- Crop Production: cover crops
- Education and Training: farmer to farmer
- Soil Management: composting, soil quality/health
- Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, urban agriculture
The Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) metroplex has some of the highest concentration of food deserts in the United States. These food deserts are characterized by limited access to fresh healthy food, low household incomes, limited economic opportunities, and limited access to transportation. Outward migration has also left high proportions of abandoned/vacant properties. Urban agriculture, particularly urban crop production provides a viable strategy for addressing food insecurity while helping to mitigate economic disparities through social entrepreneurship.
In recent years, several efforts have been initiated to support urban crop production in southeast Fort Worth – a major food desert in DFW. Grow Southeast - a cohort of community members and governmental agencies - provides site designs, resources and municipal navigation services to local urban farmers. The PI and his students have supported this effort by providing free whole-field soil analysis and assessment to support crop establishment. The service is undertaken as semester-long, experiential-learning projects in soil science and analytical techniques.
Conversations with local urban farmers, highlights three major barriers to continued sustainable urban farms in the resource-limited southeast Fort Worth area; 1) sustainable, low-cost soil amendment/management practices, 2) strategic marketing and business management practices, and 3) resources for identifying and developing a suitable site for an urban farm. The proposed project will address the identified barriers via four objectives and focused on tomatoes planted directly in the soil. Objectives are 1) mapping and rating current vacant lots in SE Fort Worth for urban crop production; 2) evaluating food-waste compost with a legume cover crop as low-cost sustainable soil amendment strategy; 3) evaluate a proposed 75: 25% (for-profit: non-profit) selling model in the context of social entrepreneurship and available local markets; 4) using the results from objectives 1 - 3 to develop outreach and training material to support peer-to-peer and community-based training for sustainable urban crop production in resource-limited areas.
Objective 1 will be accomplished via the development of an interactive map with vacant lots rated for urban crop production. Ratings will be based on zoning, land ordinances, estimated development cost for urban farming and type of urban farming enterprise. Objectives 2-4 will be executed in partnership with three current farmers. We will use a split-plot, randomized block design with bi-weekly-to-monthly on-farm soil health, crop growth, crop yield, water and nutrient assessments across treatments to assess soil amendments on each of the 3 farms (objective 2). We will utilize a human-centered design for the marketing, management and outreach scopes (covered by objectives 3 and 4) to evaluate current practices and then to inform best marketing and community-centered outreach strategies. For example, marketing research to achieve objective 3 will identify the available markets, fresh- and value-added tomato-based products needs in each market, and strategies for non-profit and for-profit sales in each market. Outreach and training efforts (objective 4) will be centered on the development of a toolkit for urban crop production in resource-limited areas. This toolkit will be designed to highlight resources and facilitate farmer- or community-led trainings across multiple media platforms.
Project objectives from proposal:
The proposed project will address farmer-identified barriers to sustainable tomato production on resource-limited urban farm (in the study area) via four specific objectives;
1) mapping and rating vacant lots in SE Fort Worth for urban crop production;
2) evaluating food-waste compost with a legume cover crop as low-cost sustainable soil amendment;
3) evaluate a proposed 75: 25% (for-profit: non-profit and visa-versa) selling model in the context of social entrepreneurship and available local markets;
4) using the results from objectives 1, 2 and 3 to develop outreach and training material to support peer-to-peer and community-based training for sustainable urban crop production in resource-limited areas.