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Posts Tagged: Urban Agriculture/Local and Regional Food Systems

Urban Farming and Water Conservation: A Way of Life on the City Farm

Reyna Yagi (ryagi@ucanr.edu), Northern California Urban Agriculture Program Coordinator, University of California Cooperative Extension - Alameda and Contra Costa Counties

Raised Bed Irrigation - Treasure Island Job Corps Farm
It has been a banner year for water in California. The above-average precipitation and snowpack in 2017 have ended a five-year drought spell, leading Governor Jerry Brown to officially end the drought state of emergency last April for the majority of California counties. However, Californians know that this refreshing watery reprieve does not mean our conservation efforts stop here. With a draft plan in the making by the State Water Board appropriately dubbed “Making Water Conservation a California Way of Life,” the long term trend from this point on is efficient water use and drought preparedness, especially as we face climate change challenges.

How can we as urban farmers do our part to conserve water? Turns out there are a lot of ways that not only will help to save our beautiful state's water, but also help you build a healthier farm or garden with less work on your hands!

The Challenge of Water Access
It's hard to talk about water conservation when many urban farmers run into issues of reliable access to water and affordability of municipal water. Increasingly though, municipalities are working with urban farms and community gardens to offer discounts or grants for water meter and service line installation, help calculate a water budget, and provide a plethora of trainings and resources on efficient irrigation practices and technology. Talk with your local water municipality to see if they have discounted water pricing or special programs (San Francisco is a good example) aimed at assisting urban farms and community gardens.
 
Start with Healthy Soils
We know building healthy soils is key for the production and longevity of our crops, but it also allows plants to use water more efficiently and saves you water in the long run. Adding organic matter to your soil increases soil nutrition which helps plants produce better yields and bountiful blossoms without adding more water. Whether sandy or clayey soils, compost reduces the soil's need for water by 30% on average. Top it off with 3-4 inches of straw mulch to further your conservation efforts by keeping soil cool, preserving moisture and reducing weed germination.

Tip Sheet: Building Fertile Soil – Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems UC Santa Cruz

Know What You Grow
Did you know it takes 33 gallons of water to produce a carrot while almonds require 1,280 gallons (find more facts here)? Follow seasonal crop patterns - cool season crops will take much more water in the heat of the summer. Once you decide what to grow, choose varieties that are labeled “drought-tolerant” or “widely adapted.” Be sure to group plants by similar plant watering requirements.

Tip Sheet: Your Food Garden During Drought – UC Master Gardener Program Contra Costa County

You Can't Manage What You Can't Measure
Do you know how much water your farm or garden uses? If you use a garden hose, you can estimate your flow rate by timing how long it takes to fill a five-gallon bucket. If it takes five minutes to fill, your flow rate is 1 gallon per minute. If you have an irrigation system and a water meter, it's easy to read your meter to find out your usage. There are also water gauges one can buy at your local hardware store as well. Keep a record; you may need it later.
 
Drip Irrigation is Your Best Friend
Drip irrigation is a worthwhile investment that not only reduces your workload, but conserves water by applying it where it is needed most and at a rate conducive to a plant's use. Another benefit for the farmer: it reduces weed growth, helps control mildew plus reduces fungus problems! Drip tape, soaker hoses, micro-sprinklers are among various types of efficient irrigation products you can use. Install shut-off valves to turn off areas that are fallow. Add an irrigation timer to automate your watering schedule. Controllers can also connect with rain and soil moisture sensors which shut the system off when enough water is applied.

Tip Sheet: Drip Irrigation – Installation and Maintenance – UC Master Gardener Program of Sonoma County

Tip Sheet: For the Gardener - Water Conservation Tips – Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems, UC Santa Cruz

Other Water Saving Techniques
  • Rainwater Harvesting allows you to capture rainwater from roofs, collect it in a cistern for diversion to your landscape for supplemental irrigation. You should also observe your site's water runoff patterns and see how you can manage and maximize your runoff to deal with large rain events, stormwater runoff and infiltration around your site. Consider a rain garden!

  Tip Sheet: Rainwater Harvesting – UC Master Gardeners of Nevada County

  • Dry Farming depends on the water stored in the soil from winter rains that plants can use in the spring as the weather warms. Plants rely on good soil moisture and deep roots to seek out this extra water without needing much supplemental irrigation. Grapes, potatoes, tomatoes, winter squash, fruit trees and grains can be dry-farmed.

  Tip Sheet: How to Dry Farm Tomatoes in  Contra Costa – UC Master Gardener Program – Contra Costa County

And Remember:

  • Deep watering wets entire root zones which promotes deeper root growth.
  • Always water early in the morning to prevent daytime water loss through evaporation.
  • Keep an eye on the weather! A refreshing rain or cool, cloudy day will extend the time between watering.
  • Maintenance, maintenance, maintenance. Visually inspect your drip system regularly for breaks, leaks and missing pieces. If you don't, your plants will certainly let you know with plant diseases.

California's agricultural industry is the largest in the nation and abroad, carrying with that a great responsibility to protect and conserve our resources. Urban farmers are highly cognizant of this. They are some of the most innovative and conservation-minded folks out there who understand the fragility of our water supply and their role in being model stewards of our lands and waters.

 

Posted on Tuesday, July 25, 2017 at 1:45 PM

Urban Farm Spotlight: GrowGood

In the most unlikely of spots, surrounded by warehouses, trains and light industry, GrowGood sits on a 1.5-acre site across the parking lot from the Salvation Army Bell Shelter. As you walk through the front gate, you find yourself amid hundreds of native plants and dozens of fruit and vegetable crops.

GrowGood is a Los Angeles-based non-profit urban farm with a mission to create urban agricultural programs that empower people and transform communities. Created in 2011 by Brad Pregerson and Andrew Hunt, GrowGood has worked with The Salvation Army's Bell Shelter to convert the vacant site adjacent to the shelter into an urban farm. The Bell Shelter is the largest homeless shelter west of Mississippi that provides a comprehensive transitional care program for up to 350 homeless men and women, many of them veterans.

GrowGood accomplishes its mission through three main strategies: (1) supplying a variety of nutritious, fresh produce to the Shelter's kitchen; (2) providing job training and meaningful resume-building employment opportunities for homeless and other vulnerable populations with the greatest barriers to employment; and (3) managing a therapeutic green space for spiritual and emotional healing.

Despite having been neglected for many years, GrowGood's soil biology has improved remarkably with time, patience, and beneficial cover crop seed mixes. GrowGood maintains organic practices without using chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides. The farm enriches its soil with compost and worm tea made on-site.

Most of what GrowGood produces goes to the shelter, including vegetables, herbs, and fruit, but you can also find their bounty in local Los Angeles restaurants.

Whether it's providing employment, providing nourishment, or hosting a community workshop – GrowGood has it all, and proves you don't need much space to “grow good.”

 

Learn More

Website:GrowGood

 

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Email: jayne@grow-good.org  

Phone: (323) 645-0215

Posted on Wednesday, July 12, 2017 at 11:03 AM

UC ANR hosts workshops for California's urban farmers

A UC Cooperative Extension workshop series in Los Angeles will help city growers build their knowledge on legal, production, marketing and food safety issues.
In communities around California, urban farms provide fresh produce, community green space, and even job training. However, a 2014 UC ANR needs assessment indicated that urban farmers face challenges, as well as opportunities. They are often beginning farmers, and encounter barriers related to growing in the city, such as zoning restrictions. 

Building on the needs assessment, a team of UC ANR researchers created a resource website for California urban farmers. This year, team members and local partners are conducting a series of trainings for urban farmers around the state, designed to help city growers build their knowledge in key areas. The series just wrapped up in the Bay Area, and will roll out in Los Angeles starting on July 21. The Los Angeles series dates and topics are:

  1.  July 21. Legal Basics of Urban Farming.  Are you an urban farmer navigating the rules and regulations related to growing and selling food? A school or non-profit organization involved in farming? This workshop will help position you for success.
  2. July 28. Production Issues and Urban Farms.  Are you an urban farmer learning the ins and outs of growing and harvesting crops? This workshop is designed to guide urban farmers through common production challenges related to soil, water use, and pest management. 
  3. August 4. Marketing and Business Management for Urban Farmers. From business planning to labor laws, learn the basics to help you succeed.
  4. August 11. Food Safety Basics for Urban Farmers. Learn how to ensure a safe harvest, from the field to the fork. 

Local partners are key to planning and hosting these events, including the Los Angeles Food Policy Council, the Collaborative for Urban Agroecology Los Angeles, Cal Poly Pomona College of Agriculture, Community Services Unlimited, GrowGood, the Growing Experience, and others.

The series will also be held in Sacramento and San Diego in early 2018. For updates and announcements, follow UC ANR's Urban Agriculture blog, Facebook, and Twitter.  And be sure to bookmark our UC Urban Agriculture website which offers resources on production, policies, and more.

Posted on Wednesday, July 12, 2017 at 8:56 AM

Youth speak, we listen: Youth voices in urban agriculture and building the UC connection

For many youth in California, agriculture is becoming part of their urban experience. Urban farms, edible parks, and garden education programs are thriving in cities across the state. These places grow food, teach youth job skills, create community green space, and help build food security.

Steven Palomares is one of those youth. As an intern at WOW Farm in 2016, Steven grew and harvested produce, delivered it to local restaurants, and participated in a weekly business management class. 

"I like to think of this garden as very important to the community,” said Steven. “Since most of [Oakland] is low income neighborhoods, this farm provides access to fresh organic produce. It also teaches the youth a set of job skills they can apply to other jobs, and teaches them a bit more about nutrition.”

Steven Palomeres, former intern at WOW farms in West Oakland shares his experience in urban farming


Many youth echo Steven's sentiment, finding skills, purpose, community, and good food at the sites they are a part of.

The UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (UC SAREP) and UC Cooperative Extension Los Angeles County have been working together to better understand the ways the University of California can support urban agriculture through the lens of youth participants.

These two videos, funded by the UC Global Food Initiative, are part of an ongoing effort to build strong connections between the University of California and urban agriculture programs. They highlight the community-based work of these programs and show some of the challenges they face.

In this video, Bay Area youth share their experience at urban agriculture programs, and program manager share their goals and challenges.



In this video, youth give us a tour of Southern California urban agriculture programs, their visions, and needs.



Currently, UC Cooperative Extension has two advisors dedicated to working with urban agriculture. Rob Bennaton works as an urban agriculture advisor in the Bay Area, and Rachel Surls works with urban farms as Los Angeles County's sustainable food systems advisor. UCCE hosts a growing website of resources for urban farmers, urban agriculture advocates, and policy makers.

"Our hope is that, by listening to people working in urban agriculture and building partnerships with them, we can find long term, meaningful ways to support their work,” said Gail Feenstra, deputy director of UC SAREP. “They share so many of the same goals as the UC — they're really focused on developing leaders who will make our cities healthy, prosperous places to live."

Steven Palomares may just be one of those leaders. In fall of 2015, Steven began his freshman year at UC Davis majoring in biological sciences and political science, interested in pursuing work that integrates science and policy. Also on his mind: someday Steven wants a home garden growing all the necessary produce for salsa and guacamole.

Posted on Tuesday, December 13, 2016 at 10:36 AM

Bookworms meet earthworms at Bay Area Book Festival in Berkeley

 

Gardeners of all ages are invited to engage in book fest activities.
Bookworms are invited to dig for earthworms with UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) this weekend at the Bay Area Book Festival in Berkeley. From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, June 6, and Sunday, June 7, UC ANR Cooperative Extension experts will be leading gardening and environmental education demonstrations at the UC ANR booth in the Eco Alley section of the festival.

UC ANR's activities are free and scheduled for both days:

10 a.m. Be a Master Gardener – Rob Bennaton, UC ANR Cooperative Extension urban agriculture advisor for the Bay Area, will discuss water-wise gardening and answer questions about UC Master Gardener training classes.

11 a.m. Fun with Seeds – Steve Andrews, UC Master Gardener Program coordinator for Alameda County, will demonstrate how to make a greenhouse out of a zip-top plastic bag. Kids can choose the seeds they want to plant and customize their greenhouse by decorating it on site.

12 p.m. Be a Master Gardener – Bennaton will discuss water-wise gardening and answer questions about UC Master Gardener training classes.

1 p.m. Worm Composting – Andrews will demonstrate how to turn waste into fertilizer with the help of earthworms.

Books about gardening will be available for purchase.
2 p.m. Fun with Seeds – Andrews will demonstrate how to make a greenhouse out of a zip-top plastic bag.

Kids are invited to become part of the “Pollen Nation” by wearing an antenna headband, available for free at the UC ANR booth.

UC ANR gardening publications including “California Master Gardener Handbook,” “Landscape Pest Identification” cards, “Healthy Roses,” “Pests of the Garden and Small Farm,” “Wildlife Pest Control around Gardens and Homes” and more will be available for purchase at the booth. For more information about urban agriculture and the UC Master Gardener Program, visit http://ucanr.edu/UrbanAg and http://mg.ucanr.edu.

The UC ANR booth will be located in the Eco Alley section of the book festival, on Allston Way between Shattuck and Oxford, across the street from the Brower Center.

The Bay Area Book Festival is a free event and will feature nearly 300 authors, as well as panels, performances and public art displays at Civic Center Park and surrounding indoor and outdoor spaces in Berkeley. For more information about the festival, visit http://www.baybookfest.org.

Join the “Pollen Nation” by wearing an antenna headband, available for free at the UC ANR booth.
Posted on Wednesday, June 3, 2015 at 11:10 AM

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