Catalyzing Investment in Urban Sustainability
U.S.-Brazil Joint Initiative on
Urban Sustainability


Urban and Community Supported Agriculture on Former Brownfields

This policy approach promotes urban agriculture as a brownfield and land revitalization approach in under-served, "food desert" areas.

Policy and Program Approach

The EPA Brownfields Program provides technical assistance to support local communities and nonprofits as they evaluate future reuse strategies and consider urban agriculture as a viable reuse alternative on appropriately assessed and remediated brownfields and other contaminated properties.

EPA, with our state and tribal partners, supports community and urban agriculture as another comprehensive land revitalization approach, based on our experience with brownfields site assessment and cleanup. This experience includes understanding where contaminants may be in soil or structures and the threats these contaminants may pose to communities, particularly children, and urban agriculture innovators. The issue of potentially contaminated soils is particularly pressing as many communities affected by brownfields and contaminated sites also are located in "food deserts," where access to healthy, affordable food is limited.

Policy Implementation

EPA provides support to communities in a number of ways. Targeted brownfields assessments (TBA) provide technical services to communities without brownfields grants. A TBA involves EPA contractors assessing the brownfield property history and sampling soils to help communities and local organizations identify potential hazards based on site history and sampling results. With EPA funding, Kansas State University (KSU) offers technical assistance and research support for community garden organizations related to soils testing, based on environmental and plant health considerations. This support involves how to test areas, apply soil amendments, and understand how these amendments affect contaminant uptake in different crops across successive growing seasons. KSU is compiling best practice methods to help urban agriculture practitioners improve soil health and minimize plant uptake of contaminants. In addition, EPA has assembled examples, fact sheets, guidelines, and frequently asked questions on a website that also includes outreach resources.

Contact Information
Ann Carroll
U.S. EPA, Office of Brownfields and Land Revitalization
Phone: +1 (202) 566-2748. 

Greensgrow Farm in Philadelphia is on the site of a former zinc galvanizing plant that is capped and covered with five feet of gravel. The farm provides locally grown food for an inner-city neighborhood and provides an income stream of more than $750,000 annually from several onsite activities, such as produce grown on raised hydroponic beds, greenhouses, a farmers market and subscription community supported agriculture, two bee hives, and biofuel production.