Five Borough Farm 2009–2015

The first phase developed policy and metrics recommendations to support and grow urban agriculture in NYC in partnership with Added Value. To work towards implementation of our key policy and metrics goals, we partnered with the NYC Parks Department on a second phase of the project. Now in its third and final phase, we are working with Farming Concrete to scale up urban agriculture in NYC. 

  1. Phase I
  2. Phase II
  3. Phase III
5BF umbrella
View all project phases toggle
Photo: Rob Stephenson

Five Borough Farm offers a roadmap to farmers and gardeners, City officials and stakeholders to understand and weigh the benefits of urban agriculture, and makes a compelling case for increasing resources—from soil and compost to growing space to funding—to grow urban agriculture throughout the five boroughs of New York City. 


With Five Borough Farm, we established a framework to understand how the broad range of activities happening at the city's farms and gardens contribute to social, health, economic and ecological outcomes, and introduced a set of indicators that can be used to measure the multiple benefits of urban agriculture. These tools are the first of their kind to address the full range of urban agriculture activities and benefits, and can be used locally and nationally to demonstrate how urban agriculture can positively transform communities.

The project publication, Five Borough Farm: Seeding the Future of Urban Agriculture in New York City, and companion website were released in July 2012, providing the first in-depth comprehensive overview of urban agriculture in NYC. Together they offer 30 policy recommendations to support and expand urban agriculture in all five boroughs and established the nation's first urban agriculture metrics framework so that farmers and gardeners can track their activities and demonstrate their impact.


NYC is a national leader in the urban agriculture movement with more than 700 food-producing farms and gardens throughout the five boroughs – that's almost three times the number of Starbucks franchises. By comparison, Seattle and San Francisco each have about 75 farms and gardens.

But urban agriculture encompasses a wide range of activities in addition to growing food: they capture stormwater, compost food waste, and create safe, attractive public spaces. Participants gain leadership and job skills, learn about nutrition and the environment, and earn income at farmers markets. These activities contribute to many citywide health, social, economic, and ecological benefits, as well as to the goals of municipal agencies and elected officials. 


Added Value, a nonprofit organization that runs the Red Hook Community Farm in Brooklyn, approached us with the idea for a project about urban agriculture during our 2009 Request-for-Proposals. Knowing first-hand the positive impact their urban farm has had in their community, they sought our assistance in quantifying the social, environmental, and economic benefits of urban agriculture; demonstrating the implications of this data to NYC policymakers; empowering other organizations locally and nationally to implement urban farms as public space; and activating public policy changes to encourage the creation of new community gardens and urban farms in NYC.

To understand and evaluate the benefits of urban agriculture, we assembled a multidisciplinary team of Fellows – including experts in food policy, sustainable design, and public health evaluation as well as a graphic designer and photographer – who conducted extensive research over a three-year period about all forms of urban agriculture in NYC. 

This process included:

  • Engaging over 100 key stakeholders to shape and inform the project
  • Conducting over 60 site visits around NYC to gather information about urban agriculture
  • Convening more than 90 farmers and gardeners for a participatory workshop
  • Conducting confidential interviews with key funders, government officials, support organizations and farmer and gardeners
  • Producing 30 policy recommendations to strengthen and expand urban agriculture in NYC
  • Developing the nation's first indicator guide to measure the social, health, economic, and ecological benefits of urban agriculture
The result of their work culminated with the publication of Five Borough Farm: Seeding the Future of Urban Agriculture in New York City and companion website in July 2012. 

Urban agriculture engages people in initiatives to strengthen and improve the social, ecological and economic well-being of their communities and, by extensions, the city as a whole.

Nevin Cohen

Key Milestones

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6
  7. 7
  8. 8
  9. 9
  10. 10
  11. 11
  12. 12

Jury selects project

July 2009

Added Value executive director Ian Marvy presents his proposal to "quantify and demonstrate the social, environmental, and economic impacts of urban agriculture as public space" to the Design Trust project selection jury.    

Photo: Chris Kannen

Define scope

September 2009

Together with Added Value, we determine the project budget, schedule, and scope. 

Photo: Rob Stephenson

Assemble team

March 2010

We assemble an interdisciplinary team of Fellows, including experts in food policy, sustainable design, and public health evaluation, as well as a graphic designer and fine art photographer.    

Photo: Megan Canning

Interview practitioners

April 2010

The Fellows begin their research by visiting community gardens and urban farms across the five boroughs of NYC and interviewing practitioners. 

Photo: Rob Stephenson

Form Advisory Committee

July 2010

We form an Advisory Committee of farmers, gardeners, funders and policy experts to guide the project. 

Hold stakeholder workshop

December 2010

More than 90 farmers, gardeners, food policy experts and funders gather together for a participatory workshop about urban agriculture in NYC.   

Photo: Dan Honey

Conduct research

March 2011

The team continues its research in the fields of food policy, public health evaluation, and sustainable design. 


April 2012

The team works together to synthesize the research and make the final policy and metrics recommendations to support and expand urban agriculture in NYC. 

Produce publication

June 2012

After many months of work, the publication–written, edited, and designed by Design Trust Fellows and staff–finally goes to print! 

Test online data portal

May 2012

We release a beta version of our online data collection tool which enables farmers & gardeners to input basic data, track their progress, and produce reports.    

Release findings

July 2012

On the rooftop of the NYC Parks Department headquarters in Central Park, we celebrate the release of "Five Borough Farm: Seeding the Future of Urban Agriculture in NYC."

Begin Phase II

September 2012

We determine that a second phase of work is needed to implement the key policy and metrics recommendations we developed in the first phase. Go to Phase II. 

Recent Output

Recent Activity

The Latest News

Take a Look at New Yorkers' Favorite Projects

June 19, 2024

Design Trust Council

Glass, Concrete, and Soil: Making Space for Urban Agriculture in a Crowded City

Tuesday, May 22, 2012 @ 7:00 PM

The Latest Press