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Posts Tagged: urban agriculture

Evaluating Regional Food Resilience in the San Francisco Bay Area

While the provision of clean water, removal of wastes, and infrastructure for other basic human necessities are considered in the planning of modern development in the United States, the provision of food is rarely a consideration. More often, transportation infrastructure, including roads, ports, and rails, is considered synonymous with food infrastructure, and little attention is paid to distances from the development to food retail, distribution hubs, ports, or food sources. In modern development it is assumed where there is a road, there will be food. This was not the case in pre-Industrial development; limited means of high-speed transportation, and the absence of technologies such as refrigeration, required carefully planned development to maximize efficiencies of transportation and proximities of food sources.As communities strive for increasingly sustainable means of development, an important consideration is planning for food resilience, of the ability to secure food within one's community in light of outside stressors such as natural disasters or limited fuel resources. Food resiliency requires balancing several considerations related to the locality of food, and contains a greater degree of complexity than the popularized 100 mile ‘local food' radius. While greater densities of development receiving efficient modes of food distribution offer one facet of food resilience, lower densities that offer opportunities for in-situ production provide yet another.

This research investigates relative food system resiliency by evaluating opportunities for adapting food systems within existing community patterns. The San Francisco Bay Area provides a relevant case study of both pre- and post-industrial development at a range of densities and networked with multiple transportation infrastructures. The evaluation of communities within this region reveals important considerations for environmental designers aiming to increase food system resilience in new and existing communities. This includes examining multiple scales of adaptation to production and distribution networks, and challenges the popularized 100 mile ‘local food' radius for achieving regional food resilience.

The study examines a convenience sample of four communities on a rough east-west transect within the San Francisco Bay Area and along Interstate 580: San Francisco, Oakland, Dublin and Mountain House. See Figure 1. The communities represent a range of densities, area coverage, and populations which correspond roughly to their location along the transect, with the larger and denser communities (San Francisco and Oakland) at the western end, and the smaller and less-dense communities at the eastern end of the transect. The transect is important in both geographic and historical terms, as the western end also corresponds to the oldest community with development occurring in an east-ward expansion.

At the scale of the neighborhood, the study identified travel distance to a full-service retail grocery store as the most significant criterion for assessing community food resilience. Using aerial photography and GIS data, a maximum one-way travel distance within each community to a full-service retail grocery store was established. For this study, a full-service retail grocery store was defined as a supermarket carrying fresh produce, such as Safeway, Andronico's or Lucky's. Convenience stores which sell primarily soft drinks, alcoholic beverages and snacks, were not included, as they do not typically provide access to fruits and vegetables (or other whole foods). The study calculated the average distance to a full-service retail grocery store within the community.

The study also defined the ‘productive potential' of each community, a measure of a typical back yard's ability to meet the fruit and vegetable diet for a family of four, based on average home lot size and coverage, USDA consumption figures and typical home-garden yields. A combination of aerial photographs, zoning maps and real-estate data for each community was analyzed to determine a typical lot configuration for each community, illustrating the average lot size, average home size and coverage. Although individuals may choose to use open space areas on their lots in a variety of ways, including ornamental landscaping, xeriscaping, recreational features such as basketball courts, lawn and hardscaping, in addition to food gardening, the productive potential of any lot is pre-determined by open space provided. Raised bed gardening, a typical home-garden approach to growing food, yields an average 1.24 pounds per square foot. In the U.S. an average of 1.5 pounds of fruits and vegetables is consumed per person per day. The productive potential of each community was derived from applying the raised bed average yield to 90% of the typical lot open space in each community, and then calculating what percentage of the full-year fruit and vegetable diet for a family of four would be met by that yield.

Flexibility is key to resilience. While San Francisco might not be able to produce all its fruit and vegetable needs via urban agriculture, access to multiple neighborhood grocery stores and to efficient modes of food distribution offer alternative means of adopting alternative food systems. Oakland, shares many of the same advantages as San Francisco, but with greater lots sizes (and generally a better microclimate), opportunities for urban agriculture are far greater. Dublin, while not sharing the same access to efficient modes of food distribution as San Francisco and Oakland, offers the greatest opportunities for residential urban agriculture with a productive potential of 190%. With minimal opportunities for home production, great distances between home and local grocery retail, and removed location from efficient distribution centers, the community of Mountain House appears to be the least capable of adaptations to the existing food system.

The results of this research exemplify the need for environmental designers to balance considerations of density and geographic location in new development. While density provides opportunities for limiting personal automobile commute times, it can also interfere with opportunities to promote UA as an alternative food source. Recognizing the geographic location of new development, the impacts to food distribution networks, and the proximity of local food retail outlets should also be an important consideration for environmental designers. In essence, the infrastructure of a community's food system (including global, regional, and local sources and distribution networks) should be an equal consideration to new development in the San Francisco Bay Area, and beyond, if community's are to be designed as resilient food systems.


Posted on Sunday, October 1, 2017 at 5:49 PM
  • Author: N. Claire Napawan, Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture
  • Author: Ellen Burke, Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture California Polytechnic Institute, San Luis Obispo

August 19th is National Honey Bee Day: Dr. Elina NiƱo reminds us to help honey bees cope with pests

National Honey Bee Day is celebrated on the third Saturday of every August. This year it falls on Saturday the 19th. If you use integrated pest management, or 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:

For Beekeepers:
For All Bee Lovers:

Sources for the Value of Honey Bees:

Calderone N. 2012. Insect-pollinated crops, Insect Pollinators and US Agriculture: Trend Analysis of Aggregate Data for the Period 1992–2009.

Flottum K. 2017. U.S. Honey Industry Report, 2016.

Posted on Thursday, August 17, 2017 at 1:02 PM
  • Author: Stephanie Parreira, UC Statewide IPM Program

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



Social Media Links






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

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