Urban Agriculture
University of California
Urban Agriculture

Lucy Diekmann, Ph.D. joins UCCE as Urban Agriculture and Food Systems Advisor for Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties

I am delighted to be joining University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) as the Urban Agriculture and Food Systems Advisor for Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties.

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.

La Mesa Verde gardeners. La Mesa Verde is a program that helps low-income families in San Jose grow their own organic vegetables. Photo credit: La Mesa Verde, Sacred Heart Community Services
My background is in food systems research. Prior to joining UCCE, I worked as a researcher and lecturer at Santa Clara University.  While there, my research included a study of the impact of drought on urban agriculture and how urban farmers and gardeners in Santa Clara County responded. In collaboration with local partners and with the assistance of many volunteer gardeners, I researched how urban gardens contribute to food security—looking at how much food was produced, how much that food was worth, and its nutritional value. Another project examined some of the broader benefits associated with urban agriculture, such as education, community building, and civic engagement. In my role as an advisor, I'm looking forward to doing applied research, helping to educate about food and agriculture, and finding opportunities to collaborate with partners in the region. Over the next year, I'm making plans to map urban agricultural social networks and identify barriers to farm viability in Silicon Valley.

 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.

Posted on Monday, November 26, 2018 at 10:22 AM

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