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Measuring Data in Community Gardens and Urban Farms

Five Borough Farm: Why Measuring Matters from Design Trust for Public Space on Vimeo.

Five Borough Farm – Data Collection Toolkit: Protocols for measuring the outcomes and impacts of community gardens and urban farms

Philip Silva, Ph.D. along with Project Collaborators at Five Borough Farm, Liz Barry and Sheryll Durrant, and at Farming Concrete, Mara Gittelman and Eric Brelsford
May 2014
(Must see. Mike)

Excerpt from ‘Natural resources expert talks Big Apple agriculture’:

During a video presentation, Silva illustrated how labor-intensive maintaining Five Borough Farm, a project of the Design Trust for Public Space, can be. The first phases involved identifying farms and community gardens – there are at least 900 of them in New York City. They include public housing developments, parkland, private land, previously vacant lots, rooftops and schoolyards.

Silva recently trained volunteers, who will train others to manage data collection at community gardens. He’s also set up a system to measure and compare crop production, composting and waste, and the number of hours donated by volunteers.

Silva also co-founded TreeKIT with Columbia University instructor Liz Barry. TreeKIT helps the New York Department of Parks and Recreation digitally map more than 12,000 curbside trees on about 700 blocks throughout Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan. Volunteers use traditional surveying tools and techniques, citing the longitude and latitude of trees to compile detailed maps. The up-to-date detail is now used by residents for tasks as basic, but important, as watering trees.

“Urban ecologies are incredibly complex,” Silva said, but advantages abound. Community gardens bring people and neighborhoods together, he explained. They create green spaces, and they provide public health benefits, in some cases supplying fresh vegetables and fruit to local food pantries.

Silva is launching a second season of data-gathering within the gardens, which includes measuring the impact of the gardens on children’s attitudes about healthful foods. In the Bronx, Silva learned that some of the elder, longtime gardeners groused about enlisting the help of new student volunteers last summer. But once the youths’ contribution was quantified in hours, the established gardeners became convinced of their worth, he said.

Read the complete article here.

Read the free downloadable pdf of our Data Collection Toolkit here.

Link to “BARN” a data management platform hosted by Farming Concrete to help gardeners keep track of the numbers they collect using the Toolkit.