Farm and Ranch
NRCS Texas has conservationists to meet urban ag needs
By USDA
Sep 21, 2021
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Urban farming has increased 30 percent in the last 30 years to help overcome challenges such as food desserts and food insecurity. USDA loosely defines urban agriculture as the production, distribution, and marketing of food and other products within the geographical limits of a metropolitan area. This includes community and school gardens, backyard and rooftop plots, and nontraditional methods of caring for plants and animals within a constrained area. Some definitions also include farms that supply to urban farmers markets, community supported agriculture, or farms located within metropolitan green belts.

For NRCS, urban farming assistance began more than a decade ago when we first offered high tunnels as a conservation tool through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. To meet increasing demands for conservation technical assistance NRCS Texas has hired six urban conservationists to assist with conservation on these smaller niche farms and ranches.

Many of the urban ag producers are beginning farmers and ranchers and are coming to NRCS through our beginning farmer and rancher outreach efforts. The 2018 Farm Bill directed USDA to create a national and state-level beginning farmer and rancher coordinators to increase support for beginning farmers and ranchers and to build upon prior agency work. Our urban conservationists have been hosting workshops for urban agriculture groups, providing technical assistance for growing crops on small acreage, as well as working with partners to help producers find urban outlets for marketing their crops.

We have established and Urban Agriculture Subcommittee within our State Technical Committee. This committee looks at NRCS practices appropriate to urban agriculture and small acreage farms, such as high tunnels, conservation crop rotation, cover crops, field borders, wildlife habitat plantings, mulching, and integrated pest management. The committee is gathering input from farmers such as labor, materials, equipment, and mobilization. It is working with our state leadership to review practice standards and cost list information and continue adding small farm practice scenarios. The committee’s efforts will help guide our agency efforts for the greatest effectiveness in the urban agriculture.

To request assistance, reach out to your local service center or an urban conservationist near you. NRCS staff will be happy to visit with you about assistance we provide in urban areas.