A How-To-Guide for the Urban, Micro-Agricultural Entrepreneur: For Aspiring Farmers in Low-income, urban, neighborhoods.

Project Overview

Project Type: Sustainable Community Innovation
Funds awarded in 2012: $14,967.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
Laura Thornton
Sustainable Urban Development, Inc.


Not commodity specific


  • Education and Training: networking, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, budgets/cost and returns, farm-to-institution, whole farm planning
  • Production Systems: permaculture
  • Soil Management: soil analysis, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: community planning, leadership development, local and regional food systems, partnerships, urban agriculture, urban/rural integration, community services, employment opportunities, social capital, social networks, sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    Our project will create a How-To-Guide for the Urban, Micro-Agricultural Entrepreneur in the low-income, urban, neighborhood of Haddington, located in West Philadelphia. Our project will consist of six classes that will each elaborate on one another, targeted at aspiring farmers from the community who wish to acquire vacant lots to create micro-agriculture for profit, as supplemental income. Guided by the expertise of project leader Laura Thornton, this program will allow community members an opportunity for education and knowledge of how to start a small business in agriculture in an urban area. The end of the course will distribute the curriculum distributed in a how-to-guide for participants. Local, urban produce is an untapped market in low-income neighborhoods. It is a practical way to create jobs, clean up our vacant lots and boost the local economy.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    We will develop a curriculum to teach local, entrepreneurs from low-income neighborhoods in West Philadelphia how to start a micro-agriculture farm on vacant lots. The final product will be showcased through a how-to-guide created by the curriculum developer Laura Thornton. Step one: West Philadelphia Community Meeting, Class 1 This will be advertised through the block captains. Each street in West Philadelphia has a block captain, and granted funds or not, we will begin to help local entrepreneurs in the process to acquire land and begin their small urban agriculture business. This first step will give us a chance to meet the entrepreneurs who want to participate. This will be advertised in The West Side Weekly, through word of mouth, and signs throughout the neighborhoods. At this meeting we will explain the goals of the program: How to start your own micro-urban-farm business and the dates for the classes will be set. Step Two: Acquisition of vacant lot, or lease- Class 2 This class will explain the different methods for acquiring vacant lots in West Philadelphia. We will support our community members by helping them with access to the Internet and file paperwork for this step. We will also provide information about potential contaminants in soils of vacant lots and about the importance of working with the appropriate organizations to assure food and working safety. Step Three: Discussing the start-up costs- Class 3 This class will explain the different methods for gaining investments or loans for the start up of the farming. It will briefly discuss our farming methodology, but will mostly go over budget and practices of acquire the appropriate funds. Within this class, we will discuss materials required to run a successful program, including the cost of obtaining a soil test. Step Four: How to farm: Planting, growing, maintaining and harvesting crops - Class 4 This class will explain our method for planting, growing, maintaining and harvesting crops. It will focus mostly on how to get the highest and most efficient yield for small-scale, urban farming using the Square Foot Gardening, raised beds technique that we have used in the past. It will also showcase vertical farming, a new practice to bring larger scale farming to smaller spaces. Additionally, we will provide accurate information on how to obtain a soil sample, and where to send your soil to be tested. This will also include how to continue testing your soil and produce. Step Five: How to sell your produce - Class 5 This class will explain how and where to sell your produce in Philadelphia, locally. This will be an important and mandatory class. It will show the different ways to sell produce to local stores, restaurants and farmers markets. It will determine specifically how to profit the urban micro-agricultural farm. Step 6: Final comments, questions and wrapping up the course - Class 6 During these classes, our media coordinator will be video-taping to supplement the materials distributed. This will be used for future reference, for those participating in the program to re-watch online so no content is missed during class time. This will also be a great way to replicate the program in the future in other neighborhoods. In this class, we will also ask students to take a test based on the information they have acquired throughout this program to rate their knowledge and ability to apply that knowledge towards their future projects. This program will go much further than just assisting the local farming entrepreneur. Once we have carefully measured the success of the project, we will begin an outreach process to further expand upon our original program. One of the goals of the curriculum is to make it viable to replicate it in other communities to continue to assist young farming entrepreneurs in low-income neighborhoods. Before we teach the curriculum to our farmers, we will ask them if they are successful to commit to a workshop in the future to help benefit other farmers. We will create a forum, where future farmers can ask questions about the viability of the program, successful techniques and practices and any other questions they may have about starting a micro-agricultural farm. To build up to this workshop, we will distribute news releases to local papers and media, advertise on our website www.SustainableUrbanDevelopment.org and publish abstracts of our materials (ie. Brochures, the curriculum, etc) on our website to give those interested a sample of what to expect through the program, and help create questions for the forum. The most important piece will be connecting with other Non-profits, or community development corporations in other low-income neighborhoods to help assist their community members aspiring to bring urban farming to their neighborhood, with help of our curriculum. It is important to be sensitive to community groups established in other neighborhoods to set the tone for an accepted local farming community.

    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.