The purpose of the APA-NM Awards program is to recognize outstanding planners and planning projects throughout New Mexico, and to encourage outstanding achievements in the application of Planning principles and techniques to solve problems and improve our quality of life.

The project team is honored to announce that the International District Urban Agriculture Plan won the  APA-NM 2020 1st Place Award for Equity in Planning—Going Above and Beyond! This award serves to validate the work being done to better understand the challenges to community-based urban agriculture in the International District and to enable stakeholders to take control of the planning process and outcomes, building long-term capacity. Read more about the award and the project significance below:

In partnership with Bernalillo County, the International District Healthy Communities Coalition (IDHCC), and over 20 public and private 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 urban neighborhoods. Through comprehensive inventory, community assisted asset mapping, hands-on community engagement, and the design and implementation of nine different priority urban agriculture sites, the project team developed a clear framework for the County to support a wide range of existing and proposed community-based urban agriculture efforts.

The planning process sought to provide realistic recommendations for how Bernalillo County can support long-term community-based urban agriculture in the International District. The team engaged a “planning in action” process, that included participatory design, evaluation of and improvements to existing gardens, assistance in acquiring project funding and in some cases, implementation of design plans. This immersive approach allowed the project team to experience and understand the barriers and opportunities for community-based urban agriculture to develop realistic and actionable recommendations.

The International District is one of the most ethnically diverse areas of Albuquerque. Groundwork Studio worked closely with the IDHCC to connect with key stakeholder groups and develop a project steering committee of trusted ambassadors to a broad range of community groups. We then worked closely with each of the groups involved with the 9 priority sites in a participatory design process that included several underrepresented groups including youth, individuals of color including Native Americans, and people experiencing homelessness. The planning process cultivated numerous valuable partnerships between stakeholder groups, allowing for information sharing, capacity building, and teaming on mutually beneficial efforts.

Several of the priority sites designs were implemented during the planning process. This included the construction of a water harvesting system, soil sponges, and garden boxes at the Presbyterian Kaseman Community Garden, installation of water harvesting tanks and Food Justice Intern maintenance at the Jardin Verde Community Garden, and improvements to the Ilsa and Rey Garduno Agroecology Center and East Central Ministries Therapy Garden. To ensure a seamless transition to ongoing plan implementation (and in response to a plan recommendation) the County created an Urban Agriculture Coordinator position to facilitate ongoing project partner meetings with the project website – as the primary networking tool and community resource for urban agriculture. Project partners continue to work together on overlapping projects (assisting each other with garden improvements and maintenance, for example) and in joint grant applications, replacing what can often be a competitive environment with one of collaboration.

This project provides a unique and easily replicable model for community and place-based planning for urban agriculture. The project team has started work on one additional project site for the plan and is working toward adding additional project sites as funding becomes available. The team has discussed the opportunity to initiate additional planning processes using this format in the County’s other districts. Further, the inclusion of design and implementation in the planning process provides a valuable model for how plan recommendations can be tested and improved before project completion.