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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture

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urban agriculture policy

Baltimore Combats Food Deserts with Urban Farming Tax Break

May 27, 2015 |
RFF Hoop.jpg Caption: The hooped Real Food Farm in Baltimore, Maryland. Credit: Baltimore Office of Sustainability

RFF Hoop.jpg
Caption: The hooped Real Food Farm in Baltimore, Maryland.
Credit: Baltimore Office of Sustainability

by Julianne Tveten

Urban farmers in the city of Baltimore will soon qualify for a 90 percent property tax break under a bill recently approved by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. The move, which is the latest in a series of tax-break initiatives for city growers seen in areas like San Francisco and Washington, D.C., is intended to bolster local production of healthy food.

Drafted by Councilman William “Pete” Welch, the bill, which will likely go into effect next month, gives a tax credit to farmers who make at least $5,000 per year selling crops and raise no more than five acres of land. Read More

NYU Urban Farm Lab Teaches Important Lesson in Urban Ag

April 21, 2015 |
NYU Urban Farm Lab

NYU Urban Farm Lab

NYU’s Urban Farm Lab is not your typical classroom, but for students at NYU’s Food Studies program, it’s where they learn one very important lesson: how to grow food in the big city.

The Urban Farm Lab was the inspiration of NYU graduate student Daniel Bowman Simon who thought there should be an urban garden on campus. Unfortunately, the administration didn’t agree— at least not at first. But after five years of campaigning, Bowman Simon and members of NYU’s Food Studies Department got the administration on board, and the NYU Urban Farm Lab was born. Read More

Urban Farming Ramps Up in Sacramento with Passage of New Ordinance

April 12, 2015 |
Tirtsah Yisrael works 1/2 an acre on Yisrael Urban Family Farm in Sacramento (photo courtesy of Andrew Send and the Sacramento Bee)

Tirtsah Yisrael works 1/2 an acre on Yisrael Urban Family Farm in Sacramento
(photo courtesy of Andrew Send and the Sacramento Bee)

by Traci Knight

Food and agriculture activists have something to celebrate this year in Sacramento, California. On March 23, 2015, City Council passed an urban farming ordinance that paves the way for food security and an inner city agricultural economy. The 6-1 vote by council members makes specific changes to allow and promote urban agriculture and micro farms within city limits.

Advocacy groups such as Ubuntu Green worked with locals to build a coalition of support for the proposed ordinance. Top Sacramento chefs and restaurateurs also took an active role, sponsoring a letter with 39 prominent signatories urging the city to pass laws to allow for the city to become a robust model of integrated, urban food production. Read More

Iowa State University’s Agricultural Urbanism Toolkit Helps Communities ‘Start the Conversation’ on Local Food Systems

March 10, 2015 |
Photo courtesy of University of Iowa’s Community Design Lab

Photo courtesy of University of Iowa’s Community Design Lab

A new Agricultural Urbanism Toolkit produced by the Iowa State University’s  Community Design Lab offers communities the planning tools necessary to prioritize and ignite urban farming projects. Created with the support of a grant from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, the Toolkit includes process, practice and case studies to help jump-start local urban agriculture programs.

Courtney Long is a fellow for the Community Design Lab and facilitator of the urbanism toolkit program. Read More

Long Beach Co-op Looks to Build Sustainable Physical and Mental Landscapes

February 5, 2015 |
Image courtesy of Foodscape

Image courtesy of Foodscape

Ryan Serrano was 22 and freshly graduated from California State University, Long Beach, when he founded Foodscape in 2011.

The journey took a winding road toward its present incarnation. At first, Serrano immersed himself in social issues in college, and saw how food access can be a symptom of social dysfunction as well as a catalyst for social change. The key, he believes, is sustained and easy access to healthy, sustainable and affordable food.

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Irvine, California’s “Great Park” Delivers on the Potential of Municipal Urban Agriculture

February 2, 2015 |
Image courtesy of the City of Irvine, California

Image courtesy of the City of Irvine, California

Known as the “First Great Metropolitan Park of the 21st Century,” the City of Irvine’s 1,300-acre “Great Park,” is living up to its ambitious goals.

Created on the grounds of the former El Toro Naval Base, the park’s focus on promoting a relationship between local residents, sustainable food systems and community green space provides an example of how far a city can go to foster sustainable agriculture. Read More

Land Trust Secures Vacant Lots for Urban Agriculture, Recreation in LA’s Underserved Neighborhoods

December 18, 2014 |
Photo courtesy of the LA Neighborhood Land Trust

Photo courtesy of the LA Neighborhood Land Trust

Founded in 2002, the LA Neighborhood Land Trust is a nonprofit organization that identifies underutilized space in a 475-square miles area in and around Los Angeles, and transforms it into green space for urban agriculture and community recreation projects.

Real estate costs are high in Los Angeles, so the work of the Trust moves forward one small lot at a time.

“Our little land trust is good with conserving half-acre properties and creating green space in a community that has never existed before,” says Mark Glassock, director of special projects for the Trust. “In terms of our acreage, we are quite small, but in terms of our impact and our reach in terms of population, I believe we’re actually very, very large.” Read More

Q&A with Keith Tanner: The Debate Over Affordable Housing and Urban Farming in San Francisco

November 3, 2014 |
Keith Tanner Image courtesy of the San Francisco Urban Agriculture Alliance

Keith Tanner
Image courtesy of the San Francisco Urban Agriculture Alliance

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. Read More