Creating a web-based tool to link farmers with institutional land-lease opportunities

Final Report for ONE12-166

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2012: $15,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
Lisa Mosca
Pennsylvania Horticultural Society
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Project Information

Summary:

Beginning farmers without a lot of capital and small scale urban producers often have trouble finding land in locations where land purchase prices and even regular lease costs are high. Our project created a land bulletin board for landowners, including private institutions like churches and hospitals with lawn space, to post land use opportunities. Our software engineer created the web-based tool after input from growers about what elements would be most valuable to know about in an on-line search. After much outreach and a year of the tool having an on-line presence, the resource section of the web-tool is getting used, but the bulletin board has not yet attracted land postings. Thus, 100% of the producers who attained land still did so by traditional means of learning about opportunities by word of mouth or gaining access to land by directly approaching land owners after identifying a parcel.

Introduction:

New and small scale farmers can benefit from innovative land access strategies, especially in locations where land purchase costs are high. Many institutions have lawn space with high maintenance costs and would be willing to support agricultural projects that would remove those maintenance costs while adding community benefit. The project manager facilitated meetings between a software engineer, and urban farmers to figure out what features would be most important for land holders to list on a web-based bulletin board.

In 2012 over sixty urban food producers were engaged by PHS City Harvest staff and computer consultant Matt McFarland in winter 2012 to brainstorm features for a land bulletin board. In 2013 the bulletin board was completed and project manager Lisa Mosca began outreach at PHS’s flower show, the Philly Rising conference, NOFA NJ Winter conference and a number of other speaking engagements with growers and those who might have land. PHS also published an article about the Bulletin Board and Resources in our Green Scene Magazine in Fall 2013 requesting that land owners post land opportunities. Unfortunately, to date, all City Harvest growers have continued to access their land through word of mouth and through searching their neighborhood for appropriate sites and contacting the owners. The project director continues to work to encourage land owners to post land opportunities.

Project Objectives:

We completed meetings to assess the best method for creating an on-line tool. Our software engineer used feedback from sixty or more urban farmers at our winter meeting to help design the elements of our land bulletin board.   Our engineer, Matt McFarland finished the on-line web-bulletin board and it is active at: http://phsonline.org/greening/city-harvest at the land resources tab which directs the viewer to: http://resource.phillygrown.org/land/. We shared the resulting tool through presentations at conferences and in grower outreach meetings, through university presentations, and through publications.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Matthew McFarland

Research

Materials and methods:

Project Director and software engineer hosted multiple meetings in which producers brainstormed elements for the tool and the software engineer asked probing questions and the group identified the most valuable elements to incorporate. The software engineer presented a pilot version to producers and PHS staff and after incorporating additional feedback the bulletin board was completed in Winter 2013 and web tool went live.

Research results and discussion:

The land bulletin board was created and went live in Winter 2013 after feedback from over sixty growers at multiple meetings. Project Director also created and populated the resource section of the bulletin board. This can be found under the grower resources tab at: http://resource.phillygrown.org/ .   The grower information is updated as often as possible, because it is not considered static. What we learned over time, is that despite a lot of outreach to landholders, they seem to be more comfortable being approached directly a potential site for use by an urban farmer, rather than by posting the opportunity on-line.

Research conclusions:

To date, despite outreach to over 25,000 people using multiple methods, we have not been successful in getting a landholder to post on the bulletin board. However, between 2012 and 2013 four growers who had been searching for land did find land, through word of mouth, through landholders who came through PHS programming and self-identified, and by directly approaching owners about a space.

Participation Summary

Education & Outreach Activities and Participation Summary

Participation Summary

Education/outreach description:

Once the website was live outreach by the project director about the web-based bulletin board occurred in the following ways:

  • March 2013 PHS Flower Show presentation and handout about the land bulletin board
  • Winter 2013 Report back to PHS City Harvest growers at our annual winter meeting discussing the tool and asking them to encourage people to post land opportunities
  • Late Summer/ Fall 2013 presentation at Philly Rising Outreach conference presentation with handout about land bulletin board
  • Fall 2013 Green Scene Magazine article on the land bulletin board (to an audience of 25,000 PHS members)
  • Winter 2014 NOFA-NJ Conference presentation on PHS City Harvest program in which project director discussed tool and handed out information on tool to audience as part of resource package
  • Spring 2014 Temple Engineering Class presentation on PHS City Harvest Program

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

We do not know the economic value of the tools provided to producers under the grower resource section. We know that at least some producers are using the tools made available at the site, because they have thanked us for the resources and have expressed that they like the site and found out new information. Since we had no postings on the bulletin board, we know the economic impact to date for the bulletin board is zero.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.