Pittsburgh has 30,000 “distressed” vacant lots among its 145,000 parcels. Roughly 6,000 of those are categorized by the URA as “push to green,” which means greenways, parklets, gardens or urban agriculture might be the best future use, says Nathan Clark, director of the URA’s real estate division.
By Sandra Tolliver
March 4, 2018
Americans want urban farms: A 2013 national study on urban agriculture found increasing popularity for urban farms among both residents and policy makers. Urban farmers are generally younger than the overall U.S. farming population, with an average age of 44.
But the Pittsburgh survey, although not finalized, found that access to land is a significant barrier for new farmers, particularly in urban or suburban areas, says Jon Burgess from the Allegheny County Conservation District, who co-chaired the Food Policy Council’s urban agriculture working group.
Access in the form of a long-term lease is the key to the multi-year process of starting a farm. With that in place, local agriculture would be able to take hold — an outcome that would benefit the city.
“It is essential for our region’s success that local agriculture expands as a vital part of our food system,” Burgess says, “and ‘resilience’ includes sourcing more of what we eat from local growers who use sustainable practices, and keeping those dollars in our local economy.”