Garden Justice Legal Initiative (GJLI)

Community gardens provide reliable sources of healthy food and income, and they help communities revitalize and reclaim their neighborhoods. But even established sites of urban food production face legal difficulties that can make them difficult to sustain – not the least of which is the difficulty faced by community groups and individuals seeking to grow food on public and private vacant and abandoned property.

In 2011, the Public Interest Law Center launched the Garden Justice Legal Initiative (GJLI) with support from the Skadden Fellowship Foundation. The goal of the project is to provide pro bono legal support, policy research and advocacy, and community education to community gardeners and market farmers in the Philadelphia region. Through GJLI, we provide direct representation to clients. The GJLI also connects community gardens with pro bono counsel to expand capacity and increase representation of gardens. Through community education, we engage with more than 200 people each year, providing tools to advocate for the right to use and build community on land in their neighborhoods. We also provide a web mapping and organizing tool, Grounded in Philly, delivering access to data on vacant land throughout Philadelphia and resources to individuals interested in starting or preserving community-based vacant land projects.

Over the past two years, the GJLI has provided key policy research and analysis on urban agriculture, garden and open space policy in Philadelphia, rooted in the needs of current clients, as well as concerns raised by community leaders and city agencies. The GJLI’s director has worked with numerous partners to successfully organize and grow a network of farmers, gardeners, and their neighbors, as well as community-based organizations and city officials, to build a strong, citywide voice for urban agriculture and garden and open space preservation, including the Soil Generation coalition.

Established in 2012, Soil Generation is a black and brown-led coalition of gardeners, farmers, individuals, and community-based organizations working to ensure people of color regain community control of land and food. The Law Center is the fiscal sponsor for the coalition. To learn more, visit their website.

Request Representation from the Garden Justice Legal Initiative

To request representation for a community garden or urban farm issue from the Law Center’s Garden Justice Legal Initiative, click here and follow the instructions on the form.

To complete the form:

  1. Save the form to your computer or print it
  2. Fill it out on the computer or by hand
  3. If completed on the computer, email to
  4. If completed by hand, mail to the Law Center’s address listed above, Attn: Garden Justice Legal Initiative

If you have questions, you may contact the Law Center at 215-627-7100 ext. 252 or

NOTE: Requesting an appointment by phone or email will not establish an attorney client relationship. We are not agreeing to take your case. We do not represent you at this time. Therefore, you remain responsible for any and all deadlines.

Project Updates

June 2019
We share comments on the Philadelphia Land Bank's 2019 draft strategic plan

May 2018
In Positive Shift, Philadelphia City Agencies Transfer Land to Community Garden

April 2018
The Garden Justice Legal Initiative held a CLE and legal clinic to broaden their impact in Philadelphia

March 2018
While Community Gardeners Conclude Legal Actions to Secure Land, Promise of Philadelphia Land Bank Remains Unfulfilled

October 2016
Recursos 2015 Sobre Terrenos Desocupados

September 2016
Philadelphia City Council Urban Ag Hearing

November 2015
Garden Justice Legal Initiative Releases Vacant Land 215 Toolkit

March 2015
North Philly Peace Park

June 2014
Farm 51

April 2014
HIAS/Bhutanese Gardens

August 2013
Central Club for Boys & Girls

July 2013
The Village of Arts and Humanities and Norris Square Neighborhood Project

June 2013
Friends of Manton Park and Community Garden

September 2012
Viola Street Garden

July 2012
Pulaski Zeralda Garden

May 2012
Central Club Granted Six-Month Stay of Sheriff’s Sale

March 2012

January 2011
GJLI, Gardeners & Fellow Advocates Weigh in on Proposed Vacant Land Policy