How can you build efficient Urban communities, homes, and businesses?

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Tax Foreclosure Properties / Training Beginning Farmers

Pink Pony Farms is located in Kansas City, Missouri in the 64127 zip code, just a few blocks from the 4th most dangerous intersection in the USA. I believe that Pink Pony Farms is an example of how urban farmers can transform blighted areas into aesthetically pleasing landscapes while also providing real income to the participants.

Any model that is deployed to solve the problems associated with urban blight must be sustainable and to that end the best solutions are those that provide a sense of personal accountability and ownership to the people who live in the target areas. Urban farming is a profitable enterprise and can be an excellent way to recapture value from otherwise negatively-valued land. Cities spend large amounts of money in a Sisyphean task of cleaning up vacant lots only to find that a few days later the lot has been refilled with trash and a few months later the lot is overgrown with weeds. This is a complete waste of resources and yet cities continue to spend millions of dollars per year maintaining large inventories of land.

Most people are unaware that these parcels can be had for back taxes. Or less. Pink Pony Farms was built from purchasing tax foreclosed properties from the Jackson County Land Trust. Sadly, Kansas City moved from the Land Trust model to the Land Bank model and this has made acquiring properties very challenging (if not altogether impossible) for the poor people who live in our blighted neighborhoods. Most people are unaware that they can purchase vacant lots for as little as $1 and, further, that inexpensive land is a critical ingredient in achieving profitability as an urban farmer.

We need to discuss how we can educate people about these tremendous and inexpensive farming opportunities; these farm plots can be community assets or private assets. Even though there are extreme differences between states that issue tax deeds and states that use tax liens, overall there are many ways that people can become land owners and start to take pride in their neighborhoods.

I have seen my city spend over a million dollars creating an "urban farmscape" that was quickly abandoned and is now little more than a lot filled with weeds. We have to rehabilitate the people and the neighborhoods simultaneously and a large part of that is giving people the opportunities to become the masters of their own destinies. We can do this by training interested people how to buy inexpensive land that they can farm.

Since we are talking about people with limited resources it would be helpful if we could offer micro-loans and urban-farmer centric training to get new farmers off on the right foot. The worst outcome is that the land returns to being unused, while the best outcome is that the land becomes a focal point for the entire community, gets added back to the tax rolls, and becomes part of a larger food-security platform that is actively maintained by a large number of independent farmers.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. But it starts the conversation.