Urban agriculture ventures of all different stripes – from commercial hydroponic enterprises and rooftop aeroponic farms to community gardens planted atop formerly vacant lots – are not only disrupting the food system, but also generating community and economic capital.
To give you an up close and personal look at a series of innovative urban farming operations that have emerged to tackle challenges to food access, meet marketplace demand for local food, and increase food security, Seedstock has put together the ‘Future of Food – Urban Ag Field Trip’.
Scheduled for Friday, January 27, 2017, the field trip will look at the impact of urban farming in Los Angeles County, the most populous county in the United States, and include lectures on such topics as the past, present, and future of urban agriculture, vertical farming, and sourcing local food from urban farms.
Since University of California Cooperative Extension established the first Master Gardener Programs in the state in 1981, its army of certified volunteer gardeners, who are today spread across more than 50 counties, have supported programs aimed at educating California residents, especially those living in low-income communities, about growing their own food.
In Los Angeles, one such program that Master Gardener Program volunteers supported was the Common Ground Garden Program, which was established in 1976 with funds from a Congressional appropriations bill to support a national Urban Garden Program. Working in collaboration with the Common Ground Garden Program, the Master Gardener volunteers played a pivotal role in helping to set up several community and school gardens across the county.
After funding from the Urban Garden Program ceased, the Los Angeles County branch of the Master Gardener Program formally took over the task of training community gardeners.
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Initially established in a Knoxville, Tennessee, food desert, CAC Beardsley Community Farm has been donating its fruits and vegetables to area hunger relief organizations for almost two decades.
“Beardsley started in ‘98 actually as a way to address the situation in this area because at that point it was a food desert,” Beardsley Farm Manager Charlotte Rodina says.
The farm, which exists in a public park that was originally the site of an agricultural college, and later a middle school, is owned by a local governmental social service organization called Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee.
Rodina says the farm is still working on hunger relief efforts despite the fact the area is no longer considered a food desert.
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Though D’Artagnan Scorza grew up economically disadvantaged amidst a food desert in South Los Angeles, his family created an oasis of fresh fruits and vegetables that left him wanting for nothing at home.
“My grandmother grew corn and bell peppers, and grafted trees, though I didn’t know what that was until I got older and began to understand the relationship between food and the land.”
Scorza’s family not only grew their own food, but also cooked it.
“The history in my family is connected to food. My grandmother held food culture high in our family and it has always had a strong place,” he says. “My aunts, uncles, nieces all cook. I cook.”
Katie Stagliano’s first cabbage fed more than 275 people. As an ambitious third grader in 2008, she nurtured a cabbage seedling in her backyard until it weighed about 40 pounds. Unsure what to do with her harvest, she approached the soup kitchen at Tri County Family Ministries in North Charleston, South Carolina. They turned her cabbage into soup, and Stagliano saw an opportunity to help feed families in need through gardening.
To grow food for those in need, Katie and her family started Katie’s Krops, a nonprofit that helps kids across the country start their own gardens. Since its founding, Katie’s Krops has helped jumpstart 100 gardens in 33 states.
Now, at 17 years old and getting ready for college, Stagliano is the youngest member of the Clinton Global Initiative and this June was recognized as a University of California Global Food Initiative “30 Under 30” recipient, an award given to young people who are addressing problems in the food system in creative ways.