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Posts Tagged: urban

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

Q&A: UC ANR's Doug Parker talks drought

Recently, the UC Food Observer caught up with one of California's foremost experts on water: Doug Parker of the University of California. Parker is the director of the University of California's Institute for Water Resources. The mission of the institute is to integrate California's research, extension and education programs to develop research-based solutions to water resource challenges. The institute has recently launched a blog, The Confluence.

Doug Parker
As director, Parker works with federal, state and local agencies to guide academic expertise toward finding solutions to California's water challenges. He brings together local, state and federal stakeholders to identify issues and sources of political and financial support for water-related research. Dr. Parker is vitally concerned about improving the understanding of the complexities surrounding California and water, and to that end, he also serves as a key spokesperson on the state's water issues. 

Prior to joining UC, Parker worked on water quality issues related to the Chesapeake Bay as an associate professor and extension specialist in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at the University of Maryland. An economist by training, he earned his Ph.D. in agricultural and resource economics at UC Berkeley, and was on faculty there as an extension specialist. He holds bachelor's degrees in economics and environmental studies from UC Santa Barbara.


Q: Governor Brown recently issued an executive order that will restrict urban water usage by 25 percent. How do you see this being enforced across the state? What might enforcement mechanisms look like?

A: The State Water Resources Control Board will set restrictions for each of the over 400 water districts that serve residential consumers in the next month. The 25 percent reduction is meant to be a statewide average for urban users, and the actual reductions will be based on per capita water consumption in 2013. So, areas that are already conserving water will not be asked to reduce as much as the largest water users, who will have to make bigger reductions.

To meet the reductions, individual water districts will each have to draft a plan of how they will bring consumers in their district into compliance. This may include restrictions on outdoor water use and pricing structures that greatly increase costs to large water users and monetary fines. In essence, the reductions are not solely aimed at individual users, but will be made by a combination of reductions by homeowners and industrial and commercial users.

In terms of enforcement, the State Board can fine water districts that are out of compliance up to $10,000 per day. Before fines are enforced, the board will engage the water district to try to help figure out how they can meet the goals.


Q: How much is this going to hurt the average person? What kinds of changes will individuals have to make?

A: The average person will most likely need to reduce outdoor water use, such as landscape watering, and increase conservation measures indoors as well. The easiest way to meet the water reductions is to reduce or eliminate outdoor watering. The governor's order calls for a voluntary, incentive-based program to remove 50 million square feet of turf. Many homeowners may want to consider replacing turf with drought tolerant landscaping. There will also be programs for water efficient appliances like dishwashers and clothes washing machines, and low-flow shower heads. In general, I don't see major changes for the average person, particularly if they've already been conserving and cut outdoor watering, but they will need to take action and be more mindful of their water use.


Q: Increasingly, the narrative of California's water problem has taken on a divisive tone that pits agriculture versus urban users, Northern California against Southern California, etc. Is there any perspective you could offer that might make people realize water issues are shared issues?

A: I find it rather disturbing that some people see this as an urban vs. agriculture issue. The California Constitution states that water belongs to the people of the state. It is our water to use for the benefit of all Californians. I myself am happy to be able to cut back on my water use so that it can be used to grow food. What greater use of water do we have? It is inconvenient and perhaps aesthetically unpleasing to have a brown lawn, but compared to food production and food insecurity, the impact on my own life seems pretty minor.

In addition to growing food, the agricultural sector supports jobs in many of our most needy communities. The agricultural water restrictions in 2014 were estimated to have cost the agricultural sector over 17,000 jobs and a loss of over $2 billion. We expect those numbers to increase in 2015.

In the urban sector the drought has had very little impact on jobs or income. In the landscaping industry it remains unclear what impact the drought is having or will have. Reductions in turf irrigation may reduce the need for mowing and other uses of labor. But an increase in turf removal and replacement with drought-tolerant landscaping will lead to an increase in landscaping expenditures and labor.

The thing that I try to keep in mind is that it's all of our water, and we're all in it together.


Q: What happens to California agriculture in the next few years? What might the industry look like 20 years from now? What kind of cropping patterns might we see?

A: I think agriculture will reassess their perception of how secure their water supply is. For those that are seeing large cuts in water allocations, future planting decisions may be more conservative. We may see a decrease in permanent crops to increase flexibility in response to water shortages, though this may be balanced by the fact that things like almonds continue to yield a high value and if you are already reducing crops, keeping the most valuable ones is a rational decision. We will continue to see increases in efficiency, whether through irrigation technology or management of irrigation. We will also see increased investment in surface and groundwater storage to increase resiliency.


Q: Historically, is this drought a bump in the road or a harbinger of things to come?

A: All droughts are a bumps in the road and all droughts eventually end. But, I think we are more used to the speed bump type of drought that slows us to 25 mph. This one is a bit more severe and we probably need to take it down to 5 mph and do some serious long-term planning. Climate models predict that we will see an increase in the frequency and severity of drought. We need to start preparing for this drought to last a few more years and for future droughts as well.


