LEED credit for growing food: Part 2

Local food Credit options 2 and 3 give greater options for supporting local food through monetary and volunteer support pledges.

This is the second part to a two-part article on the new US Green Building Council’s local food production LEED pilot credit. Part 1 includes general credit background information and a deeper look at the on-site production requirements for the credit.

While a developer or building manager can look to onsite food production as a way to receive points under the local food production LEED pilot credit, there are two other options for points when on-site production may not be an option. For instance, a building that is being constructed in downtown Grand Rapids may not have the green space to build a garden on-site or the resources to develop complex indoor or greenhouse growing systems to qualify for the credit. The second and third options of the credit allow projects to support local food without having to actually produce food on-site.

The second option focuses on local food support through the purchase of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares for building occupants or residents depending on its use or type. This option applies to both new and existing buildings, but like the first option has specific stipulations that need to be met in order to receive credit. The credit requires that at least 50 percent of the building occupants or 80 percent of the building’s residential units (if it is residential) be provided for through the CSA. It also requires that shares be delivered to the site no less than twice per month and for a period of at least six months of the year. Lastly, it requires a minimum three-year commitment be documented to qualify for the credit. This option will not only help a local farm by supporting their CSA, but also provide healthy local produce for the building occupants.

The third option for the credit focuses on support of a local farm through resources and volunteers. The option also has several requirements that must be met, including:

  • Provide financial support to the urban farm equivalent to ¼ of one percent of the total project construction cost. Or, provide material support in kind, equivalent to the dollar value – materials to be negotiated with the urban farm.
  • Provide minimum of eight hours per Full Time Employee equivalent (FTE) per year to volunteer in farm operations - on the project proponent’s time. Hours could be consolidated, allowing some FTE to work more and others to not participate in the food production project. FTE volunteers would be required to follow farm training, minimum one hour (included within the eight hour volunteer time). Time must be allocated by employers out of the standard work week, rather than weekend or evening hours.
  • For both financial support and FTE, a commitment for three years support/participation would be required.

Material support in kind could include fencing, soil, compost, construction materials, tools, etc.

Farm training could be in planting, harvesting, maintenance, or other operations: skilled labor is in demand in urban farms; unskilled labor is not as useful.

This type of existing farm support could be very useful for a small urban or local farm that is just getting started or one that has been operating for years. These types of projects can also help foster relationships between building occupants and local farmers that could eventually lead to further support by purchasing food for use in cafeterias or food service operation contained in the buildings themselves. It will also provide valuable education for volunteers on growing techniques and practices that they may be able to take home and use in their own vegetable gardens.

This new LEED credit for local food production continues to demonstrate the importance that is being placed on access to healthy local food for communities across Michigan. Michigan State University Extension has educators working across the state to help communities develop local food projects. Contact a community food systems educator in your area for more information.

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