through shared efforts. Gardening can also increase outdoor physical activity for urban residents, two-thirds of whom do not currently have access to a local park or open space for recreation.

Grow Community Connections

Community gardens, farmers markets and green space create beautiful benefits for neighborhoods by providing green space and habitat, gathering places, and new economic opportunities and social interactions.

Teach a New Generation

Community and school gardens can provide an active learning environment, and the satisfaction of producing something of value, fresh vegetables and fruits to eat. It also provides new ways to learn about nature, environmental science, math, nutrition and business, as well as a place for after school activity, community involvement, and civic pride. Gardens also provide new ways to interact with the natural environment.

Create an Oasis in Food Deserts

Gardens and urban agriculture can improve access to fresh, healthy foods. In many neighborhoods where there are no supermarkets, only canned or packaged material may be available from the small grocery and convenience stores.  This has prompted the expansion of farmer’s markets, mobile food trucks and other innovative approaches to improve fresh food access. USDA has developed the Local Food Directories website to link consumers to Farmer’s Markets, Community Support Agriculture (CSA), Food Hubs and On-Farm Markets.