In partnership with Bernalillo County, the International District Healthy Communities Coalition (IDHCC), and several stakeholder groups, Groundwork Studio developed a plan to create a sustainable framework for urban agriculture in one of Albuquerque’s most economically and culturally diverse neighborhoods. Through comprehensive inventory, community-assisted asset mapping, hands‐on community engagement, and the design and implementation of nine different priority sites, the project team developed a framework for the county to support a range of existing and proposed community‐based urban agriculture efforts. The purpose of the plan was to understand challenges and opportunities for sustained urban agriculture activities in the area and make recommendations for how Bernalillo County could provide ongoing, effective support.
The International District and surrounding areas present a clear need for improved access to healthy food options, safe open space, and local economic development opportunities. Persistent barriers to urban agriculture include limited funding for materials and maintenance, water for irrigation, and preexisting soil conditions. Creating a balance of security and inclusive access is also a challenge. The most significant hurdle is that urban agriculture efforts have typically relied on one or two enthusiastic organizers or a single grant cycle, which makes them vulnerable to leadership or funding changes and difficult to sustain over time. Consequently, developing strategies for long-term institutional assistance, layered uses, and investment from multiple partners were major objectives for this plan.
The team engaged a “planning in action” process that included evaluation of and improvements to existing gardens, assistance in acquiring funding, and in some cases, implementation of design plans. The action-oriented process allowed participants to define the problems they wanted to solve and be the architects of their own solutions. This immersive approach revealed the barriers and opportunities for community‐based urban agriculture so that realistic, actionable recommendations could be developed.
Several of the priority sites designed as part of the plan were also implemented. This included constructing a water-harvesting system, soil sponges, and garden boxes at the Kaseman Community Garden; installing water-harvesting tanks; maintaining a food justice intern at the Le Jardin Verde Community Garden; and making improvements to the Ilsa and Rey Garduno Agroecology Center and East Central Ministries Therapy Garden. Two other project sites have been added: the Immigrant and Refugee Resource Village of Albuquerque youth garden and the Singing Arrow Community Garden. This project has given community members access to fresh food, resources to support their urban agriculture efforts, and partnerships to strengthen and sustain those efforts.