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 continue working during 2016-2017 according to terms and conditions and the overall project work plan (PWP). On September 9, 2016, the subrecipient Universidad Metropoliatna petitioned an amendment to the Research Subaward Agreement to change the Principal Investigator from María Juncos to Dr. María Ortiz. The amendment was approved on September 23, 2016 by the University of Georgia. The new PI submitted a PI name amendment in the IRB research protocol that was approved on October 11, 2016. During 2nd year period (2016-2017), the Institutional Review Board (IRB) of the Sistema Ana G. Méndez has approved three (3) amendments of the research methods (farmer’s interviews on May 31, 2016; focus group on June 17, 2016; and general population survey & renewal of the new year of research on December 9, 2016). All amendments were approved Expedited under the number 01-529-15. All tasks performed incorporated the input of four (4) components, especially with Cooperating Farmers (CF), as part of the Community Participation and Capacity Development Component (CPCDC). At this point, the project team has established baseline information upon farmers’ interviews, key intermediaries and potential buyers’ interviews, and general population survey to optimize urban agriculture. We have developed Macro Spatial Criteria for the selection of urban garden plots in the Municipality of San Juan. As a result of the spatial analysis of green spaces at the study area, and site visits to 98 potential sites, the Physical component team developed the final map with eleven (11) final plots selected following criteria developed by farmers. As preliminary benefits for urban farmers, we have established a learning community among students, planners and farmers. Additionally, this project has conducted to the reactivation of the Network of Urban Gardens in San Juan, where two of our collaborating farmers were appointed as coordinator and sub-coordinator of the Network.
Systemwide Integration and Evaluation Meetings: During 2nd year of the project, four (4) integration meetings were held with all the components of the Project Team (June 15, 2016; September 8, 2016; December 16, 2016; March 15, 2017). In these quarter meetings each subteam of researchers presented their reports for the corresponding period, 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.
Socio-economic Development component: Farmers and business interviews, as well as general public survey were managed according to the protocol (01-529-15) approved by the Institutional Review Board at Ana G. Méndez University System. Success in this approval was due to the excellent feedback from all team project group that was incorporated in each research instrument.
- a. A total of 15 urban farmers of the Municipality of San Juan participated in the interviews: five of these participated in the focus group and the remaining 10 were interviewed in person. Urban gardens included: Huerto Comunitario Cosechemos, Huerto Semilla, Huertos del Pilar, Huerto el Batey de Chiclana, Zona Acuapónica, Bucaré Urban Garden, Huerto Bohío, Huerto Buena Vista Hato Rey, Huerto Comunitario Israel y Bitumul, Huerto Finca Escuela de La Perla, Huerto Vivero Bosque Urbano de Capetillo, Tras Talleres, Las Monjas, Bravos de Boston, and Vivero El Gandul.
- b. A total of 11 interviews were conducted to business and distributors to know their willingness to buy products harvested by urban farmers in San Juan. These were: Cooperativa Orgánica Madre Tierra, Donde Sea -Food Truck, Frutos del Guacabo, La Buena Mesa de Oscar, O MRKT/Agropónicos de Puerto Rico, Verde Mesa, Hotel Verdanza, La Jaquita Baya, Tostado, La Ostra Cosa, and Santaella.
- c. A total of 492 participants from the general community answered the Web based survey (IRB approved December 9, 2016). The web survey was programmed and distributed by email and using social media such as Facebook and Instagram. It was originally distributed by more than 12 key organizations, institutions and community groups. However, the use of social media allowed its wide distribution. The survey was available from January 11 to February 28, 2017. Its purpose was to establish baseline information of existing and potential consumers demand based on perceptions, behavior, preferences and socioeconomic profile. Currently, Co-Pi is doing data processing, and descriptive analysis.
- d. Oral presentations on preliminary results of interviews and focus group were discussed with all members of the team group, but especially with the Community Participation and Capacity Building Component: on November 7, 2016- Preliminary results of interviews of urban farmer; and on November 21, 2016- Preliminary results of interviews of businesses.
- e. Assessment of the political, regulatory and academic framework: A question guide and potential interviewees from local agencies and institutions (municipal and Commonwealth agencies related to the agricultural sector in terms of regulations, permit process, incentives, among other as well as related federal agencies) was developed with the input of the members of the Community Participation and Capacity Building Component. The guide was submitted for final approval.
