- Author: Gail Feenstra
- Author: Rachel A. Surls
- Author: Shosha Capps
Urban agriculture provides an excellent opportunity to integrate community development and youth empowerment while sharing information about growing food in diverse urban settings. In 2015 and 2016, staff from UC SAREP and UC Cooperative Extension partnered with youth participants and staff at non-profit agencies to offer youth-led tours of local urban farms.
This project gave youth leaders from 10 community-based urban ag organizations an opportunity to share their knowledge and experience with UC personnel, funders, policy makers, urban ag non-profit staff, and other urban farmers. Forty youth ranging from middle school through college age participated in a training on how to tell their personal stories related to urban agriculture before leading tours of their urban farms in the Bay Area, Sacramento and Los Angeles.
Videos documented these efforts, including a visit to young people farming in the Bay Area and a virtual farm tour with youth in Los Angeles. The videos show how powerful this experiential education is for both youth and adults, and how UC can continue to work effectively with our communities to build sustainable food systems.
Other organizations that would like to host a similar youth-led farm tour activity can access the curriculum and trainer's guide below. Funding from UC ANR and the UC Global Food Initiative made this project possible, along with the support of community partners including Community Services Unlimited, Social Justice Learning Institute, WOW Farm, Berkeley Youth Alternatives, Phat Beets Produce, Acta Non Verba, the Yisrael Family Urban Farm, The GreenHouse, the International Garden of Many Colors, Burbank Urban Garden, and Mutual Housing CA.
- Author: Cheryl A. Wilen
But suppose you miss some weeds that are starting to flower but the flowers aren't open yet? I think most growers will just pull or cut the weed and leave it in or near the field.
I want to show you a time-lapse video I took. I cut the flowering stem off of an annual sowthistle plant and took a photo with a special camera every minute for 6 days. As you can clearly see, even though the stem was no longer receiving water or nutrients from the soil, at least the flower bud continued to mature and produce seeds. Now, having said that, I have not germinated the seeds to see if they are viable, but there is a good chance they are. Click HERE for video. It's about 1 1/2 minutes long, but most of the action happens in the first 50 seconds.
So the take home message - if the weeds have flower buds starting to open, remove them to covered piles, trash cans, or other area where they will not be a source of new weed seeds.
- Author: Brent Carvalho, Garden to Table
- Author: Rachel A. Surls
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.
- Author: claire napawan
The spatial needs of successful public space include a strong neighborhood connection, an accessible perimeter, and a site design and layout that promotes many and diverse users. Communally-managed urban farms benefit from similar spatial considerations: strong connections to neighborhood context insure a strong community commitment to the demanding maintenance needs of a production landscape, strong physical and visual accessibility promotes diverse users of the site, and flexible layouts and designs encourage diverse programs within the site. The consideration of the communally-managed urban farm site as a whole, and not parceled into individualized plots, allows for the use of smaller and more constrained urban sites and a greater shared commitment to the entirety of the site. This can help lessen one of the consequences of a shared public and production landscape: theft. While perimeter fencing might be a requirement of other forms of urban agriculture, a communally-managed urban farm is more resilient to the impacts of leaving a site open and accessible to the public. In addition, the accessibility of the site can lead to a higher volume of volunteer participation, consistent maintenance and good overall site appearance, and a strong sense of ownership by surrounding community (including those not interested in urban farming). Thus, although often perceived as an incompatibility, this investigation reveals that an open site perimeter, as well as the other spatial considerations of a successful public space, are consistent to the design of a successful communally-managed urban farm.
- Author: Rob Bennaton
- Author: Adapted from an article by the Alameda County Master Gardeners Help Desk
To the many benefits of composting, add another: water conservation. When compost is added to bare soils as a thin layer, it is an effective barrier against evaporation of soil moisture, a practice called top- or side-dressing. Compost also reduces plants' needs for water by increasing how much water can be held by the soil - only a 5% increase in organic material quadruples the soil's water holding capacity.1
[A] 2000 study … found that increasing the water holding capacity of the soil by adding compost helped all crops during summer droughts by reducing periods of water stress. The amount of water in … 8 inches … of the compost amended soil increased to 1.9 inches compared with 1.3 inches in un-amended soil. Since vegetables require 1 inch of water a week, at field capacity, the compost amended soil held a 2-week supply of water.2
Compost is the result of a process whereby a large volume of organic matter is rapidly decomposed into a smaller volume that is then used to amend the soil. Soil particles occur in aggregates or clumps, unless they have a high amount of sand particles that do not hold together well. Soil structure refers to the arrangement of sand, silt and clay particles into larger aggregates.3 One can assess the soil structure for their home or community garden by doing the soil-ribbon test and the soils-sedimentation test. This video from Kansas State University tells you how to assess your soil texture by feel. The bottom line is that amending the soil with compost improves its structure, which significantly affects how well it holds water.
Compost is decomposed organic matter that has stabilized, yet, still continues decomposing, though, at a slower rate. The organisms that break down organic matter release glue-like substances that bind soil particles into crumbly aggregates. These irregularly shaped aggregates have air-spaces between them and can be penetrated and occupied by water, nutrients, and plants' roots. Soils rich in organic material have a sponge-like quality that holds water and, thus, plants growing in them have lower water needs.4 In sandy soils with poor water retention, compost improves the soil's water holding capacity by improving soil structure ie., aggregate stability.
Unlike sandy soils, clay soils are characterized by small spaces between the small clay particles. Clay soils have good water retention capacity, however, the spaces in between the particles can fill with water quickly, excluding oxygen and nutrients, and, essentially, drowning the plants. Water saturation in clay soils may also cause soil runoff because those soils cannot hold more water, but, adding compost aerates clay soils and increases its capacity to hold water, oxygen, and nutrients needed for healthy plant growth.
Ultimately, regularly amending with compost lightens clay soils, thus, reducing run-off, and increases the water holding capacity of sandy soils, hence, reducing the need for water. Adding compost as a thin mulch layer over bare soils reduces water evaporation, while also reducing the need for water by garden and farm raised plants. Top-dressing with compost in combination with a thin top-layer of straw mulch in food-growing areas, or a thin woodchip mulch in ornamental garden areas, can reduce plants' water needs around their roots even more, where water is needed the most.
1 Compost Fundamentals, Compost Benefits and Uses. Washington State University, Whatcom County Extension. Accessed on 28 January 2015.
2 M. Charles Gould. Compost increases the water holding capacity of droughty soils. Michigan State University Extension. Accessed on 28 January 2015.
3 Dennis R. Pittenger, ed., California Master Gardener Handbook (University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, 2002), 36.
4 For the Gardener: Building Fertile Soil. Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, University of California, Santa Cruz (Santa Cruz, CA: University of California, no date provided).