From the UC Blogosphere...
The vibrant colors of Cosmos, an annual flower with the same common name as its genus, are spectacular. But we especially like the showstopping pink Cosmos with its bright yellow center. Well, sometimes, they have a green center--that's when an...
Long-distance view of a pink Cosmos with a "green" center. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up view of a female ultra green sweat bee, Agapostemon texanus, on Cosmos. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The female ultra green sweat bee continues to forage. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It's like winning the triple crown. The Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America (PBESA) has announced that two distinguished professors and a graduate student from the Department of Entomology and Nematology, University of California,...
James Carey teaching a UC Davis chemistry class “how to make one-minute videos on the properties of the elements in periodic tables.” The result: 540 one-minute videos, probably a world record. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
If you grow tomatoes, you ought to be concerned about thrips. They're pests of fruits, vegetable and horticultural crops, including tomatoes, grapes, strawberries and soybeans. They're barely visible to the naked eye, but oh, how disastrous they...
George Kennedy, the William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor of Agriculture at North Carolina State University, stopped to count thrips during a vacation to Mt. St. Helens. (Photo by Scott Kennedy)
In similar discussions around the state on the desire of residents to raise their own food with fewer restrictions, there is a core issue that should be front and center. In California, where we grow half of the country's fruits and vegetables, our own citizens too often go hungry.
Fifteen percent of households – roughly 5.5 million Californians – are “food insecure,” according to a 2013 federal report, meaning they do not have “consistent access throughout the year to adequate food for healthy active living.” Families with children are even more likely to run short on food.
We know that eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is key to a healthy diet, but not everyone has ready access to a grocery store, or can afford to buy fresh produce. One potential solution is to make it easier to grow food in backyards and on vacant land.
The University of California's Global Food Initiative aims to help the world sustainably and nutritiously feed itself. One way that UC Agriculture and Natural Resources is working toward that goal is by providing information for urban farmers and decision-makers interested in urban agriculture to improve food security in their communities. While hunger and food security are complex issues, urban farming can be used with other strategies to help ensure access to affordable, nutritious food.
And the idea seems to resonate with Californians. Interest in urban food production can be seen around California. Following strong advocacy efforts at the grassroots level, Assembly Bill 551 was passed in 2013, allowing local governments to designate urban agriculture incentive zones. San Francisco has enacted the state's first one.
Several other cities have developed local policies to promote urban agriculture. San Diego, for example, has made it easier for residents to keep chickens and bees in their backyards, and to establish farmers markets, produce stands, community gardens and small urban farms. Oakland updated its city code in 2014 to allow community gardens in most of the city without a special permit.
But obstacles to urban agriculture remain in many cities, including land use restrictions, difficulty accessing water, soil contamination and a lack of information on local regulations. After conducting a statewide study, my colleagues and I found a number of common challenges and came up with six steps that local officials can take to break down common barriers.
They are: Make zoning and regulatory information accessible; develop a transparent process for using city-owned land; create an urban agriculture incentive zone; update zoning to make it urban-ag-friendly; make water accessible while promoting efficient use; and provide guidance and support for soil testing and remediation.
An easy way to let urban farmers know what is allowed is to post information on a website, as San Francisco has done. Through AB 551, cities can entice property owners to lease their land for gardens and farms in exchange for reduced property taxes. Cities can also partner with urban farmers and local food policy councils to identify concerns and ways to address them.
In addition to health benefits, urban gardens beautify the community and provide common ground for people of different ages and cultures to work together. They can also create jobs, learning opportunities and economic savings on food. Given the numerous potential benefits, local officials can better serve their communities by making it easier to cultivate food locally.
If you've ever wanted free access to incredible macro images of insects and spiders, this is it. Images of arthropods in the public domain that you can download. Free. For. All. Noted insect photographer/entomologist Alex Wild, curator of entomology...
Alex Wild's portrait of a Mexican honey wasp, San Antonio, Texas. This public domain image is among the images in the newly launched "Insects Unlocked" Project. Donations are being accepted to make it all happen.
Alex Wild's image of a Californian Pseudomyrmex twig ant. This is one of the images in "Insects Unlocked."
This is Alex Wild's image of a paper wasp stinger, Polistes carolina, in Texas.