Creating a web-based tool to link farmers with institutional land-lease opportunities
IN 2013 PHS City Harvest staff, in conjunction with our website designer, populated the data for the website with resources and information for both Philadelphia farmers and a broader audience of farmers. In 2013 the website went live and both the GROWER RESOURCES section and the LAND RESOURCES section of the website are availble as links off the main page of the City Harvest website http://phsonline.org/greening/city-harvest.
In 2013 and early 2014 we continued outreach to a broad audience to alert private landholders and growers of the LAND RESOURCES portion of the website. In each of these cases SARE was recognized as our funder for the project. Speaking engagements where we introduced the new web tools included a conference for restauranteurs and food lovers called Les Dames d’Escoffier International, the Philadelphia Mayor’s Office 2013 Philly Rising Conference, and the the NOFA-NJ 2014 Winter Conference amongst others. In Fall 2013 PHS Green Scene magazine, also featured the Land Bulletin Board and asked interested members to list private land opportunities for growers as well as providing credit to SARE for funding the site. The circulation of this publication reaches 25,000 PHS members between the on-line and print versions.
Finally, PHS staff have continued to work with a subset of interested City Harvest growers who have kept good farm records to support work on creation of templates for farm business and tax structures that meet the needs of urban farmers. PHS staff have worked with growers and a subcommittee from the Wharton small business development center to help identify business templates. We are working with some tax experts to identify some basic tax guidance for different business structures.
To date we have completed much of the outreach about the new land link tools to a variety of audiences. However, to date private land owners have continued to use direct contact with PHS program staff and growers (word of mouth) as opposed to the land-link tool to let our City Harvest Growers know about land use opportunities. We will continue to encourage private landholders to post land use opportunities on our site, but one of the lessons we have learned is that to date landholders feel more comfortable discussing opportunities with PHS staff and growers directly. We are continuing to experiment with ways to attract them to post opportunities on-line.
PHS City Harvest staff have completed outreach about the land bulletin board and grower resources on at least four additional occasions since our 2012 report. We reached audiences of over 400 people with information about the land use tool and grower resources through in-person staff presentations. PHS membership audience of 25,000 members also learned about the web tools through the PHS Green Scene article.
PHS City Harvest staff have posted numerous workshops and local educational workshop opportunities on the site, and we have had some members of the public show up at workshops this past year because they found out about grower educational programs through the Grower Resources section of our web tool.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
To date the impact of our land-link tool has been with regard to information dissemmination. Local growers can now access information about our workshops and resources for the year on-line in one place. Soon we will be posting the 2014 educational opportunities on our site.
We also now have both local and national resources on-line for growers. We see part of the value of this tool as an opportunity to direct the growers we work with to national websites like SARE, ATTRA and NIFA. We will continue to develop and fill out some of the business and tax resources in early 2014.
Additionally, although we have not given up on the idea of a database that lists private land opportunities for growers, we have some documentation of the fact that private landholders seem to prefer in-person connections to a bulletin board. We will do another strong push for posting land on-line in the next few months, and then our final report will have the final numbers of growers who found land by word of mouth, versus on-line.
100 North 20th Street, 5th Floor
c/o PHS City Harvest
Philadelphia, PA 19103