the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is driving sustainable urban agriculture with $7.4 million in grants.
Agriculture Grants USDA

USDA Invests $7.4 Million in Urban Agriculture Grants

In an effort to bolster food production and accessibility in economically distressed communities, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced a $7.4 million investment in 25 selected grants that support urban agriculture and innovative production. These grants aim to empower community gardens, nonprofit farms, and other stakeholders to develop sustainable solutions for urban food systems, provide valuable job training and education opportunities, and facilitate the creation of business plans and zoning proposals. The USDA’s commitment to urban agriculture has been steadily growing, with $40 million already funded for similar projects since 2020. This latest round of grants is part of the USDA’s broader support for urban agriculture through its Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production (OUAIP).

Robert Bonnie, USDA’s Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation, expressed the positive impact of the grant program on communities across the nation. He emphasized the importance of supporting agriculture in urban landscapes to ensure access to fresh, healthy food while fostering local and regional food systems and addressing the needs of underserved communities.

The Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production (UAIP) competitive grants program supports a wide range of activities in urban and suburban areas through two types of grants: planning projects and implementation projects. The 25 selected grants announced recently include planning and implementation projects, representing a diverse array of initiatives that address various aspects of urban agriculture and food access.

Planning projects focus on initiating or expanding efforts in urban and suburban communities. These efforts involve collaboration among farmers, gardeners, citizens, government officials, schools, and other stakeholders to target areas such as food access, education, start-up costs for new farmers, urban forestry, and policies related to zoning and other urban production needs. Planning projects provide essential early-stage investments to support new and start-up projects, which may involve surveys, assessments, design and planning, business plan creation, feasibility studies, and municipal policy and zoning best practices.

Some notable examples of planning projects selected for funding are:
  • The Austin Youth and Community Farm Inc. in Texas: This project aims to increase food equity in Travis County by employing regenerative farming and natural resource conservation practices to double food production on two urban farms.
  • Living Well Kent in Washington: This initiative seeks to transform the food production system to improve food security and advance equity among historically marginalized BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color), immigrant, and refugee producers and consumers.

Implementation projects focus on accelerating urban, indoor, and other agricultural practices that serve multiple farmers and improve local food access. These projects may address infrastructure needs, emerging technologies, education, and urban farming policy implementation. They intend to expand existing urban agriculture projects by providing on-the-job training, mentoring, business development assistance, school training in agricultural careers, and expanding the operations of community gardens and nonprofit farms.

Notable examples of implementation projects selected for funding include:
  • The Athens Land Trust of Georgia: This project will provide locally grown food to the Athens community and offers workshops, paid employment for youth, and business opportunities for beginning and historically underserved farmers.
  • Osage Nation in Oklahoma: This initiative aims to install supplemental lighting for vegetable production facilities and systems, along with installing a solar field, and will serve as a guide for Native nations looking to implement similar systems.

The 25 projects selected for funding are spread across 16 states and territories, highlighting the diverse reach of urban agriculture initiatives and their impact on local communities. The USDA’s support for urban agriculture goes beyond the UAIP grants program and includes various other efforts to promote sustainable food systems and equitable access to nutritious food.

Some of these additional initiatives include:

  • Composting and Food Waste Reduction (CFWR) cooperative agreements: The USDA is investing up to $9.5 million for CFWR cooperative agreements in fiscal year 2023 to address food waste and promote sustainable waste management practices.
  • Federal Advisory Committee for Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production: The USDA has established a Federal Advisory Committee to provide expert advice and guidance on policies and outreach related to urban agriculture.
  • The People’s Garden movement: The USDA is renewing its commitment to the People’s Garden movement, encouraging communities to participate in gardening using sustainable practices that benefit people, wildlife, and resilient local food systems.
  • Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP): Through the Agricultural Marketing Service’s LAMP, the USDA invests in urban agriculture and food systems projects that support producer-to-consumer marketing, local and regional food markets, and local food enterprises in urban communities.
  • Farm to School Program: The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Services help child nutrition program operators incorporate local foods into school meals through the Farm to School Program.

The USDA’s ongoing efforts to support urban agriculture and innovative production are a testament to its commitment to building sustainable and resilient food systems. Through the Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production grants and other initiatives, the USDA is empowering communities to take charge of their food production and access, fostering economic opportunities, and promoting equitable food distribution. As urban populations continue to grow, the importance of sustainable urban agriculture will only increase. The USDA’s comprehensive approach to urban agriculture ensures that agriculture remains a viable and vibrant industry regardless of the scale of operation or location. With continued support and collaboration between the USDA, local organizations, and community stakeholders, urban agriculture can play a significant role in shaping a more sustainable and food-secure future for all Americans. 

Image provided by the USDA

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