- Author: Rob Bennaton, UCCE Bay Area Urban Agriculture Advisor
- Author: Julio Contreras, UCCE Urban Ag & Food Systems Program Community Education Specialist III
On August 25th, UCCE's Urban Ag & Food Systems Program tabled, paneled and supported the 8th Annual Food, Faith and Farms Conference in San Rafael, CA, hosted by Interfaith Sustainable Food Collaborative. The national Faithlands Conference, coordinated between Interfaith and the Agrarian Trust, which hosts the national Faithlands web page as a hub for sharing resources, followed on August 26-27. Rob Bennaton, Urban Ag and Food Systems Advisor, was panel moderator for the Successful Farms and Gardens on Faith Community Owned Lands panel. Julia Van Soelen Kim, North Bay Food Systems Advisor led a workshop focused on Making the Most of Commercial Kitchens, and Vince Trotter, Sustainable Ag Coordinator & Agricultural Ombudsman with UCCE Marin County, led a different workshop on Halal and Kosher: Exploring Relationships with Local Small Livestock Producers. Julio Contreras, UCCE Community Education Specialist III with the UCCE Urban Ag & Food Systems Program, shared urban farming information, supported and facilitated throughout the conference.
The discussion was on one of the most challenging hurdles for beginning and immigrant farmers: securing land to grow food. Meanwhile, religious institutions own lands throughout the United States that are often suitable for agriculture. These plots of land may vary in size from a 1,000 square foot community garden to over 100 acres. Partnerships can allow faith groups to simultaneously save resources, advance food security, connect traditional faith-based stories to land and agriculture, and help small farmers overcome economic and structural barriers. The presenters described innovative projects, including a farmer leasing from a Seventh Day Adventist middle school that successfully transferred ownership 3 times in Sonoma County, CA. There was also a farmer who leased land from her church while developing a farm project, allowing for her to scale to the point she qualified for a USDA loan for a piece of land that has a home and infrastructure. Finally, partnerships were highlighted in which a perennial food forest and seed bank on the grounds of a 4-acre Episcopal Church site were established.
The Faithlands movement is growing nationally to connect and inspire faith communities to use their land in new ways that promote ecological and human health, support local food and farming, enact reparative justice, and strengthen communities. On the Agrarian Trust's Faithlands web page, download the free FAITHLANDS TOOLKIT A Guide to Transformative Land Use. Interfaith is a regional and national organization which supports congregations of all faiths, denominations and backgrounds by connecting them with farmers and supporting farm stand initiation, farmers markets, and CSAs.
The idea is innovative and yet traditional, since so many faith-based groups are doing community-based food systems work, such as emergency food distribution, operating commercial-scale kitchens, or stewarding lands that could be cultivated by local farmers.
In particular, lands stewarded by faith-based groups in urban areas present a huge opportunity for cultivation by urban farmers, given high costs of land values in cities. Land for Good is another great organization that supports land transfers for farming and the development of land use agreements. Their amazing ToolBox web page has significant resources for building and negotiating leases for- and with- farmers and landowners.
The conference had a great turnout with powerful speakers and groups doing inspiring work around the nation. Speaker Rabbi Justin Goldstein from Yesod Farm+Kitchen in Fairview, North Carolina, opened the conference, sharing key points on building relationships for indigenous lands stewardship, and the process of returning this unceded land. Food justice and sustainability leaders representing 47 different religious communities were in attendance. While most came from the North Bay and East Bay, there were also participants from elsewhere in California and eight other states.
As described on the Interfaith Sustainable Food Collaborative website, “For the first time the conference included tours of farms and gardens at 7 different faith-community sites. Diverse speakers included 8 farmers growing food on lands owned by religious institutions. Ammar Ahmed of Islamic Circle of North America in Washington, D.C. spoke about the response of Muslim communities in the U.S. to hunger during theCOVID Pandemic. He called on attendees to help with the national effort by Muslim and Jewish groups to urge USDA to make kosher and halal meat available to observant Jews and Muslims through an emergency food program. Advocates are concerned about protein options available to observant individuals who utilize TEFAP, The Emergency Food Assistance Program (A letter signed by some 47 members of Congress went toUSDA last week; we will keep the Interfaith Food network apprised of how to help with this work.)” - Steve Schwartz, Executive Director, Interfaith Sustainable Food Collaborative.
