Setting aside large parcels of land in the center of a city for agricultural purposes is bad for sustainability and not in line with the mission of Boulder’s Open Space program. I am referring in particular to the proposal to purchase a permanent agricultural easement on the property known as Long’s Garden, immediately East of Broadway in N. Boulder, as discussed in this Daily Camera Op-Ed, and proposed in this 2011 Boulder City Council memo. This proposal is contrary to Boulder’s sustainability and open space preservation goals for several reasons.
An informal study looking at the urban farming yields, by Mara Gittleman. 67 gardens, with a total area of 1.7 acres in NYC generated 87,000 lbs of food, with a market value of roughly $200k in 2010. This is equivalent to about $3/square foot. Just looking at the financial aspect, if we’re talking about land which could be developed, the net present value, discounting at 5%, of $3/sq ft, is (even if we go out 100 years) only about $60/sq ft. If you build a 5 story building, then property values need only be greater than $12/sq ft for the urban farming not to make (economic) sense, and I’m going to go out on a limb, and guess that property values in most of NYC are, um, substantially higher than $12/sq ft.
Boulder County is looking at some kind of county-wide sustainability program, with an associated tax which will be on the ballot this fall. The City of Boulder is revising its Climate Action Plan, looking toward a goal of climate neutrality in 2050. An extension of the tax which supports our climate work will also be on the ballot in the fall. One thing that none of that money should go toward? Urban farming.