Multisectoral and Transdisciplinary Coalition to Spearhead the Development of a Cohesive Network of Local Limited-resources Urban Community Farmers for Sustainable Agriculture Using the Capital City of Puerto Rico as Case Study

2016 Annual Report for LS14-263

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2014: $250,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2018
Grant Recipient: Metropolitan University
Region: Southern
State: Puerto Rico
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Maria Calixta Ortiz
Universidad Ana G. Méndez

Multisectoral and Transdisciplinary Coalition to Spearhead the Development of a Cohesive Network of Local Limited-resources Urban Community Farmers for Sustainable Agriculture Using the Capital City of Puerto Rico as Case Study


The Project Team (PT) started to work on September 2015. The project subaward was officially received from the Boyd Graduate Studies Research Center (GSRC), University of Georgia (University of Georgia Subaward No. RD309-129/S000729) on July 2015, even though the subaward states that the period of performance was supposed to start in April 1st 2015.  

After receiving the approved subaward on April 2015, between July and August 2015, we went through Universidad Metropolitana’s administrative processes to open the account for the project.  We also contacted the members of the PT, which included the Cooperating Farmers (CT), for a kickoff meeting; worked in a more detailed Project Work Plan (PWP) by quarters with milestones, and prepared all the needed contracts for the members of our PT, including the CF.

On September 2015, the PT was ready to start working on the proposal. During the first two quarter of the project –between September 2015 and March 2016 (6 months)– the PT successfully completed the following tasks according to the PWP:


  1. A more detailed PWP was discussed, edited and approved at the kick-off meeting on September 2015 with the PT, the CF and collaborators (including the Municipality of San Juan). Each subteam of researchers, based on the four main components of the project, adjusted their subplans based on the more detailed PWP for whole project.
  2. Two Systemwide Integration and Evaluation Meetings (SIEM) were held (the PWP establishes one SIEM per quarter) with the PT and the CF. The first one took place on December 16, 2015 and the other was held on March 14, 2016. In these meetings each subteam of researchers presented their reports for the corresponding quarter, based on the accomplished and agreed tasks per quarter. They also provided a written report. Furthermore, the project was also evaluated using and evaluation form with questions designed to provide the information needed to follow the Generic Logic Model for NIFA Reporting.
  3. The PT researchers obtained the required certifications for: Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR), the NIH’s “Protecting Human Research Participants”, and Research Aspects of HIPPA, as required by the Institute’s Internal Review Board (IRB).
  4. Literature review was conducted and shared via a Dropbox that was created for the project. More than 100 published sources were obtained and shared on the topic of the project and on related topics.
  5. An announcement was prepared and sent to the graduate students of the School of Environmental Affairs to get the project’s main Research Assistant. Interested students were interviewed and Eva Bayona was selected. Her thesis in Environmental Planning is related to planning for urban farming as small business opportunities within the challenges of an urban context.

Physical-Spatial & Land Use Analysis Component (PHSP Group)

  1. The first basic database for GIS was obtained from the Municipality. Included: green infrastructure, public properties, properties without use or abandoned (land and buildings).
  2. A meeting was held with the Municipality Planning Office on February 9, 2016. Key public officials from this office attended the meeting and agreed on a subplan for the physical-spatial and land use analysis. Eva Bayona, the Research Assistant, will work directly with the Municipality and the PI to collect data.
  3. The first preliminary list of urban farming initiatives in the Municipality was also obtained from the CF and the Municipality with information about location (ward and specific community), type of farming initiative, main contact, and web page, if any. Emphasis was given to farming initiatives within the two wards that are the case studies: Santurce and Río Piedras.
  4. A new list of planned sites for urban farming projects was also obtained from the Municipality based on partnerships that the Municipality already has with local communities for the future development of farming initiatives.
  5. A list of key food business in the Municipality started to be complied based on available data. The list focuses on those food businesses that already support local farmers and organic produce. A GIS layer will be developed from this data to integrate these businesses in the urban farming-food system.
  6. Discussion for the first list of criteria was initiated during the second quarter meeting:
  • Available and possible lands/buildings for the urban farming system based on the inventory provided by the local government.
  • Existing urban farming initiatives that are already operating.
  • The land ownership status.
  • Status with the Municipality. Any agreement/partnership?

Socioeconomic Development Component (SocioDev Group)

  1. Developed the first draft of the guiding questions for the focus groups of urban farmers to be reviewed by the CF and the rest of the PT. The SocioDev Group received feedback for this first draft from the CF and the PT, and prepared the final version. Two focus groups will be held. The first focus group exercise is planned to take place on May 4, 2014.
  2. Compile the first list of urban farming initiative with the Municipality and the PHSP Group for the focus groups.
  3. Started to compile a list of key intermediaries and potential buyers (e.g., food businesses) in the Municipality with the PHSP Group for interviews. Already sent to the PT for feedback the first draft of the questions for the interviews.

