Nefarious woodchips? Criminalized soil remediation? According to the supporters of urban grower Thomas Jackson of Toledo, OH, the level of police and city council harassment leveled against a local urban grower for having woodchips in his compost on his residential lots went far beyond outdated zoning laws and stepped things up to arrest warrants and legal pressure. All Jackson wanted to do was grow some organic produce in clean soil.
Master Gardener and multi-certified composter Thomas Jackson owns several empty urban lots in downtown Toledo. December of 2015 a complaint was filed against Jackson claiming his odorous compost was attracting vermin and in violation of residential zoning laws. A few years ago, Jackson began breaking down woodchips on the site to create a composted mulch. He wanted a contaminant free bed for his organic vegetable gardens, planning to sell his produce to area restaurants. Yet despite neighborhood support for a radius of five blocks around the site, officials insisted the neighbors were not happy with the state of the lots.
Facing a 21 percent budget cut under the new White House Administration, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is looking for a strong advocate in the President’s cabinet. Today, former governor of Georgia Sonny Perdue (R) faces his full Senate hearing. Perdue’s hearing before the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, better known as the Ag Committee, and the late announcement of this position by the new president, has many in the world of sustainable agriculture concerned for farming’s importance, especially urban farming, in the White House’s agenda.
Perdue was raised on a “dairy and diversified row crop farm” in Bonaire in rural Georgia. His dad was a farmer and his mother a teacher. He has a doctorate in veterinary medicine. Perdue has a successful grain storage business with ties to the international agriculture trade.
Focused on preserving traditional Jewish agricultural techniques and furthering the concept of local community, the folks at The Leichtag Foundation incubated Coastal Roots Farm in early January of 2016 after two years of planning and preparation with lots of help from Farmer D, aka Daron Joffe. Located in Encinitas, CA, Coastal Roots is an educational hub offering food, farming and spiritual wisdom for a more sustainable life.
The Leichtag Foundation, a Jewish nonprofit philanthropic organization established in the 1990s bought the 67 acre property that houses Coastal Roots Farm in 2014. Joffe was hired to create the plan and layout of the property. “The idea was for Coastal Roots Farm to be incubated by the Leichtag Foundation but then within five years to be a viable independent community farm that served Encinitas and Glenn County,” says Sona Desai, Associate Director of Coastal Roots.
Inspiration comes from many directions, even from tragedy. That was the case for Randy Bekendam, proprietor of Amy’s Farm, a 10-acre farm located south of Ontario, California. Bekendam runs Amy’s Farm with Amy herself, who is also his daughter.
Originally a cattle farm, Bekendam was moved to make a change and do something to bring the community together after a 3-year-old boy was killed by a drive-by shooter in nearby Pomona. Bekendam’s idea? Bring everyone together to heal their neighborhoods by growing food as a community.
“When the little boy was shot, I had never planted anything. I was not a farmer, so with this vision of growing food to build community, maybe have an impact on gang violence, and bring urban farming to the city, I realized I better become a farmer,” he says.
Slated for Saturday, May 20, 2017 the ‘Future of Food – Urban Farming Field Trip’ will visit a series of innovative urban farming ventures in Inland Southern California that have emerged to grow the local food marketplace, increase food access, educate local communities, advocate for food equity, and improve health and nutrition. The field trip hosted by Seedstock, a social venture that seeks to foster the development of sustainable local food systems, will also include lectures from experts in urban farming.
The tour is the third 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.