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Posts Tagged: urban agriculture

Home is where the habitat is: This Earth Day, consider installing insectary plants

Help the environment this Earth Day, which falls on Sunday April 22 this year, by installing insectary plants! These plants attract natural enemies such as lady beetles, lacewings, and parasitic wasps. Natural enemies provide biological pest control and can reduce the need for insecticides. Visit the new UC IPM Insectary Plants webpage to learn how to use these plants to your advantage.

The buzz about insectary plants
Biological control, or the use of natural enemies to reduce pests, is an important component of integrated pest management. Fields and orchards may miss out on this control if they do not offer sufficient habitat for natural enemies to thrive. Insectary plants (or insectaries) can change that—they feed and shelter these important insects and make the environment more favorable to them. For instance, sweet alyssum planted near lettuce fields encourages syrphid flies to lay their eggs on crops. More syrphid eggs means more syrphid larvae eating aphids, and perhaps a reduced need for insecticides. Similarly, planting cover crops like buckwheat within vineyards can attract predatory insects, spiders, and parasitic wasps, ultimately keeping leafhoppers and thrips under control.

Flowering insectaries also provide food for bees and other pollinators. There are both greater numbers and more kinds of native bees in fields with an insectary consisting of a row of native shrubs planted along the field edge (called a hedgerow). Native bees also stay in fields with these shrubs longer than they do in fields without them. Therefore, not only do insectaries attract natural enemies, but they can also boost crop pollination and help keep bees healthy.

Insectary plants may attract more pests to your crops, but the benefit is greater than the risk
The possibility of creating more pest problems has been a concern when it comes to installing insectaries. Current research shows that mature hedgerows, in particular, bring more benefits than risks. Hedgerows attract far more natural enemies than insect pests. And despite the fact that birds, rabbits, and mice find refuge in hedgerows, the presence of hedgerows neither increases animal pest problems in the field, nor crop contamination by animal-vectored pathogens. Hedgerow insectaries both benefit wildlife and help to control pests.
 
How can I install insectary plants?
Visit the Insectary Plants webpage to learn how to establish and manage insectary plants, and determine which types of insectaries may suit your needs and situation. If you need financial assistance to establish insectaries on your farm, consider applying for Conservation Action Plan funds from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) offered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Sources:

Posted on Friday, April 20, 2018 at 4:28 PM

UCCE advisor Rachel Surls receives 2018 Bradford Rominger Agricultural Sustainability Leadership Award

The Agricultural Sustainability Institute at UC Davis has announced that Rachel Surls, UC Cooperative Extension sustainable food systems advisor for Los Angeles County, is this year's recipient of the Eric Bradford and Charlie Rominger Agricultural Sustainability Leadership Award.

Rachel Surls (Click image to download high-resolution version.)
Surls has been committed to community gardens, school gardens, and urban agriculture since long before our cities took notice. For 30 years, she has worked at the UC Cooperative Extension Office in Los Angeles County, helping to bring city-grown food into the mainstream.

The Bradford Rominger award, given yearly, honors individuals who exhibit the leadership, work ethic and integrity epitomized by the late Eric Bradford, a livestock geneticist who gave 50 years of service to UC Davis, and the late Charlie Rominger, a fifth-generation Yolo County farmer and land preservationist.

“In her three decade career with UCCE, Rachel has developed a strong program addressing some of our most critical issues in sustainable agriculture,” says Keith Nathaniel, the Los Angeles County Cooperative Extension director. “She does so with innovative strategies, working with all aspects of the LA community. After 30 years doing this work, she continues to be active in the community she serves.”

In Surls' career, gardening has been a tool to build science literacy for school children, to increase self-sufficiency for communities impacted by economic downturn, and to create small businesses for urban entrepreneurs. As the interest in and support for urban agriculture has grown, she has been in the heart of Los Angeles, ready to respond to the needs of the city's farmers and gardeners.

Her role at Cooperative Extension started as a job to help start school gardens in LA. “I would drive to any school that wanted me and help them dig in the gardens,” Surl said. “I could find teachers who were interested in starting gardens, but I couldn't find principals and administrators to support it.”

Early on, some counseled Surls to find an area of expertise that was more serious than community and school gardens. Despite the criticism, “I just chugged along, doing what I knew was good and what I cared about,” Surl said.

