Urban Agriculture
University of California
Urban Agriculture

Starting an Urban Farm?

 

Ploughshares Nursery, Alameda, California
If you want to start an urban farm in California there are several things to consider. Just like starting any business there are many steps, and doing the right homework will save time and money in the end. Urban farming has many inherent challenges, like distribution, space and production capacity limitations, concerns with neighbors, and financing challenges. By considering the barriers up front, you’ll have fewer surprises as you get started.

Find Training. There is a great deal of knowledge and expertise involved with starting a farm. Consider finding a learning opportunity near you.

Create a Business Plan. It is important for farmers to grow and/or create products that can easily be marketed or are in demand. To do this, talk to restaurants, grocery stores, farmers’ market managers, local food producers, and community members to find out where there are gaps or marketing opportunities. Consider value-added products and the role they might play in your business. Learn about the process and costs. Create a business plan that includes marketing strategies and a budget.

Find Appropriate Land. If you are looking for space, check out your local utility agencies, parks and recreation departments, or research existing vacant lots. Consider local zoning codes and how they may apply to the type of urban farm you have in mind.

Test Soil. Some urban soil has elevated levels of heavy metals, such as lead, or other contaminants. Make sure to test your soil and remediate accordingly.

Learn the Basics of Production. Our research tells us that many beginning urban farmers struggle with the basics of producing crops or raising animals as they get established. Learn as much as you can about soil, planting, pest management and watering. If you plan to raise animals or bees, learn the details of how to care for them.

Ensure Food Safety. Learn about how to make sure that the crops you grow are harvested, stored and processed safely, according to best practices.

Learn about Other Urban Farms. Read about urban agriculture projects throughout California here, and find out about their challenges and successes.

Explore Resources for Beginning Farmers. The following websites provide lots of general information for starting a farm.

EPA

USDA

San Francisco Urban Agriculture Alliance

FarmsReach

Webmaster Email: vtborel@ucanr.edu