Garden Justice Legal Initiative (GJLI)


GJLI, Gardeners & Fellow Advocates Weigh in on Proposed Vacant Land Policy

In January 2011, Law Center attorney Amy Laura Cahn partnered with a number of urban farmers, community gardeners, and food justice advocates, as well as the Mayor’s Food Policy Advisory Council (FPAC) vacant land subcommittee and the Food Organizing Collaborative to submit feedback to the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority (PRA) on its proposed policy for managing vacant city-owned land.  The proposed PRA policy makes progress in its efforts to create a more “user-friendly” way to access land – creating one “front door” to access land held by several agencies and a database to determine what land is available. For many years, City policies have not supported gardening and farming, and without a fair and transparent path to gaining land ownership, gardeners and farmers have not been able to secure the land they work on. The current system of one-year Urban Gardening Agreements has been wholly inadequate, as it creates uncertainty between growing seasons. Gardens and farms require a large initial investment, and the policy should encourage and make possible long-term investments in the community. To make farming and gardening worthwhile, the city must offer secure lease options of at least three years with the option to renew. Further, the proposed policy will create new barriers to urban agriculture. The liability insurance and organizational requirements set by the policy impose a financial burden that is unrealistic for such small-scale, low-budget operations. The policy should leave room for greater flexibility in demonstrating organizational stability, and it should allow a grace period in the insurance requirement to give farmers and gardeners time to assess their options. Moving forward, PRA should take steps to engage the gardeners and farmers whose work will be directly affected by this policy, and they should take steps to ensure that the process of amending and implementing this policy is both transparent and responsive to the needs of the community. Read more: