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Posts Tagged: Urban Farm

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.”


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Email: jayne@grow-good.org  

Phone: (323) 645-0215

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

Start Smarter Part 1: Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Farming

When I started farming, I thought I was going to be a fantastic farmer due to my business background, personal savings, maturity, family support, and work ethic. I did benefit from those things and am farming successfully now. However, I was woefully unprepared for the expense, time, and challenges to my concept of what farm life would be. Those unexpected challenges caused it to take years to turn a profit.
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.

Crop Selection: After learning what was in demand I would select a few (5-10) crops and learn to grow them well. I would practice efficiency in every step of the growing, harvesting, marketing, packaging, washing, processing, pricing, selling, everything to do with those few crops until I could be really efficient and PROFITABLE with each one. I would time every bit of labor that went into every step so I could properly evaluate the crop and choose wisely about what to expand and stop growing. This level of detail may sound tedious but it is worthwhile if it means the difference between making a living and going out of business!

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


Posted on Thursday, May 11, 2017 at 9:23 AM
  • Author: Aleta Barrett
  • County: UCCE Placer/Nevada

Santa Clara County Considers Establishment of Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones

Santa Clara County is among several California counties and cities now considering local implementation of AB 551, the Urban Agriculture Incentive Zone Act, which became state law in 2014. Once enacted at the local level, AB 551 offers a potential tax reduction for land owners who lease their land for urban farms and community gardens. At this point, San Francisco has the only such zone. On February 10th, 2015, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors took the first steps toward creating urban agriculture incentive zones. Interested cities within the county would also need to implement the measure.

There's plenty of interest in San Jose, Santa Clara County's largest city, where urban farm advocates hope that implementing AB 551 would allow small-scale urban agriculture to be viable in an urban area where land values are high. Garden to Table is one of the community groups leading the local push for AB551. They hope that improving access to land for urban growers will also enhance options for access to local foods.

Garden to table staff developed a report on the implementation of AB551 that may be of interest to groups in other counties and cities around California (see link below for the full report). They used census track and property tax data, general plan designations, and more to analyze suitability of land for a potential urban agriculture incentive zone. Thanks to support from The Health Trust, Garden to Table is embarking on a second research phase for adopting AB 551 in San Jose and Santa Clara County. Over the next year they hope to build a network of property owners and urban agriculture organizations, and collect data about interest from community members.

Garden to Table Report: Implementing AB551 in San Jose
Garden to Table Report: Implementing AB551 in San Jose

Posted on Wednesday, March 18, 2015 at 10:18 AM

Cultivating urban farms through community support

If you were to start an urban farm in a neighborhood, what would be your first step? Obtaining a lease for the land? Testing for soil contamination? Clearing out the accumulated trash? These are important steps. But an additional step should be considered first—that is, gaining the support of the local community.

Considering the multifaceted benefits of urban agriculture, it may seem counterintuitive that city residents would not welcome an urban farm with open arms. However, the idea of farming in a city (which differs from urban gardening in its emphasis on income-generating agricultural activity) can seem strange—and potentially deleterious—to local residents. We interviewed city residents, neighborhood leaders, and urban farmers to discover the strategies urban farmers use to obtain community support for their projects. Here are some highlights:

