Last fall we were awarded a Local Food Promotion Program grant from the USDA to support the viability of small urban farms and increase fresh food access for limited resource urban residents. The Urban Growers’ Collaborative Project, led by our Director of Urban Food Environments, Elle Mari, and supported by Project Coordinator, Kate Mahoney, investigates the barriers and opportunities for collaboration among local urban growers to improve their viability and entry into new local markets, particularly markets that serve (or can serve) low-to-moderate income urban residents.

Together with Sona Desai of Leichtag Consulting, we completed Phase 1 of the project which included an in-depth assessment of 9 urban growers (including non-profit and private business farms) to identify barriers to farm viability and technical assistance needs surrounding improving business acumen to enter new markets. In addition, we assessed and analyzed the growers’ current product supply to find opportunities for collaboration. Based on the findings of Phase 1, we were able to offer growers a much needed Fundamentals of Farm Business Planning for Urban Growers Workshop. Attendees learned from farm and small business expert, Rebecca Frimmer, on the importance of business planning, how to read and understand financial statements, and how to gather necessary data for financial analysis.

Check out the Phase 1 Report here

Phase 2 of the project will include a targeted demand analysis based on insight from the urban grower group. We’ll be conducting assessment and analysis of potential buyers including: local restaurants, small neighborhood ethnic food markets and co-ops, potential multi-farm CSA customers, and small-scale produce aggregators/distributors. In addition, based on findings from Phase 1, we will continue to offer one on one technical assistance and facilitated trainings and convenings to the growers on business viability, growing practices, entering new marketplaces, cooperative practices/systems, and more.

Are you an urban grower needing support? Looking to collaborate with other growers in City Heights, Southeastern, and the South Bay? Get in touch! Elle Mari, emari@ucsd.edu

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