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Lauren Kaskey

Intro to GIS

Assignment 6: Project Plan


Urban Agriculture for Education in Boston

This mapping project will build on prior UEP projects, such as Jennifer Obadia’s analysis of Community Garden Access in Boston as well as Denise Chin’s evaluation of Urban Agriculture opportunities in Boston, MA. Together with the Earthos Institute, I am interested in mapping Urban Agriculture opportunities which could be prioritized for an educational endeavor. This map will be used to help the Grove Hall community decide how to prioritize grant application efforts. I will also be considering rooftops which are of appropriate size for an urban farm. Although the laws and process for rooftops are a bit more cumbersome, they represent a significant opportunity to create a “greener” city. To get the most out of an investment, a rooftop farmer might want to prioritize spaces that have educational programming opportunities inherent in their geography. This means that the space will be in a pedshed of a school.

To maintain consistency in Urban Agriculture planning tools for the city of Boston, I have adopted Denise Chin’s criteria for land that is suitable for urban agriculture.

        10,000 sqft

        Good light exposure. Operationalized by eliminating high tree density parcels and also those surrounded by tall buildings.

        Less than 30% elevation.

Literature Review:

Chin, D. (2013). Introduction to GIS (Final Paper). 7May

Denise Chin’s project helped me to think through the parameters for an urban farm. By using the same parameters that she used with her team, I can maintain consistency in Boston Urban Agriculture tools. Additionally, by using the same process that Chin used to determine eligible plots of land, I can then add another component to the map in order to map sites that could be prioritized for educational purposes.

GIS Best Practices: US Department of Agriculture. August 2006. ( )

This website is helping me to understand how farmers might use the visuals to inform their operations. Although the community is the primary audience for this map, the hope is that the prioritized land with eventually be used by farmers. If I can include useful information on the maps, it further reduces barriers to establishment of new farms.

Brown, Katherine H. et al. Urban Agriculture and Community Food Security in the United States: Farming from the City Center to the Urban Fringe . Urban Agriculture Committee of the Community Food Security Coalition. February 2002.

This paper contextualizes Urban Agriculture in terms of food security and food justice. This is especially useful for the Grove Hall Initiative, as this neighborhood is comprised of a primarily minority, low-income population. By understanding how Urban Agriculture can create a more just food system, I can better prioritize information that would be useful in a map for a neighborhood development project. Although Grove Hall is where the current project is focused, other neighborhoods in Boston could also benefit from a map with a justice orientation.


Thapa, Rajesh Bahadur and Yuji Murayama. “Land evaluation for peri-urban agriculture using analytical hierarchical process and geographic information system techniques: A case study of Hanoi.” Land Use Policy, Volume 25, Issue 2, Pages 225-239: April 2008. Accessed from Science Direct, November 6, 2008.


This paper has helped me understand suitability criteria for urban farms to confirm Chin’s criteria. Additionally, there is the potential to use their categorization criteria to evaluate high/medium/low suitability levels or each piece of land.


Data layers:

Public and private vacant land 2012 database.

Source: Assessing Department, City of Boston. Retrieved from Tufts GIS repository.



Source: Assessing Department, City of Boston. Retrieved from Tufts GIS repository.



Source: MassGIS; Tufts University GIS repository.1998.



Souce: City of Boston DOIT Plenimetric 2010. Retrieved from Tufts GIS repository.


Boston Digital Elevation Model

Source: Retrieved from Tufts GIS repository. 2010.


Prime Farmland

Source: MassGIS 2012.



Source: MassGIS 2012. Retrieved from Tufts GIS repository.



Source: City of Boston DOIT Plenimetric.2010. Retrieved from Tufts GIS repository.


Census block groups

Land-use (Parcels from MassGIS)

Water (StreetmapUSA)

Roads: MassGIS/Datalayers/etoroads, Class



Boston Digital Elevation Model



Political Boundaries (MassGIS)



To create PedSheds:

Export roads in class 3-6 to their own shape file.

Network Analyst—Service Area Analysis

Facilities—Load Locations (Schools)

Service Area Properties—Create a ¼ and ½ Mile Walkable Zones layer.

        Follow specifications in Proximity Tools tutorial.

Create new shape files of both the polygons and lines.


To identify potential spaces for Urban Agriculture in Boston, I will use much of the process developed by Denise Chin and her team for her 2013.


All Vacant Land

I am working to retrieve Denise Chin’s All Vacant Land database.

        I will then join this data set to parcels.

        Select parcels that match to All Vacant -> create layer from selection.


Vacant land greater than 10,000 square feet.

        Calculate geometry -> select by attribute: sqft >= 10000 -> Create layer.


Light Exposure

Tree density (5 trees per 10,000 square feet)

        Street trees only.

  • Select by attribute street trees only -> create new layer.


        Number of trees per parcel

  • Spatial join -> Join by special attribute: sum: All Vacant.
  • Add field: tree_dens -> calculate field: count of trees/land_sf.
  • Select out those with tree_dens >= .0005.


        Building shade

  • Create 80ft buffer around All Vacant.
  • From buildings layer, select by BLDG_HGT, height >= 40ft -> create layer.
  • Select by location: buildings_40ft; Source layer: buildings_buffer -> create layer.



Create a slope raster from the digital elevation model (DEM) of Boston.

Determine elevation of each parcel.

        Spatial analyst -> Zonal statistics as table, select parcel layer as input, zone field = parcel ID, raster layer is slope.

        Select by attribute from zonal statistics table. Slope <=20. Create layer from selection.


The resulting layer should then be joined to the school pedshed layer.

        Spatial join .


Poster Elements

Map of all vacant parcels that are suitable for Urban Agriculture.

Map of suitable public parcels.

Map of suitable private parcels.

Map of parcels within PedShed of a school.

        Close up of Grove Hall.