Senior Design Projects

ECS193 A/B Winter & Spring 2023

Urban Agriculture Community Mapping Platform

Name Andy Lyons
Affiliation UC Division of Ag and Natural Resource, Informatics and GIS Program

Project's details

Project title Urban Agriculture Community Mapping Platform
Background Urban agriculture has become enormously popular in the past couple of decades, as city dwellers across the country seek to reconnect with their food, the land, and each other. The forms of agriculture in urban settings reflect its popularity and diversity, from community gardens, commercial urban farms, school gardens, other institutional gardens, and rooftop gardens in apartment complexes, museums, & office parks. These sites not only are centers of food production, but also build communities, helping new people find kindred spirits, providing valuable education on how to grow food, and actively supporting members of the community in need.

Although people involved in urban agriculture tend to have common values, goals, and needs, finding each other can be challenging. Most urban agriculture sites have little if any web presence, and they don't show up on Google Maps. Information about their activities, resources, needs, and opportunities to get involved, tend to be spread by word of mouth or random news events.

The UC Division of Ag and Natural resources has embarked on helping the urban ag community in the Bay Area connect with each other by developing a web map of urban ag sites ( The goal of the map is to not simply provide the location of urban ag sites, but to enable garden managers to share a description of their site and the opportunities they provide for the public. In other words, garden managers need to have full control over how their site is represented on the map, including the ability to make updates.

The prototype UC web app works well, but is hard to maintain and missing some important functionality. The greatest need for improvement is the underlying database, which is built on Google Forms / Google Sheets, stitched together with a rickety collection of rather complicated cell functions, Google Apps scripts, geocoding API, and a workflow protocol. It works, but is fragile. Last month an unexpected ampersand in a new garden title took the whole system down. To make this project sustainable and extensible, we need a better platform.
Description We are open to any proposed solution, but our thinking for an ideal platform for managing a community-based mapping site is WordPress. WordPress is well equipped to handle user accounts, which would solve half of the problem of enabling garden managers to maintain their site info (and no one else's). Plugins exist to add fields to the user profile database, or another table could be created with record-level permissions. WordPress also supports media uploads and HTML pages / posts, which garden managers could use to provide more info about their site if they don't have an external website (which many don't). The WordPress calendar could help garden manager share upcoming events, and many themes are designed to be responsive out of the box. We're not quite sure how the mapping element would work, but there are a few options involving both client side and server-side mapping technologies. An extremely attractive benefit of using WordPress is the ability to copy and adapt it for use in different cities (there's an urban ag map in LA which is horribly out of date because the developer left and no one has the skills to update it).
Deliverable A WordPress site or plugin that manages the 'backend' of a Urban Agriculture Community Mapping Platform, and either simultaneously provides a front end (web site) or publishes assets that can be used in another web platform. The deliverable should be generic enough that any metropolitan area could adapt it for their urban ag community.
Skill set desirable WordPress development, php editing, web application development, database development
Phone number 510.325.5860
Client time availability 30-60 min weekly or more
IP requirement Open source project
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