In the Bay Area, South Berkeley, East and West Oakland, and South Hayward congregations have established small farms and gardens with their congregations. UCCE's Urban Ag & Food Systems Program with Alameda County RCD and Interfaith is providing technical support to a new East Alameda Gurdwara farming initiative managed by the Sikh community there. If you know of a faith-based group interested in this work, please reach out to Interfaith Sustainable Food Collaborative. Our Urban Ag collaborative team is also ready to work with you.
- Author: Lucy Diekmann
Silicon Valley's culture of innovation, diverse culinary traditions, fertile soils, and Mediterranean climate offer unique food system opportunities. In addition to large tech companies, these two counties are home to roughly 1300 farms with agricultural production valued at more than $450 million. Yet high land values make it difficult for farmers to find and keep land. The high cost of living also contributes to many families' struggle to put healthy food on the table. According to Second Harvest Food Bank, one in three children in Silicon Valley are food insecure. Many of those who are hungry are employed, but don't make enough to cover basic expenses in what has become the country's richest region as well as its most expensive.
Despite these challenges, this is an exciting time to work on food and agriculture in Silicon Valley. Santa Clara County is in the process of implementing the Santa Clara Valley Agricultural Plan to preserve agricultural lands and support a vibrant agricultural economy. The nonprofit organization SPUR is piloting a program to make California-grown produce more affordable for low-income families at grocery stores in San Jose and Gilroy. Civically engaged residents successfully advocated for Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones in the City of San Jose, creating new opportunities to put vacant land to productive use. The region's urban farms are involved in growing food for school cafeterias, developing a food entrepreneurship program, and educating students and the general public about food and agriculture, among many other activities.
Originally from Maine, I relocated to the Bay Area 15 years ago to pursue a PhD at UC Berkeley. For the past eight years, I've been working and raising my family in the South Bay. If you'd like to learn more about my work or Silicon Valley's food system, please be in touch. You can find me here: http://cesantaclara.ucanr.edu/Programs/contact/?facultyid=40005.
Without understanding the actual links between UA and food security or which specific characteristics, models or approaches reduce insecurity, urban policymakers and advocates risk backing policies that could have unintended consequences or negative impacts on vulnerable individuals and communities. We argue that in addition to more robust analyses that measure the actual social, economic, and health impacts of urban agriculture, and how they impact food security, it is important to understand which approaches to policy, governance and civic engagement support UA models that are effective in reducing food insecurity.
In general, we see three trends in current scholarship on UA in relation to community food security: (1) a focus on the production potential of urban lands, (2) individual case studies highlighting various nutritional, health, and other community benefits or outcomes from urban gardening initiatives, and (3) more critical analyses of UA through food justice and equity lenses. To this latter point, robust theoretical analyses have emerged critiquing the risks of UA when approached without an equity lens, potentially reinforcing structural injustices and racism and negatively impacting communities that ideally should benefit the most.
Deeper historical and structural challenges including poverty, racism, and divestment in specific communities and neighborhoods are increasingly being recognized as the root causes of the problem of unequal access to sufficient supplies of safe, nutritious, affordable, and culturally acceptable food facing cities. Designating land for agricultural use in urban areas may conflict with other city planning priorities around affordable housing, community economic development, or smart growth approaches associated with reducing urban sprawl and mitigating climate change, such as transit-oriented development. Because of the persistent legacy of systemic discrimination, it is neither inevitable nor guaranteed that urban agriculture will redress food system inequities; in fact, urban farms can sometimes lead to displacement through eco-gentrification. This is a particularly acute concern in areas experiencing housing pressures and population growth, such as the San Francisco Bay area and New York City.
Analyzing the intersection of food access and food distribution literatures reveals three key factors mediating the effect of UA on food security in the urban food system:
(1) the economic viability of urban farms (to sustain the provisioning of affordable urban produced foods)
(2) the role of city planning and policies in advancing racial equity through UA such as secure land tenure and public investment, and
(3) the importance of civic engagement to advocate for and hold cities and counties accountable to the needs of low-income communities.
We highlight examples from both the scholarly and gray literatures that demonstrate how UA can improve food access, distribution, and justice, in a way that supports both consumers and producers of food in cities. The gray literature in particular reveals many emerging and informal distribution networks for urban produced foods that would benefit from further academic study, such as gleaning networks, distribution apps, and online platforms.