Community Participation and capacity Building Component (CPCBC): CPCBC is a key team to give feedback to other team components. They worked together with the SocioDev Group to guarantee that the needs of the urban famers are included in the three (3) main research instruments (interviews, focus group and web-based survey questionnaire). As well, they worked with Physical-Spatial & Land Use Analysis Component (PHSP) Group to discuss macro spatial criteria to select potential plots for urban gardens. The CPCBC met at least once every month to achieve the goal of this research component.
CPCBC group held 20 meetings during 2nd year period (April 4, and 13, 2016; May 2, 23, and 26; June 6; August 8, and 22; September 5, and 19; October 17, and 24; November 7, and 21; January 25, 2017; February 9, 20, and 23; March 6, and 20). The main tasks performed during this period were:
a. Reviewed the questionnaire for general public to establish baseline information of existing and potential consumers demand based on perceptions, behavior, preferences and socioeconomic profile.
b. Discussed from a garden to business challenges including the preparation of an invoicing workshop and an accounting workshop.
c. Developed and reviewed the Macro Spatial Criteria for Urban Garden Plot Selection (including two additional meetings for site visits). There are eleven (11) criteria based on literature review and the experience of the two agricultural entrepreneurs with years of experience (an agronomist and an engineer). The eleven macro spatial criteria were: (1) ownership, (2) land area, (3) soil type/impermeability, (4) land slope, (5) water access, (6) security, (7) solar illumination, (8) conflict uses, (9) vehicular access (10) desired attributes, such as high density spaces, and (11) non-desired attributes, such as nearby industries with atmospheric contamination.
d. Collaborated in IRB amendments for web-based survey.
e. Reviewed the guiding questions to assess the political, regulatory and academic framework from local agencies and institutions related to the agricultural sector to guarantee that the needs of the urban famers are included.
f. Restaurant business and entrepreneurs interview guide revision.
g. Focus group and community garden interviews support.
h. To maximize the process of interviews with the different offices of the Municipality of San Juan, an extensive literature review was conducted to explore the role played by local governments in other jurisdictions in strengthening urban agriculture as a socioeconomic activity. Fourteen cities in Latin America and the USA were revised.
I. Revitalized the Metro Area Community Garden Network (two general public meetings and three work meetings).
j. Prepared Community Participation Outline for Urban Agriculture Guide.
Physical-Spatial & Land Use Analysis Component (PHSP Group): This component is one of the most challenged due to the nature of volunteering tasks assigned to the Planning and Territory division of the Municipality of San Juan (collaborator stakeholder). Spatial analysis is highly technical and implies high value remuneration that was not included in the budget. An important meeting was held at the Municipality of San Juan (November 1st, 2016) to discuss the difficulties creating a layer map for the project considering the eleven macro spatial criteria to select potential green plots for urban gardens.
Baseline Map: Recognizing that the geographic analysis of potential green plots in the study area would be a huge endeavor, we recruited seven (7) graduate students of School of Environmental Affairs as volunteers to work over spatial analysis at the Geographic Information System Laboratory of the Universidad Metropolitana. Under the instruction of planner David Carrasquillo of the Municipality of San Juan, the students met during three hours, one day a week, during six weeks of November to December 2016 to produce a baseline map. The map pointed out green plots with the following criteria: ≥ 600 m2, ≤ 70% built (built environment); not declared as public nuisance; no national reserves or parks, and no river buffer zone. The baseline map had 98 potential green lots, cadastral information, landowner and number of meters in the lot.
Site visits validation: The research assistant and the farmers visited the 98 sites to validate macro spatial criteria as potential urban gardens. Pictures and site information was collected for each plot visited. All plots information was put into a rubric with the 11 macro spatial criteria and a value for each one: (1) for potential (0) for non-potential. Each lot was assessed according to features and totalized to be classified according to punctuations: Excellent (10-9 points); Very good (8-7 points); Good (6-5 points) and Poor (1-4 points).
