Posts By David Sands
Regional food hubs have become all the rage in the past year among local foods advocates. These startups promote local food system development by offering aggregation and distribution services to farmers, food producers and vendors around the country.
The glowing media coverage they often receive for this and their increasing numbers suggest food hubs are an idea whose time has come. But can they survive in the long term?
A Growing Movement
Looking at the numbers, it’s clear the movement’s definitely developed momentum over the past few years.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, their ranks grew 65 percent between 2009 and 2013, jumping from around 140 different establishments to over 230. The agency now identifies approximately 300 operating throughout the United States.
The Golden State’s farm-to-table movement has had friends in high places working on their behalf in recent months.
This past September, California Governor Jerry Brown signed seven pieces of legislation in honor of Sacramento’s Farm-to-Fork week, an annual event that celebrates locally produced foods and promotes getting it into the hands of local consumers.
If you want change, you need passion to make it happen. Sophie Ackoff, who works with the National Young Farmers Coalition helping young farmers help themselves, has bushels of it.
As the coalition’s national field director, she travels the country bringing together folks who are beginning careers in ranching and agriculture to organize for a better environment to do their vital work.
“At NYFC, we believe there should be fewer barriers to starting a farm business in the United States,” Ackoff tells Seedstock. “As a coalition of farmers, we are identifying the barriers we face, fighting for the policy changes we need, and bringing farmers together, in person and online to learn, to share and build a stronger community.”
San Francisco broke new ground this past July by becoming the first California city to allow for tax incentives on land used for urban farming. The city’s Urban Agriculture Incentive Zone Ordinance piggybacks on California State Assembly Bill 551, which permits state municipalities to create the zones. Under the ordinance, property owners must commit to using their land for agricultural purposes for five years or more. The city’s Planning Department determines a parcel’s eligibility, and the Assessor-Recorder is responsible for determining the change in property tax.
While the legislation has been embraced by many in the city’s urban farming community, it’s also ruffled some feathers among those concerned about affordable housing in the city.
The urban farming movement finally appears to be coming of age in the nation’s capital.
No longer just a novel idea, it’s now on the cusp of receiving institutional support from DC’s city leaders–that is if its backers can get votes to line up in their favor.
Earlier this year, District Council Members David Grosso and Mary Cheh introduced a piece of legislation called the DC Urban Agriculture and Food Security Act of 2014 that would not only provide a framework for urban ag, but actively encourage it while fostering the consumption of local foods by underprivileged residents. Their bill seeks to achieve these goals through a three-fold strategy of identifying vacant city-owned properties that could be used for farming, incentivizing private landowners to lease out space to farmers through a tax abatement and offering a tax break for fresh produce donated to food pantries and shelters.