I want to grow an urban market garden (mostly for practice and as a way of softening the "transition" to a farming life). There are several vacant lots around here where this could be done but I'm having trouble finding out who owns them and getting permission to use them for the season.
How should I find out who owns a vacant lot?
How should I best approach the landowner to ask for use of the lot for gardening?
Are there other ways to gain access to land (legally)?
How have you done these things?
Best way to find out who owns something is usually through the tax assessor's office. They always know, because they want to get their money, but various municipalities will that easier or harder for non-gov't folks to figure out. In my city, it is all in a publicly searchable database. You have to figure out how to contact the owner, but at least it gives you a place to start.
Also, perhaps a bit of an aside, but if you can find out who in your local city council is in charge of green space / parks and such and get to know them, they might be able to point you in the right direction and/or you may strike up a partnership to help each other out in unexpected ways, especially if you're not picky about where your vacant lot is. Pitch yourself well and who knows what magic can happen!