Posts Tagged: Urban Farming
newly published literature review in the Journal of Sustainability conducted by a team of Berkeley Food Institute researchers has found that while many studies cite the potential food security benefits of urban agriculture (UA), there are few that robustly measure the impact of urban farms on improving food security in low-income communities. Results of this review are guiding a three-year research project, funded by the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research and the Berkeley Food Institute to investigate and address urban food access challenges in the eastern region of the San Francisco Bay Area, where interest in UA abounds, yet levels of gentrification, food insecurity, and income inequality are growing.
Without understanding the actual links between UA and food security or which specific characteristics, models or approaches reduce insecurity, urban policymakers and advocates risk backing policies that could have unintended consequences or negative impacts on vulnerable individuals and communities. We argue that in addition to more robust analyses that measure the actual social, economic, and health impacts of urban agriculture, and how they impact food security, it is important to understand which approaches to policy, governance and civic engagement support UA models that are effective in reducing food insecurity.
In general, we see three trends in current scholarship on UA in relation to community food security: (1) a focus on the production potential of urban lands, (2) individual case studies highlighting various nutritional, health, and other community benefits or outcomes from urban gardening initiatives, and (3) more critical analyses of UA through food justice and equity lenses. To this latter point, robust theoretical analyses have emerged critiquing the risks of UA when approached without an equity lens, potentially reinforcing structural injustices and racism and negatively impacting communities that ideally should benefit the most.
Deeper historical and structural challenges including poverty, racism, and divestment in specific communities and neighborhoods are increasingly being recognized as the root causes of the problem of unequal access to sufficient supplies of safe, nutritious, affordable, and culturally acceptable food facing cities. Designating land for agricultural use in urban areas may conflict with other city planning priorities around affordable housing, community economic development, or smart growth approaches associated with reducing urban sprawl and mitigating climate change, such as transit-oriented development. Because of the persistent legacy of systemic discrimination, it is neither inevitable nor guaranteed that urban agriculture will redress food system inequities; in fact, urban farms can sometimes lead to displacement through eco-gentrification. This is a particularly acute concern in areas experiencing housing pressures and population growth, such as the San Francisco Bay area and New York City.
Analyzing the intersection of food access and food distribution literatures reveals three key factors mediating the effect of UA on food security in the urban food system:
(1) the economic viability of urban farms (to sustain the provisioning of affordable urban produced foods)
(2) the role of city planning and policies in advancing racial equity through UA such as secure land tenure and public investment, and
(3) the importance of civic engagement to advocate for and hold cities and counties accountable to the needs of low-income communities.
We highlight examples from both the scholarly and gray literatures that demonstrate how UA can improve food access, distribution, and justice, in a way that supports both consumers and producers of food in cities. The gray literature in particular reveals many emerging and informal distribution networks for urban produced foods that would benefit from further academic study, such as gleaning networks, distribution apps, and online platforms.
The review concludes with a set of recommendations for researchers, practitioners, and policymakers who seek to create spaces in cities for food justice, equity, access, and sovereignty. Most notably we acknowledge that urban farms are producing a lot more than food; and that equitable planning, public investment and civic engagement are crucial elements in securing the long-term viability of urban farms. More robust analyses documenting the multifaceted benefits and risks of UA such as public health, food security, youth development, food literacy, eco-gentrification and environmental justice can help inform more equitable public policy and planning efforts.
A UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) team recently assessed the needs of urban farmers around the state, and found that they struggle with production, business, and marketing challenges, many of which are specific to the urban context of their farms. Additionally, many urban farmers are unaware of agricultural regulations, city zoning and permitting rules, food safety, soil quality issues, and pest quarantines.
To help new urban farmers get started effectively, and to help more experienced urban farmers improve their skills and profitability, the UCCE team is offering a series of four urban agriculture workshops in each of the Sacramento and San Diego regions. These communities have recently put policies in place to encourage urban farming, and many residents are getting involved. The workshops will be held at urban farm sites and will include farm tours and discussions with local urban farmers sharing challenges and success stories. The 2018 workshop series starts March 16 in the Sacramento area and March 23 in the San Diego area.
Workshop #1 will cover the legal basics of urban farming, including types of urban farm enterprises, zoning issues, soil testing, required permits and licenses, and an introduction to key local resources such as the Agricultural Commissioner and UCCE staff.
Workshop #2 will cover Marketing and Business Management for Urban Farms, including business planning, record keeping, market channel options, and an introduction to labor laws and risk management.
Workshop #3 will be about production considerations for urban farmers, focusing on water management, integrated pest management (IPM), and soil contamination/soil improvement.
Workshop #4 will cover pre and post-harvest food safety practices, using CDFA's Small Farm Food Safety Guidelines.
Farmers and potential farmers can take one or take all four of these workshops; each is $20 for a full day of expert speakers, participatory exercises, lunch and refreshments. Each workshop will be a one-day event.
