On Nov. 10-11 hundreds of attendees from across Southern California and beyond showed up for the inaugural Grow Local OC Conference: The Future of Urban Food Systems held Nov. 10-11 in Orange County, CA at California State University, Fullerton to learn more about the community and economic development potential of fostering local food systems in cities.
The conference attendees were treated to lectures from the foremost urban farming experts, entrepreneurs, and community advocates in the sustainable and local food system space. Topics explored by the speakers and panelists included the role that food plays in bridging the rural urban divide, the potential for urban farming to generate community and economic capital, the challenges faced by entrepreneurs seeking funds for their local food and farming ventures, the potential for controlled environment agriculture in cities, and the power of community development initiatives to increase access to healthy, local food.
The conference provided ample opportunity for the local food champions, entrepreneurs, and advocates in Orange County to continue to strengthen their base of support to increase food access, improve health outcomes, and meet the demands of a thriving local food marketplace.
Once a blighted lot strewn with trash, today the E. D. Robinson Urban Farm at 12th & Brandywine in Wilmington, Delaware consists of 600 sq. ft. of intergenerational community garden space and 1,400 sq. ft. of commercial growing space.
Managed by Adrienne Spencer, an amiable and well-connected neighborhood bartender turned passionate advocate for urban farming, the E. D. Robinson Urban Farm provides elderly and low income residents with fresh fruits and vegetables, beautifies the local landscape, and is paving the way for a brighter future.
Named for the late City Councilman and neighborhood activist Eric Robinson and the 11th Street Bridge community, E. D. Robinson Urban Farm was founded in 2009 as Wilmington’s first urban farm. The Delaware Center for Horticulture (DCH), a nonprofit membership organization that mobilizes and inspires community greening statewide in urban and suburban environments founded and supports the farm.
Whether it’s an affluent person who can afford to spend money on gourmet produce, or a person of limited means who wants to eat better, both are united in their quest for healthier food. That’s part of the driving force behind the Urban Oasis Project, which Art Friedrich founded in 2009 to make healthy, local food more accessible in Miami, FL.
Although Miami is a big city located in the agriculture-rich state of Florida, Friedrich found when he moved there that the sustainable food scene—one that would also help those who are lower income—was small. “It’s more based on image here, not reality and a nitty-gritty work ethic,” he says. This contrasted with Friedrich’s experience of living in New England and St. Louis, where sustainable farming is more common.
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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.”
In Los Angeles, CA, community members involved in the urban farming and food justice movements are keenly aware of the food insecurity that is so prevalent in its South Los Angeles neighborhoods. It was this insufficient access to healthy, nutritious food that spurred Florence Nishida to co-found LA Green Grounds, a volunteer organization that works with residents of South L.A. to convert their front lawns and parkways into edible landscapes and urban farms.
“If you have a garden in the front yard it leads to conversation, and that’s the most important thing,” says Nishida. “The minute you start growing squash, tomatoes, or something people have never seen before, they start asking questions, and that starts the conversation. Those conversations lead to a sense of community.”
Making vegetables a visible part of the community is what has guided LA Green Grounds ever since its founding in 2010.
The Hawaiian Islands possess ideal climatic conditions to support year-round agriculture from consistently temperate weather to ample rainfall and abundant sunlight. Despite these favorable conditions, the islands rely on imports from the mainland and elsewhere for nearly 90 percent of the food that residents consume.
Last month, at the ICUN World Conservation Conference in Honolulu, Governor David Ige announced his pledge to double local food production by the year 2030. To help insure the success of this pledge, the Ulupono Initiative, a Hawaii-focused impact investing firm, has stepped into the fray to provide financial and advisory support to for-profit, non-profit and social ventures seeking to increase food security and production on the islands.
“We are pleased to hear about the governor’s announcement, and want to make it happen through investment means,” says Murray Clay, Managing Partner at Ulupono Initiative. “We are an impact investing firm, with one of the key areas of focus being local food production.”
To Sure Up Island Food Security, Hawaii’s ‘Mahiai Match-Up’ Competition Offers Farmers Land and Seed MoneySeptember 29, 2016 | Jeana Cadby
Before Western contact, Hawaii was able to grow enough food locally to sustain its population. In marked contrast to the past, Hawaii imports approximately 85-90 percent of its food, aspiring local farmers face high barriers to entry due to exorbitant land prices, equipment that must be imported from the mainland or elsewhere, and a lack of sufficient farmer training. Additionally, Hawaii hosts an aging population of farmers, most of whom are a few years older than the national average. This volatile mix of agricultural challenges leaves the state particularly vulnerable if a sudden disruption in food imports occurs.
To help insure the state’s food security, Kamehameha Schools (KS) and Pauahi Foundation joined forces in 2009 to create the annual “Mahiai Match-Up” competition. Its primary goal is to find farmers and help them overcome barriers to entry so that they can tackle food security issues in the state.
Two five-acre urban farms in Columbus, Ohio are offering a hardy mixture of hope, employment and improved food access to underserved community members. The farms, collectively known as the Urban Farms of Central Ohio, are part of a nonprofit, sustainability initiative created by the Mid-Ohio Food Bank to revitalize the neighborhood of Grove City.
Sarah Lenkay, Strategic Projects Manager at the Mid-Ohio Food Bank, says that the Urban Farms of Central Ohio initiative is centered on the idea of fostering hope for the community and lasting, valuable education.
“We impact the community by giving new life to another life,” says Lenkay. “We want to serve as an anchor providing for the community.”
The two sites that the urban farms occupy were part of a land access grant given to the Mid-Ohio Food Bank by the Columbus Land Bank to repurpose underutilized properties.