When looking to start urban agriculture programs, organizations should be wary of planning only on their own. Community members are a great source of information for deciding how and where a garden or other agriculture approach would be successful. Plus, involving the community upfront increases buy in and helps to ensure they stay engaged in the long run. 

As Ethan Neal, food systems manager at Pillsbury United Communities, mentioned in his Snapshots presentation at the 2019 Alliance National Conference, what works in one community may not work in others. Pillsbury is working with neighborhoods throughout Minneapolis to develop customized urban agricultural strategies that reflect their unique culture, needs and preferences. For example:

  • In South Minneapolis. The Waite House, serving a large Native American population, prioritizes sage, sweetgrass, tobacco, other native plant medicinals, vegetables, and fruits
  • In Near North Side Neighborhood. The Oak Park Farm, serving a large African-American population, prioritizes collards, melons, strawberries, turnips, cucumbers, tomatoes, mixed greens, beans, broccoli, radish, kohlrabi, cabbage, carrots, and beets
  • In Cedar-Riverside Neighborhood. The Brian Coyle Farm, serving a large Somalian population, leverages an east African technique; in this “keyhole bed” approach, composting occurs in the middle of the garden plot

There are a variety of community engagement approaches that can be used to gather needed information. One proven tool is appreciative inquiry, which includes interviewing others and asking questions that focus on individuals’ strengths and aspirations, rather than on weaknesses, in order to uncover the best in people and communities. In her 2018 Snapshot, Jane Bavineau of BakerRipley in Houston shared her experiences with this approach and how, much to her surprise, she became a believer. Watch the video: A Skeptic’s Guide to Appreciative Inquiry.

To learn more about how to partner with your community to make your urban agriculture efforts successful, including more tips and examples, download the new Maximizing Urban Agriculture to Increase Community Health and Wellness Toolkit.

The Alliance and longtime partner Aramark partnered with urban agriculture experts BakerRipley and Pillsbury United Communities to develop this resource.

From Healthy Food to Healthy Lifestyles

As you think about ways to improve access to healthy foods, enhance your current community health and wellness program or start one by becoming a Healthy for Life facilitator. Free registration offers access to the Healthy for Life Educational Experiences, an evidence-based community nutrition and well-being program that empowers people to make healthy food, nutrition, and lifestyle choices. The complete, ready-to-use program includes a curriculum, facilitator guides, videos, and more. 

Watch Ethan Neal's Snapshots presentation from the 2019 Alliance National Conference to learn more about Pillsbury United Communities urban agriculture initiative.