Registration is open. Space is limited, so please sign up early.
Learn more about the workshops, as well as the 2017 workshop series' held in the Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay Area regions, and register here:
More UC urban farming resources: ucanr.edu/sites/UrbanAg/
San Diego Series: Mary Redlin, Southern California Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org, 562-900-3041
Sacramento Series:Penny Leff, Northern California Coordinator, email@example.com, 530-752-5208
IPM, you are probably aware that it can solve pest problems and reduce the use of pesticides that harm beneficial insects, including honey bees. But did you know that it is also used to manage pests that live inside honey bee colonies? In this timely podcast below, Dr. Elina Niño, UCCE apiculture extension specialist, discusses the most serious pests of honey bees, how beekeepers manage them to keep their colonies alive, and what you can do to help bees survive these challenges.
To read the full transcript of the audio, click here.
Successful IPM in honey bee colonies involves understanding honey bee pest biology, regularly monitoring for pests, and using a combination of different methods to control their damage. Visit these resources for more information:
Sources for the Value of Honey Bees:
If I had it all to do over again, what would I do differently?
Practice: To start, I would educate myself by doing – work or intern on a profitable farm for at least one season. I can't tell you how many hours I wasted on inefficient harvesting when an experienced farmer could have trained me to do it a better, faster way.
Education: While I was learning how to do the hands-on work, I would take classes – farm business, farm management, farm marketing, etc. Taking classes taught by people with experience in the field gives a new farmer the opportunity to ask questions and have access to more information and resources. Farming is a unique business with its own language and challenges. Farm business classes can help a new farmer develop a realistic and informed business plan.
Business Perspective: I would not start with a homesteader perspective like the one I did. I had too many enterprises from the get go – chickens, goats, and 40+ vegetables. For a farm to be financially successful, it needs to be treated as a business, not a hobby.
Business Plan: I would focus more on marketing and financial goals. I would include the word “profit” in my mission statement. My original business plan focused too specifically on land use and crop production, environmental impact, and social involvement.
Banking: I did pretty well in this area. The following tips saved me a lot of stress during a financially dry period:
• Start with a separate farm business checking and personal checking account
• Do not take on debt
• Keep track of everything on some version of accounting software.
Market Research: I would do market research on what to grow. I would takes notes on price and what products were in demand at farmers' markets and other outlets where I intended to sell. I would contact produce managers and farmers' market managers and ask them what they wanted. I would watch market customers to see where they shopped. I would note which products sold out by the end of the market. As it was, I started out growing what I liked to eat – and more! If I had done my market research, I could have wasted less time on crops that were not in demand or were too inexpensive for me to be competitive on pricing.
See Starting Smarter Part 2: Lessons I Learned Along the Way next week to read about Land, Equipment, Labor and more.
Check out the New Farmers and Resources tabs on this website information and some useful information:
Foothill Farming: http://ucanr.edu/sites/placernevadasmallfarms/
The public television station in Los Angeles, KCET, has produced a multi-media package on its website that delves into the unique circumstances of Richland Farms, an agricultural district in the heart of urban Los Angeles County.
The series, called Departures, is an oral history project that thoroughly explores neighborhoods through the people that live there. Director of UC Cooperative Extension in Los Angeles County Rachel Surls provided commentary in four online videos. She noted that LA County was the United States' top ag county until the 1950s
"It sort of dates back to the founding of Los Angeles when people first came and looked at Los Angeles as a potential site for a mission," Surls said. "They saw that it had great soil, they saw that things grew well here and they thought, 'ah ha, perfect place for farming.' So that's how it started."
Other industries have since become more important than farming in LA, but agriculture hasn't been erased. According to the website, when the city of Compton was formed in 1898 on land donated by Griffith D. Compton, he stipulated that certain acreage be zoned for agricultural purposes only. Large lots in what came to be known as Richland Farms enabled residents to grow food and tend livestock.
"It's like being out in the country, but you're right in the middle of this huge urban area," Surls said on the second video.
Today, interest in urban agriculture is growing. Surls said a survey found a 19 percent increase in home vegetable gardening between 2008 and 2009 and she attributes it to two things: the economy and a new way of thinking about the environment and nutrition.
"Even though we haven't been a huge agricultural producer since the 1950s, I'd like people to remember that food matters in Los Angeles."
Surls said she hopes UC Cooperative Extension can help reintegrate the practice of urban agriculture in communities such as Richland Farms and provide working "pilot" models for other communities across the county and throughout the state. The Departures website suggests visitors take a look at Surls' curation of links in her Twitter stream to see why.
Here are links to view Surl's four videos on Departures:
- An overview of agriculture in SoCal
- Information about Richland Farms
- Agribusiness in Los Angeles
- Farming during the Depression and beyond
Rachel Surls appears on four "oral history" videos on the Departures website.