Started by gardeners in 2009, Farming Concrete is an open, community-based research project to measure how much food is grown in community gardens and urban farms. Farming Concrete is fiscally sponsored by the Open Space Institute, Inc., as part of their Citizen Action Program.
Between 2009-2012, Farming Concrete provided approximately 200 free scales, record keeping materials, training, and customized reports to New York City gardeners, who recorded harvests through their online platform. Farming Concrete’s 2012 Harvest Report revealed the yield of more than 195 crop varieties from the data of 106 gardeners across the city.
Farming Concrete is now dedicated to expanding its support to gardeners and farmers across the world by using more comprehensive data collection tools available on this website.
Design Trust for Public Space
The Design Trust for Public Space is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the future of public space in New York City. Their projects bring together city agencies, community groups, and private sector experts to make a lasting impact—through design—on how New Yorkers live, work, and play. The Design Trust’s work can be seen, felt, and experienced throughout all five boroughs—from parks and plazas to streets and public buildings.
Five Borough Farm Project
In 2009, the Design Trust issued an open call for projects to improve public space in New York City, and selected nonprofit organization Added Value’s proposal to demonstrate the value of urban agriculture and encourage the creation of new farms. In 2012 the collaborative project, known as Five Borough Farm, established policy recommendations and a framework to measure the broad range of activities happening at the city’s farms and gardens in a 169-page book, Five Borough Farm: Seeding the Future of Urban Agriculture in New York City.
The Design Trust established a partnership with the NYC Parks Department in Phase II, to develop strategies for expanding and improving urban farming and gardening in the city, and to implement several project policy recommendations, such as increase access to land, soil and compost, and funding. The Design Trust also collaborated with Farming Concrete to develop a robust set of tools and methods for data collection. In 2014, the Design Trust published a 147-page book Five Borough Farm II: Growing the Benefits of Urban Agriculture in New York City.
The third phase of the Five Borough Farm project culminated in the Farming Concrete Data Collection Toolkit and this website, a multi-media platform for farmers and gardeners to measure their output to showcase the benefits of their work. Design Trust Fellows worked with farmers, gardeners, and policymakers to hone the data collection toolkit and to expand its reach.
Our Collaboration – the Farming Concrete Data Collection Toolkit:
The Five Borough Farm project discovered that reliable and consistent metrics documenting the benefits of urban agriculture did not exist in New York City and across the country. Design Trust and Farming Concrete co-developed the first comprehensive Farming Concrete Data Collection Toolkit with farmers and gardeners to fill the need for urban agriculture data nationwide. Design Trust Fellows Philip Silva and Liz Barry recruited and led over 30 participants for a day-long workshop called Making the Measure. These farmers and gardeners brainstormed new ways of generating and collecting data in order to refine strategies for measurement that were simple, realistic, and achievable.
The Fellows distilled the draft methods into a data collection toolkit that was field-tested by farmers and gardeners throughout that growing season. The Fellows—Philip and Liz, joined by Sheryll Durrant and D Rooney—incorporated feedback from the 2013 and 2014 growing seasons and finalized the toolkit to include a total of 16 protocols organized into five categories, corresponding with the Five Borough Farm metrics framework: Food Production Data, Environmental Data, Social Data, Health Data, and Economic Data.
Based on this valuable input, the Design Trust and Farming Concrete expanded www.farmingconcrete.org to track the full range of meaningful contributions farms and gardens make to residents, communities, and the city at large. The website was expanded to include free access to the Toolkit and Barn, providing online forms for each of the protocols. Farmers and gardeners can also download their raw data and generate pre-designed reports to support their goals. Raw data is also available for download by gardeners and farmers, researchers, policymakers, funders, and others. Additionally, farmers and gardeners can access a series of instructional videos that guide users on how to implement the measurement protocols and use the website to strengthen and expand their work.