Get to know a neighborhood.
Urban farms start where land is available, so farmers may not always have a personal connection to the neighborhood where they plan to farm. Thus, the first step in gaining community support is to learn about the neighborhood context and how an urban farm can provide services to the neighborhood that are valued by residents.
Talk to people. Early.
Building relationships within the community early in the process of starting an urban farm is a critical part of gaining community acceptance. Forging relationships with community leaders or partnerships with community groups can help establish champions for the farm, and giving residents a chance to weigh in on the planning process—particularly those who live in proximity to the farm site—helps ensure a positive reception.
Take the mystery out of urban farming.
People often fear what they don't know, and the idea of urban farming is unfamiliar to many city residents. Giving residents an idea of what to expect—for example, by sharing photos or providing tours of other urban farms—gets residents thinking about the benefits a farm would bring to their neighborhood.
Create opportunities for involvement.
When residents are involved with an urban farm—whether by attending a harvest festival, volunteering, or buying farm produce—they feel more connected to the project. While the ways residents are involved will vary depending on a farm's business model, having such opportunities is critical to endearing the community to an urban farm.
Feed people.
Residents understand that not all farms will sell their produce within the neighborhood, but they still expect to reap some benefit from having fresh produce grown in the neighborhood. Giving residents a chance to share in a farm's bounty will go a long way toward building local support.
Beautify the farm space.
Unlike most rural farms, an urban farm is highly visible, and residents have certain expectations for their neighborhood's appearance. Keeping urban farms neat and making efforts to beautify the space with flowers or artwork will help create positive impressions of the farm.

If you found this useful, check out this report to see additional recommendations for gaining local support for urban farming (a summary is also available).


Community buy-in for urban farms July2014 Full report
Community buy-in for urban farms July2014 Full report

Community buy-in for urban farms July2014 Summary
Community buy-in for urban farms July2014 Summary

Posted on Thursday, November 6, 2014 at 11:26 AM
  • Author: Melissa Poulsen, MPH (PhD Candidate, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health)

Selling at CA Certified Farmers Markets: First Steps for Urban Farmers

It's National Farmers Market Week! And here in California, we're celebrating and enjoying our 764 farmers markets-more than any other state. Since many of these markets are in cities, they are an option that urban farmers often consider when deciding how best to market their products. Knowing how to get started, though, can be a challenge.

First, farmers should do some research, including visiting local markets to see the displays and gather ideas about what they might sell. It's important to contact market managers to find out if they have space available, what it costs, and talk about what products they are looking for. It's not always easy to get a spot at a farmers market, because the manager is trying to ensure the right mix of farms and products.

The manager also needs farmers who have a consistent harvest and enough volume to sell every week, and this can be challenging for urban farmers, since they are often beginning farmers and typically have very limited growing space. Even so, some market managers are happy to give urban farmers a try, and some even actively recruit them. For example, the staff of the Altadena Farmers Market in Los Angeles County has sought out and encouraged local backyard farmers to participate in their market. For more ideas on how to get started selling at farmers markets, check out the New Farmer's Guide: Cultivating Success at Farmers Markets.

Another mandatory step is for the farmer to contact their County Agricultural Commissioner's Office. In order to sell at a California Certified Farmers Market, growers must have a Certified Producer's Certificate (CPC). This certification process is part of the California Department of Food and Agriculture's Certified Farmers Market Program. An inspector will make an appointment to visit the growing area to find out what and how much the farmer is growing, and how much they project they will have available for sale. There is a small annual fee for certification. After the inspection, and paying the fee, the farmer receives a certificate to display when selling at a market. Growers can only sell what has been grown on the farm, and specifically, what is on the certificate. New crops can be added by amending the certificate. Some counties use an on-line application for the Certified Producer's Certificate.

The Certified Producer's Certificate has one main purpose. It simply certifies that a farmer is in fact growing what he or she is selling at the farmers market. At a California Certified Farmers Market, the consumer is assured that everything has been grown on the farm and has been brought to the market by the farmer, their immediate family members, or their employees. The inspection and certification process helps to ensure the integrity of this system. The CPC will not be the only requirement to sell at a farmers market. There may be other local requirements that farmers will learn about through working with the Agricultural Commissioner's staff and the farmers market manager.

Selling at farmers markets can be great for some urban farmers, but doesn't work for every situation. Drawbacks include the commitment of time each week to prepare for, travel to, and staff the booth, and challenges competing with the volume, prices and diversity of products offered by larger growers. Urban farmers have to work hard to build their customer base and find products that will appeal to the market's customers.

Farmers markets are one form of direct marketing, or selling straight from the farmer to the consumer. See our UC ANR Urban Agriculture Marketing page to learn more about marketing strategies.

Posted on Thursday, August 7, 2014 at 4:28 PM

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