IN THE GARDEN: Prune trees & shrubs. Start cool season seeds inside and plant peas and radishes outside. Turn & harvest compost.
Land for Growing
Land is the Basis of Food Sovereignty
Getting land into the hands of community members to grow food and enjoy green space is good for residents, for our city, and for the environment!
Here are steps for acquiring vacant lots in Louisville:
Step One: Find Owner and Research the Site
Contact the Office of Community Development to find out if the property you are interested in is part of the Land Bank.
– Call (502) 574-4200
– Or look up the address on the Vacant Lot Inventory
You can also check Ownership by typing in the address on LOJIC Online
Find out the Ownership and Assessed Value for any parcel in Jefferson County at Property Values Administration. (Free access via the Louisville Free Public Library; otherwise you have to pay to use this resource.)
Research the history of your property in the Deed Room if you want to find out who the prior owners were
U of L Archives may have historic photos or maps of your property or neighborhood
Do a soil test through Jefferson County Cooperative Extension to evaluate nutrient and lead contents. Vouchers may be available to do this for free; otherwise, this test will cost around $20. It can take several weeks to get results.
Step Two: Community Visioning and Planning
Reach out to your neighbors to share your idea, gauge interest, get feedback, and/or create a network of support.
Find other community partners who may support your vision (e.g. religious institutions, neighborhood associations, or local businesses)
Imagine together what you hope to see/feel/experience in the space (e.g. invite neighbors over and walk around to let them know what you’re thinking about)
Start making some concrete plans for the space
Step Three: Prepare Application Materials (if applying through Landbank)
Anticipate potential issues (e.g., water access, drawings of the site, business or nonprofit incorporation, project financing) and brainstorm solutions/troubleshoot in advance Create drawings for your site plan, and water catchment (if applicable)
USDA Farm Services Agency will help you obtain a legal Farm ID number. Free & easy; Recommended for businesses or nonprofits if you want to apply for grants or USDA programs.
Step Four: Turn in a Community/Market Garden Application to Planning and Design (if applying through Landbank and NOT eligible for Adjacent Side Yard or Cut It Keep It programs)
If you intend to start a community or market garden on Landbank lot and you do not qualify for the Adjacent Side Lot program or the Cut It Keep It program, you will have to apply through Planning and Design first. At this time, the Landbank only considers applications for gardens from groups (non-profits, LLCs, neighborhood associations, etc.) not from individuals. They also do not sell lots specifically for garden use, they only lease them. BUT we are advocating for this to change, and the Landbank has indicated that they are open to implementing a lease-to-own option for gardens. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more and strategize around how to make your project a reality.
FIN created this Land Access Guide to help Louisville residents access vacant property to grow food.
We hope the information we have compiled helps Louisville residents access vacant property to use for growing food. We look forward to learning together as we continue building a comprehensive database of community resources.
We are happy to help you navigate the outlined process by connecting you to local resources and working with you to find answers and solutions. We can also act as a supporting organization for your application. If you are interested in accessing land and want support, please email email@example.com.
Amanda Fuller purchased five contiguous vacant lots from the Land Bank in 2013 to establish Lots of Food on 1/3 acre. The Lots include an orchard of almonds & hazelnuts, berries, passion fruit, herbs, fruit trees, pollinator plantings, and 2 beehives.
Visit Lots of Food to find out about local urban fruits, nuts and honey,or to sign up for a spring or fall urban foraging class. And like the Lots of Food Facebook.
5th Element Farms
Mariel Gardner bought a vacant lot on South 26th Street in the Parkland neighborhood from the Louisville Landbank in 2018 where she started 5th Element Farms. In 2019, with a grant from the USDA, she built two high tunnels on the lot. Her initial plan was to start a pickle business with her friend, Michael. When COVID-19 hit, they pivoted towards growing food for their neighbors. They have given away about 250 pounds of produce this season.
Mariel and Michael hope to inspire their neighbors to grow their own food, creating a system in which community members divide the labor of growing so that the block can feed itself. They envision 5th Element Farm becoming an educational resource where they can host outdoor classes and model agricultural methods. Mariel and Michael plan to triple the amount they produce next year, adding medicinal herbs to their farm to promote the cognitive, emotional, and physical health of their neighbors. They also plan to buy more lots on the block in order to expand their project, perhaps to start processing on site, develop an aquaponics system (Michael’s specialty), and add additional high tunnels.
For Mariel and Michael, vacant lots are an asset, not a deficit and they are making use of these assets to feed their community.
West Louisville Women’s Collaborative (WLWC) was the recipient of the Mayor’s Lots of Possibility Grant 6 years ago–(unfortunately, this program no longer exists). With financial support from the city, WLWC transformed a previously vacant lot into a Peace Labyrinth to allow space for reflection and meditation in response to gun violence. The space doubles as a pollinator garden which supports the food growing boom happening in the West End. A board member of WLWC purchased the adjacent property as well and to create the ELA (Energy, Life, Art) House which now serves as WLWC’s headquarters and a community gathering space. WLWC is currently working to purchase the lot between the Labyrinth and the ELA house. They would also like to purchase the home next door to the Labyrinth in order to start an Artist in Residence program.