Plots selection and final map: At the 6th quarterly meeting (March 15, 2017), the project team assessed plots with highest punctuations, discussing attributes for urban gardens. From, the total of those with the highest punctuations, we selected eleven (11) best plots that will be assessed by the Environmental Quality and Agricultural Technology (EQ-AgriTech Group). Lastly, we developed the final map with the green lots identified and several layers of information in the study area.
Environmental Quality and Agricultural Technology (EQ-AgriTech Group): Once the PHSP Group finished previous products needed, we activated the EQ-AgriTech Group on March 2017. An announcement was developed and sent to graduate students of the School of Environmental Affairs in order to interview candidates for the selection of two Field Research Assistants under this component. The selected students were: William Guzmán Morales and Alberto PM. Panisse Zayas. The Co-Pi Qintín De Jesús was contracted to begin the process of Environmental Quality assessments on plots previously selected.
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 developed and validated the Macro Spatial Criteria for Urban Garden Plot Selection. Criteria are the following: (1) ownership, (2) land area, (3) soil type/impermeability, (4) land slope, (5) water access, (6) security, (7) solar illumination, (8) conflict uses, (9) vehicular access (10) desired attributes, such as high density spaces, and (11) non-desired attributes, such as nearby industries with atmospheric contamination.
- We visited 98 potential green sites in the study area to validate Criteria for the urban farming system.
- We developed a rubric and assessed the eleven Criteria for each of the 98 sites.
- We developed the final map with the green lots identified and several layers of information in the study area. The method was using physical-spatial/land use analysis using GIS: green infrastructure, public properties and abandoned or underutilized properties within the Municipality of San Juan, specially the case studies: Río Piedras and Santurce.
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 interviews to the focus groups with urban farmers; the interviews with key intermediaries and potential buyers (e.g., food business), as well as the survey to the general public producing baseline information on the socio-economic environment of urban farmers at the Municipality of San Juan, giving attention to Río Piedras and Santurce.
- We finished the question guide and the list of contacts in each office to assess the political, and institutional framework that fosters or hinders urban farming from a supply and demand perspective.
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.
- Cooperative farmers worked together giving feedback on the guiding questions of the four (4) research instruments: (1) focus group of urban farmers; (2) interviews for key intermediaries and potential buyers (e.g., food business), (3) survey for the general public, and (4) guiding question for the political, and institutional framework that fosters or hinders urban farming.
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 task started with a brainstorming in January 2017, when all the sub teams produced the first draft of the desired content for the Urban Agriculture Guide. All the ideas were integrated in one document that was shared among the members to be further discussed according objectives. The Guide will be the final product in the third year of the project.
- The Comm-Capacity Group gave feedback to each research instrument developed by the SocioDev Group considering the capacity building needs of the main beneficiaries of our project.
- All research instruments for the SocioDev Group were approved by Institution’s IRB compliance office. The new protocol for 2017 year also was approved.
- The SocioDev Group finalized the interviews to the focus groups with urban farmers; the interviews with key intermediaries and potential buyers (e.g., food business), as well as the survey to the general public producing baseline information on the socio-economic environment of urban farmers at the Municipality of San Juan.
- The Comm-Capacity Group developed the Macro Spatial Criteria for the selection of potential green spaces in the study area.
- The PHSP Group completed the physical-spatial land use analysis using GIS for the study area, as well as 98 site visits to validate macro spatial criteria.
- The PHSP Group developed a final map with eleven (11) potential green lots for urban gardening system.
- The EQ-AgriTech Group started their tasks; we recruited two research assistants to assess the environmental quality of the potential green sites selected.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
During the second year of the project, we have established a learning community among students of the Universidad Metropolitana, planners and the farmers of the Municipality of San Juan. Additionally, the project has baseline information on urban farmer system in San Juan. Moreover, this project conducted to the reactivation of the Network of Urban Gardens in San Juan, where two of our collaborating farmers were appointed as coordinator and sub-coordinator of the Network. Finally, our project has developed the first urban agricultural fair denominated Food at 0 Kilometers to be held on April 26, 2017, at Universidad Metropolitana to share project results and urban agricultural knowledge between participants, and make connections with farmers, agronomists, teachers and students interested in urban farming system.
Environmental Compliance and Planning Board Office
Municiaplity of San Juan
PO BOX 9024100
San Juan, PR 00902-4100
Office Phone: 7874803105