And over time, the value of these programs has become more apparent, and support for them has grown. Surls continued along, working to start community gardens at public housing facilities, and overseeing the Los Angeles County UC Master Gardener program.

In 1997, she stepped into a role as the UC Cooperative Extension county director, ensuring the success of extension efforts for all of Los Angeles County for the next 14 years.

In 2008 came the great recession, and with it an uptick in public interest in home grown food.

“We were getting more and more calls in our office on how to be more self-sufficient,” Surls said. “The economics of the time rattled people, so they were thinking more about how to grow their own food, and how to maybe make some money by selling what they grow. And people needed the support and guidance to do that.”

Surls and her partners are working to meet that need through workshops in California's largest metropolitan areas and a website of resources to help new urban farmers get a leg up on farming in the city. Surls is also a member of the leadership board for the Los Angeles Food Policy Council.

The energy around urban agriculture today is palpable. And a career path that was once not taken seriously now is.

“That has really changed in our institution and culture,” Surl said. “We're hiring people to do this work!”

Persistent and focused, Surls' work is one of the reasons that progress is happening.

Surls will receive the award at the Celebrating Women in Agriculture event in Davis April 3. The event is free and open to the public. Learn more about the event here.

Bradford Rominger banner

 

Posted on Tuesday, March 20, 2018 at 8:57 AM
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture Health

Urban farming workshops start soon in Sacramento and San Diego

Are you an urban farmer in the Sacramento or San Diego region? Are you a gardener thinking of selling some of your produce to neighbors, restaurants or at a farmers' market? Are you part of a non-profit organization growing and distributing food in your community? If so, you are invited to join other urban farmers at one or more of four low-cost full-day workshops starting soon in both the Sacramento and San Diego regions, offered by UC Cooperative Extension and local partners.

Learn more about the workshops, as well as the 2017 workshop series' held in the Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay Area regions, at ucanr.edu/sites/UrbanAg/Urban_Ag_Workshops.

If you're growing more food, herbs, flowers or fiber than your family or organization consumes, and if you are selling or otherwise distributing the excess, and if you are growing in or at the edge of a city or town, then you are one of an increasing number of urban farmers. Urban farms are often very small scale, commercially marginal and operated by beginning farmers. They can be operated by individuals, families, non-profit organizations, schools or colleges, or by other groups. Research shows that successful urban farms can bring social, health, environmental and economic benefits to local communities, including improved access to healthful food.

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 urban farming legal basics, 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.

Cost: Each workshop is $20 for a full day of expert speakers, participatory exercises, lunch and refreshments. Each workshop will be a one-day event. Urban farmers and future farmers, and others who are interested can take one, several, or all four of these workshops. 

Registration is open. Space is limited, so please sign up early.

San Diego registration: http://ucanr.edu/sdurbanag2018

Sacramento registration: http://ucanr.edu/sacurbanag2018

More UC ANR urban farming resources: ucanr.edu/sites/UrbanAg/

For more information:

San Diego Series: Mary Redlin, Southern California Coordinator, mvredlin@ucanr.edu, (562) 900-3041

Sacramento Series: Penny Leff, Northern California Coordinator, paleff@ucanr.edu, (530) 752-5208

 

Posted on Monday, March 5, 2018 at 2:47 PM
  • Author: Penny Leff
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture

Urban Farming Workshops Start Soon in Sacramento and San Diego

Are you part of the increasing number of urban farmers in the Sacramento or San Diego region? Not sure if you are? If you're growing more food, herbs, flowers or fiber than your family or organization consumes and are selling or otherwise distributing the excess, and if you are growing in or at the edge of a city or town, then you are an urban farmer. Urban farms are often very small scale, commercially marginal and operated by beginning farmers. They can be operated by individuals, families, non-profit organizations, schools or colleges, or by other groups. Research shows that successful urban farms can bring social, health, environmental and economic benefits to local communities, including improved access to healthful food.

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:
ucanr.edu/sites/UrbanAg/Urban_Ag_Workshops/

More UC urban farming resources: ucanr.edu/sites/UrbanAg/

Questions?

San Diego Series: Mary Redlin, Southern California Coordinator, mvredlin@ucanr.edu, 562-900-3041

Sacramento Series:Penny Leff, Northern California Coordinator, paleff@ucdavis.edu, 530-752-5208

Posted on Wednesday, February 21, 2018 at 9:30 AM

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

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