Community Participation and Capacity Building Component (Comm-Capacity Group)

  1. Worked with the SocioDev Group to develop the first draft of the guiding questions for the focus groups with urban farmers.
  2. The CF held the first meeting with the CO-PI of the Comm-Capacity Group on December 10, 2015 to review the IRB requirements. Also, to review the PWP and develop the subplan for the next CF meetings. Dates for the next meetings with the CF were included in the subplan until mid-year, 2016.
  3. In the original proposal the Comm-Capacity Group was scheduled to meet at least once every quarter to achieve the goal of this research component. The CF agreed with the CO-PI to meet at least once a month to carry-out the tasks assigned to the group. The scheduled monthly meetings are in their subplan.
  4. A second meeting was held on January 20, 2016 with the CF to review the draft of the guiding questions for the focus groups provided by the SocioDev Group to guarantee that the needs of the urban famers are included and for compliance with IRB.
  5. A third meeting was held on February 29 with the CF and the SocioDev Group to test with the CF the focus group guiding questions (a pre-test mini focus group with the CF), based on their feedback on the previous meeting.

Environmental Quality and Agricultural Technology (EQ-AgriTech Group)

 This group main tasks will start later on the project, by around the end of the fourth quarter of the PWP. So far, they have provided feedback on the PWP and the guiding questions for the focus groups.


Objectives/Performance Targets

The first objective of the project is to Construct a robust and easily replicable methodology for communities to support the different array of productive urban farmers -especially existing under-served or limited-resources and community-based farmers-, including criteria to identify available and apt properties that could be developed for a productive and environmentally restorative urban farming system in their jurisdictions.

  • We started to work towards achieving this first objective by obtaining the first basic database to start the physical-spatial/land use analysis using GIS: green infrastructure, public properties and abandoned or underutilized properties within the Municipality of San Juan. Special attention was given to the two wards that were selected as case studies: Río Piedras and Santurce.
  • We also obtained the first preliminary list of known urban farming initiatives in San Juan for the GIS database and started to work in the criteria for the urban farming system.
  • A list of food related business is being complied for the GIS database.

The second objective is to Define and address the local socioeconomic, political, and institutional framework that fosters or hinders urban farming from a supply and demand perspective.

  • We finished the guide for the questions for the focus groups with urban farmers with the feedback of the PT and the CF. The first focus group is planned for May 4, 2016.
  • The first draft of questions for the interviews with key intermediaries and potential buyers (e.g., food business) was finished and sent to the PT for feedback.

The third objective is to Identify and address local educational challenges and needs in order to ensure successful capacity building and stewardship to our main target farmers and the local jurisdictions.

  • We already held four meetings with the CF to work on a subplan for this objective and to get their feedback on the guiding questions for the focus groups with other urban farmers. Questions were designed to learn about their needs for capacity building. The last meeting was a pre-test with the CF to check the questions guide effectiveness for the focus groups.

The fourth objective is to Catalyze education through the development, publication, presentation, promotion and dissemination of a bilingual (English and Spanish) policy and practice toolbox for communities to be available to download from the web for education in formal and informal settings, and for adaptation in other jurisdictions in the United States and Latin America.

  • This goal will start to be addressed at the end of the second year of the Project.



  • All the PT researchers got the required certifications to do research with human subjects, as required by the Institution’s IRB.
  • The PHSP Group obtained the basic database needed to start working with the physical-spatial land use analysis using GIS.
  • The PHSP also compiled the first list of urban farming initiatives in San Juan for further research and suitability for the urban farming system, and started to evaluate the list of criteria to compile data for designing the system.
  • The SocioDev Group finalized the guiding questions for the focus groups with urban farmers to be held during the next quarter based on the feedback of the CF and the rest of the PT.
  • The Comm-Capacity Group has held four meetings with the CF to work on the subplan for the group based on the PWP. Also, to get the CF feedback on the questions guide for the planned focus groups with other urban farmers. Questions are geared toward learning about the capacity building needs of the main beneficiaries of our project.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

These are the first seven months of the project. Significant impacts and contributions/outcomes are expected after the first year, or year and a half of the project.



Dr. Tisha Muñoz-Erkson
Program Manager -PD
San Juan ULTRA
USDA-Forest Service, International Institute of Tropical Forestry (IITF)
1201 Calle Ceiba, Jardín Botánico Sur
San Juan, PR 00926-1119
Office Phone: 7877665335
Noelia Rosa-Jaime
Environmental Compliance and Planning Board Office
Municiaplity of San Juan
PO BOX 9024100
San Juan, PR 00902-4100
Office Phone: 7874803105