There is a family in Buffalo who has been trying to get permission to start an urban farm on vacant lots within the city. Finally, they have won approval! Their next hurdle may be in dealing with the unfortunately standard problem of gardening where buildings have stood: lead-contaminated soil.
Lead is a real hazard to urban and suburban gardeners. There is a good article in today’s New Your Times on the subject, including strategies for dealing with lead-contaminated soil. Ways to work around the problem including gardening in raised beds (with soil brought in from elsewhere); repeatedly planting crops that absorb lead, and then disposing of those crops; and adding lots of organic matter to the contaminated soil, which binds the lead, making it less easy for the body to absorb.
I am thankful that we live on former farmland and that our house was built after lead paint was made illegal. Nonetheless, we really should test our soil for lead one of these days, just in case, because it is possible that the farm’s topsoil was sold off and then other soil was brought in from elsewhere after the houses were constructed.