The review concludes with a set of recommendations for researchers, practitioners, and policymakers who seek to create spaces in cities for food justice, equity, access, and sovereignty. Most notably we acknowledge that urban farms are producing a lot more than food; and that equitable planning, public investment and civic engagement are crucial elements in securing the long-term viability of urban farms. More robust analyses documenting the multifaceted benefits and risks of UA such as public health, food security, youth development, food literacy, eco-gentrification and environmental justice can help inform more equitable public policy and planning efforts.
- Author: Penny Leff
Yisrael farm produces healthy food for the Yisrael family and their community. More importantly, Chanowk and Judith help to grow a healthy community by sharing their skills and knowledge, offering classes, workshops and programs for youth, and teaching others how to grow their own food and cook healthy meals. Their mission is to “transform the hood for G.O.O.D.” (G.O.O.D. stands for “Growing our own Destiny") using urban agriculture as a tool for community engagement, empowerment and employment. They demonstrate the benefits of growing your own food and principles of cultivation of the soil which they share with their local community and the world.
The Yisrael family now raises 45 to 50 percent of their own food, and distribute some of their crops informally in their community. In 2017, they raised about 4000 pounds of food and hosted about 1500 visitors. Yisrael Farm operates an urban farm stand, selling directly from the farm to visitors. Farm stand products are fresh produce, farm-raised eggs, jams produced under a cottage food registration, and soaps and other body care products made using farm products. Marketing the food produced on the farm is not a major part of Yisrael Family Urban Farm's program. The major focus of Yisrael Farm is education. Programs and events and classes are marketed through the website, Facebook, Twitter and through community partners.
Good rich soil grows nutritious crops. Chanowk Yisrael has spent more than ten years building the soil at Yisrael Family Farm, using natural methods including composting, double-digging, cover-cropping and low-till techniques. The farm soil is now distinctively rich and loose and healthy, enabling the growth of abundant healthy food.
4507 Roosevelt Avenue, Sacramento, CA 95820
Social Media links:
888-487-9494 option 2, email@example.com
- Author: Mary V Redlin
When you arrive at Wild Willow Farm & Education Center (WWF) it's hard to believe that you are merely miles from one metropolis – San Diego – to the north, and even closer to the bustle of Tijuana, Mexico to the south. The farm, operated by the non-profit organization, San Diego Roots Sustainable Food Project, calls 5.5 acres home in the Tijuana River Valley Regional Park, with about two acres currently under production.
The farm grows a variety of seasonal produce, herbs, flowers, and fruit, which they mostly sell through their “Farmshare CSA,” and a few wholesale restaurant accounts. A Saturday farm stand onsite is also in the works. However, ask founder and program manager Mel Lions what they really grow, and he'll tell you, “Farmers!”
The mission of the farm goes beyond growing food. WWF is a working educational farm that teaches and trains the next generation of farmers to be stewards of the land. They operate southern California's only soil-based farm school, with regenerative agriculture at the cornerstone. WWF offers weekly classes and workshops in food, community, and health-related topics, and four times a year they offer their signature six-week course, Farming 101: Introduction to Regenerative Farming. The course introduces students to basic principles and practices that focuses on transforming farms and food production into ecologically restorative, bio-diverse living landscapes best suited for small-scale production.
While much income for the farm is revenue generated by programs, funding always remains a challenge. The team at WWF depends on volunteer administrators, and part-time paid staff. In addition, lease restrictions inside the County Park prohibit traditional farm amenities, such as housing for staff and students. The County Park also only provides a five-year lease term, which limits long-term planning and investment in infrastructure upgrades.
In its eighth year of existence, WWF has weathered storms, which literally flooded the farm (as it sits in flood plain,) but they wouldn't want it any other way. WWF is a guaranteed breath of fresh air, and embraces all who are willing to make the trip off the beaten path.
Wild Willows Farm can be found at 2550 Sunset Avenue, San Diego, California 92154, or online at http://sandiegoroots.org/farm/farm-school.php. The farm's social media links are https://www.instagram.com/wildwillowfarm/ and https://www.facebook.com/wildwillowfarm.
Cathryn Henning is WWF's Farm Manager. You can email WWF at firstname.lastname@example.org.