- Author: Rachel A. Surls
Recently, I have been visiting urban farms as part of a research project. It’s been interesting to see that even a tiny piece of land can produce enough for sale. Last week I visited a home where a standard suburban backyard and front yard have been converted into a mini farm producing vegetables, herbs and seedlings. The owners grow enough to sell at two area farmers’ markets each week.
This may be a trend. The Los Angeles County Agricultural Commissioner’s office certifies growers to sell at local farmers’ markets. According to the staff member I spoke with, they have received quite a few calls recently from LA County residents interested in selling at local markets.
At a California Certified Farmers’ Market, everything has been grown on the farm and has been brought to the market by the farmer, their immediate family members, or their employees. An inspection and certification process helps to ensure the integrity of this system.
In order to sell farm products grown in Los Angeles County at a Certified Farmers’ Market, growers must contact the Los Angeles County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office at 562-622-0426. (For those growing in other counties, they would contact their own county agricultural commissioner’s office). An inspector will make an appointment to visit the growing area to find out what and how much the farmer is growing, and how much they project they will have available for sale.
There is a small annual fee for certification. After the inspection, and paying the fee, the farmer receives a Certified Producer’s Certificate to display when selling at a market. Growers can only sell what has been grown on the farm, and specifically, what is on the certificate. New crops can be added by amending the certificate.
Becoming certified to sell at farmers’ markets is relatively simple, but the business of farming is not! Like starting any business, it requires careful research and planning before start-up. For example, farmers need to identify one or more farmers' markets that will be a good match for their operation, working with market managers. Also, many commercial farmers in Los Angeles, even very small growers, will need to join the LA Irrigated Lands Group to ensure compliance with water quality regulations. Many other issues need consideration as well. Some helpful on-line resources for starting a small farm business are available through the UC Small Farm Program.
The best strategy is to do a considerable amount of homework before starting any urban farm venture where sales to the public are involved.
- Author: Rachel A. Surls
I often see and find inspiration in the links between current events around Los Angeles and our county's agricultural heritage. This week my "ahah" moment came at the Compton Creek Symposium, an event put on jointly by my organization, UC Cooperative Extension, and the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers Watershed Council. This was a two-day event that brought together community, staff of government agencies, city officials and local non-profits to discuss the Compton Creek watershed and its renovation.
One symposium presenter, Reginald Fagan, talked about what Compton was like when he was a boy. He grew up playing alongside the creek, collecting shellfish and crayfish, and riding his bike and ponies along its bank. He was a member of the 4-H Bison Club active in Compton at that time. "When I was growing up here we all had gardens. Food wasn't an issue", said Fagan.
Another participant at the symposium told me about growing up in Compton in the late 1950's. "This was the country. There were dairies everywhere".
A piece of Compton's farm history is alive today in the community of Richland Farms, a neighborhood of approximately 400 homes, many on an acre or more of land, where residents own horses and livestock. In fact, I discovered that there is a very active youth equestrian group based in Richland Farms called the Compton Jr. Posse. I had a great time talking with their founder and Executive Director, Mayisha Akbar. Learn about this impressive organization at http://www.comptonjrposse.org/ .
During the two-day symposium, as participants shared their visions for the future of Compton and its Creek, urban agriculture and gardening were mentioned numerous times as viable components of that future. For example, Reginald Fagan is currently working to develop an agricultural resource center for Compton, The Timbuktu Resource Center and Learning Academy, which will engage local youth in sustainable agriculture. Others talked about creating a community garden near the creek. In fact, the approved regional plan for the area is entitled the "Compton Creek Regional Garden Park Master Plan". The plan includes native plants and trees, pocket parks, a community garden, and even a hitching post and watering trough for horses, along with many other features to enhance the area.
To learn more about Compton Creek, go to The Watershed Council website at http://lasgrwc2.org/programsandprojects/llarc.aspx?search=comptoncreek. A copy of the Compton Creek Regional Garden Park Master Plan, which includes history, photos, community input, maps and much more, can be downloaded at the Council's on-line document library at http://lasgrwc2.org/dataandreference/Document.aspx.