Q: What resources would you recommend people seek out for information on a practical level? What about resources for those who might want to dig deeper?

A: The University of California has many resources to help homeowners, businesses, landscapers and farmers adapt to the drought. Many of those resources can be found on our webpages.


Q: What policies do we need in California to make sure we are able to more effectively respond to these types of crises in the future? What kind of infrastructure would help us more effectively meet our water needs?

A: I think this drought has brought to light the critical importance of groundwater as a resource to lessen the impacts of drought. California passed historic groundwater legislation in 2014 that will ensure this resource is available to us in future droughts. We need to work now to implement this law as quickly as possible. The law's timeline is very generous but I believe that communities that work to accelerate the timeline will greatly benefit from such efforts.

Rose Hayden-Smith is a UC ANR advisor who writes as the UC Food Observer. The UC Food Observer is your daily serving of must-read news from the world of food, curated by the University of California. Visit our blog, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

This article first appeared on the UC Food Observer.

Posted on Wednesday, April 15, 2015 at 8:35 AM

UCCE adds urban 4-H club in San Francisco

Responding to a strong locavore movement and do-it-yourself ethos in San Francisco, parents Megan Price and Lauren Ward co-founded the San Francisco Urban 4-H Club this year, said an article published yesterday in the San Francisco Chronicle.

"With the whole urban farming movement blossoming, there are a lot of people with backyard chickens, beekeeping, etc.," Price was quoted. "It just seems like a really good time to start exploring these things with our kids."

But that wasn't the only thing that drew the parents to 4-H.

"I like that (4-H is) focused on service, that it's nondiscriminatory," Price said. "I like that it is focused on earth and agriculture and animals and helping - it is something that kids don't necessarily have access to in the city."

The Chron article, written by Lisa Wallace, said 4-H membership, especially in urban areas, has been on a steady rise the last 4 years. According to 4-H National, about a third of participants are now from cities of at least 50,000 or their surrounding suburbs.

Even though these 4-H members generally live in areas not zoned for farm animals, 4-H helps find ways for city kids to experience the joys and challenges of animal husbandry.

For example, UC Cooperative Extension 4-H program representative Mary Meyer worked with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission to set up five locations where 4-Hers can lease land - in Pacifica, Daly City, San Bruno, San Carlos and near the Crystal Springs Reservoir in San Mateo County, the article said. The rent is usually around $6 per month, and because there is no caretaker, it's up to the 4-Hers to feed and groom their animals daily.

Nine-year-old Elsa Rafter joined the San Francisco Urban 4-H Club because of her family's interest backyard chickens, but by participating in 4-H, became involved in several other aspects of growing and preparing food.

Elsa learned to milk a club member's backyard goats and make homemade ice cream from the milk. With Price, who is a pastry chef, she baked an apple and blackberry galette with fresh fruit and an egg wash from her own chickens.

"When you live in a city, you're exposed to cool stuff like museums, but you have to go out of your way to see a farm, or experience milking a goat," Price was quoted in the story.

Bay Area 4-H was also recently featured in a Mother Jones blog post. Kiera Butler wrote about 4-H children she met at the Alameda County Fair.

She said the 4-H kids and leaders she talked to spoke passionately about the importance of raising animals in humane conditions and on healthy and varied diets. Members are encouraged to spend time with their animals, and they are required to learn about the biology and health of the animals they raise.

"In 4-H we try to make kids understand the responsibility that comes with raising an animal," UCCE 4-H program representative Stephanie Fontana was quoted. "You're in charge of another being."

Posted on Monday, August 15, 2011 at 9:06 AM
Tags: 4-H (1), locavore (1), urban (4)

Urban runoff main source of pesticide in California rivers

Researchers who studied runoff from agriculture, sewage treatment plants and urban neighborhoods found that the main source of pesticide concentration was from urban run-off, according to an article published in the Daily Californian. Portions of the American River and San Joaquin River contain pesticide levels high enough to kill some invertebrates, such as gadflies and mayflies.

"On the source side of things, urban run-off consistently has pyrethroids at levels that are toxic to some organisms," the story quoted Donald Weston, a UC Berkeley biology professor and co-author of the study. The study was published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

The researchers found that nearly all residential runoff samples had pyrethroid levels that were toxic to the test organism, Hyalella azteca. Pyrethroids are found in many common household insecticides - such as Raid.

Weston told the Californian that the prevalence of pyrethroids in household insecticides was due in part to a ban on organophosphate insecticides in such products. Pyrethroid use has increased about three-fold over the last 10 years, he said.
Posted on Tuesday, February 9, 2010 at 10:47 AM
Tags: American River (1), rivers (1), runoff (1), San Joaquin River (1), urban (4)

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