The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources recognizes that urban food production plays an important role in addressing health, social, economic and environmental issues and is working with organizations, municipalities, and sister agencies to support initiatives for commercial urban food production.
MDAR launched the Urban Agriculture Program in the fall of 2013, one of the nation’s first state-wide programs to support and promote commercial urban farming enterprises. Funding through the program targets infrastructure needs, innovative food production, zoning ordinances, technical assistance, land acquisition, and youth leadership development. A listing of past grantees can be found here .
This program is also designed to build community partnerships; the Massachusetts Urban Farming Conference is a key component to strengthening this growing network. Convened by MDAR, in partnership with the Urban Farming Institute and City Growers, this annual, full day event brings seasoned practitioners and multi-sector experts together with beginning urban farmers and entrepreneurs. The conference addresses our urban food systems, community revitalization, land and policy issues and best practices for urban farm enterprise’s viability.
As MDAR’s Urban Agriculture Program grows, urban food production will provide tangible, measurable benefits to residents in urban centers, increasing access to healthy fresh food, improved public health, entrepreneurial opportunities, job training & youth employment, and community revitalization.
4th Annual Massachusetts Urban Farming Conference
On March 12, 2016 urban farmers, entrepreneurs, policy makers, and local food system advocates convened at Northeastern University for the 4th Annual Massachusetts Urban Farming Conference (UFC).
MDAR partnered with the Urban Farming Institute and City Growers to host the day-long event, as part of our programmatic work to support urban food systems and sustainable environmental practices.
The sold out event attracted over 400 participants from many cities across the Commonwealth, as well as neighboring states, and Canada! Attendees from Framingham, Worcester, Springfield, Somerville, Boston, Holyoke, Chelsea, and many more cities, networked, shared resources and strengthened connections within this growing sector.
As demand for fresh, locally-sourced produce in urban neighborhoods across the state grows, MDAR will continue to support innovative urban farming practices, ensuring that all of our communities can have the opportunity to obtain fresh food.
Top priorities of attendees were food justice, innovative and intensive food production, whole farm planning, land acquisition and best practices for their enterprise’s viability. Participants noted that the conference was a “valued networking opportunity for this growing sector and a great setting to discuss the best practices”.
Municipal Planners Urban Agriculture Workshop - March 11, 2016
The 2nd Annual Municipal Planners Urban Agriculture - Community Planning Workshop focused on lessons, policies and opportunities, at the municipal level, to support commercial agriculture and community food production.
Attendees heard from seasoned presenters on the subject of reducing barriers for urban agriculture in cities and towns and best practices to begin the planning process.
Small breakout groups were followed by a discussion on existing models from cities that have taken steps towards introducing policy changes, providing attendees with tools to advance this conversation in their own municipalities. MDAR Webinar Series for Municipal Planners begins June 2016, assisting planners state-wide to create policy that supports local food production in urban centers.
Below are helpful links for organizations and government agencies working on urban agriculture ordinances and policy. Please visit MDAR’s Urban Agriculture Resource Links page for more resources regarding urban agriculture.
Municipal Planners and Urban Agriculture: Tools and Publications
Urban Ag and Community Planning Symposium, State House, Boston - March 20, 2015
MDAR hosted its first urban agriculture symposium for municipal planners. This half-day event brought together municipal leaders and planners, with policy makers, public health and environmental professionals, farm entrepreneurs, and other stakeholders who have collaborated on successful urban agriculture projects and local initiatives for the purpose of sharing information, resources and best practices to support this work. Opening remarks were provided by EEA Secretary Matthew Beaton, MDAR Commissioner John Lebeaux, and Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone.
Links below are of several presentations made during the course of the symposium. Click here for videos of presentations.
- Lydia Sission, Mill City Grows, Lowell file size 3MB
- Jessie Banhazl, Green City Growers, Somerville file size 7MB
- Glynn Lloyd, City Growers, Boston file size 5MB
- Heather McMann, Groundwork Lawrence file size 4MB
- Ann Cody, Nuestras Raices, Holyoke file size 1MB
- Kurt Gaertner, EEA
- Kevin Essington, Trust for Public Land file size 2MB
- Luisa Olivera, City of Somerville file size 7MB
- Marie Mecurio, Boston Redevelopment Authority file size 4MB
- Jenny Rushlow, Conservation Law Foundation file size 1MB
Mapping Urban Agriculture: Factors Affecting Access to Healthy Food
When addressing public health and environmental issues, a growing number of healthcare and public policy officials acknowledge the positive impacts of urban agriculture. As urban food production expands in Massachusetts, MDAR has begun the process of identifying specific areas that could benefit from city-based farming enterprises, utilizing data on existing urban farming enterprises, farmers’ markets, low-income neighborhoods, low access to fresh food, and environmental justice zones.
For more information on mapping, contact Dake.Henderson@state.ma.us (We will try to accommodate all reasonable requests for maps customized to your area and format needs).
The Annual Massachusetts Urban Farming Conference (UFC)
Each year, around March, this conference is produced by City Growers and the Urban Farming Institute, in partnership with MDAR. With the theme of “Cultivating Lands, Nourishing Communities, Building Businesses”, this annual conference is designed to advance opportunities and address the barriers involved in cultivating a thriving urban farming sector. At UFC, attendees have a great opportunity to share information and resources, strengthen the MA urban farming network and map out a vision for urban farming in Massachusetts. If you have questions or would like to contribute to next year's conference, contact Rose Arruda, Rose.Arruda@state.ma.us, 617-626-1849.