On Rich Soil Long Since Forgotten, an Urban Farm Rises to Reconnect Region to its Agricultural RootsFebruary 1, 2017 | Trish Popovitch
California’s San Fernando Valley, located in Los Angeles County, was once well known for its rich croplands and farming communities. From its founding in 1874 until the mid 1920s, an abundance of fruit orchards, cattle and sheep ranches, and large-scale wheat farms made agriculture the valley’s biggest industry. However, as a result of the arrival of affordable automobiles and rise of the aircraft and motion picture industries, urban development driven by a population boom encroached upon agriculture and the glory days of food production in the San Fernando Valley came to an end.
In San Fernando Valley today, however, on a formerly vacant plot of land a small urban farm has emerged to help reconnect the region to its agricultural roots. Founded in 2011 in Panorama City by Elliott Kuhn, Cottonwood Urban Farm is a sustainable farming venture that not only offers a reliable source of locally grown fruits and vegetable to area restaurants, chefs, and community members, but also functions as an educational resource for the community.
On Friday, January 27, Seedstock hosted the inaugural ‘Future of Food – Urban Ag Field Trip’, which provided attendees an excursion into the diversity of urban farming and state-of-the-art hydroponic, aquaponic and aeroponic agriculture operations in Los Angeles County, the most populous county in the U.S. The sold out tour treated participants to lectures and sessions from pioneering farmers who are embracing innovative business models and growing systems to both increase food security and take advantage of the escalating demand for local food.
The tour kicked off with a stop at The USC Teaching Garden, a joint venture between L.A. Urban Farms and USC Hospitality, which utilizes aeroponic tower gardens to challenge the food systems status quo on campus. The garden was established to supply fresh produce to the university’s on-campus restaurants, dining halls, catering services, and hotel, while also teaching students and staff about flavor and sustainability. Attendees heard from Chef Eric Ernest, Executive Chef of USC Hospitality, discuss the economic viability of the garden. Chef Ernest noted that the garden is not just for show, and that its 90 aeroponic garden towers grow enough food for campus retail units to break even each year. “The garden is about connecting chef and customer,” said Chef Ernest. We also heard from L.A. Urban Farms founder Wendy Coleman, and partner Niels Thorlaksson, discuss the technical details of the farm, its water usage, and maintenance requirements. Thorlaksson explained that each aeroponic garden tower utilizes 5 – 10 gallons of water per week.
To provide an up close and personal look at a series of innovative community development ventures that have emerged to increase food security, reduce food waste, create jobs, enhance food access, and improve health and nutrition in communities, Seedstock has put together the ‘Future of Food – Community Development Field Trip’.
Slated for Friday, March 17, 2017, the second ‘Future of Food’ field trip will look at the impact of community food systems ventures in Southern California, and include lectures from experts in the fields of community garden and urban farming program development, food access, and food justice.
The tour is the second in a series of Seedstock ‘Future of Food’ field trips that was recently launched to facilitate the exploration of food system innovations that are generating economic and community capital.
“North Minneapolis is going green
Give us a call and learn what we mean
Where once lay urban blight
Now sits luscious garden sites
Gardens without borders
Classrooms without walls
Architects of our own destinies
Access to food justice for all.”
– Michael Chaney, Project Sweetie Pie
In a collaborative effort to revitalize the economy and the community of North Minneapolis, Project Sweetie Pie, an urban farming movement working to seed healthy changes in the community, has as one of its principal goals the mentorship of 500 local youth in growing food, obtaining practical sales and marketing skills, and becoming leaders. Launched in 2010 Project Sweetie Pie has made great strides towards this goal by aligning dozens of community partners with hundreds of urban youth to implement community garden and farm stand initiatives, which together have resulted in a framework for a more self-sufficient and self-aware urban community.
On Land Once Occupied by a Tomato Cannery an Agrihood Rises to Grow New Farmers and Feed a CommunityJanuary 16, 2017 | Karen Briner
The Cannery, a farm-to-table housing development in Davis, California, is the first agrihood of its kind in California. With its own urban farm and small orchard, the unique housing development can offer its residents fresh, hyperlocal produce as well as pastured chickens and eggs.
The land for The Cannery, aptly named because it was once the site of a tomato cannery, was sold to The New Home Company by ConAgra. The City of Davis has a rule that if developmental land borders agricultural land, then a 300-foot buffer is required. In this case, the buffer was about seven acres in total. Instead of opting for a plain green space, though, the developers were attracted to the idea of creating a working farm on the land. Once the City of Davis accepted its proposal, the company turned to the Center for Land-Based Learning to plan, develop, and run the farm. It has taken over six years to get to the point where the farm is now operational.