Marin County
University of California
Marin County

Posts Tagged: Urban Agriculture

Lucy Diekmann, Ph.D. joins UCCE as Urban Agriculture and Food Systems Advisor for Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties

I am delighted to be joining University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) as the Urban Agriculture and Food Systems Advisor for Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties.

Silicon Valley's culture of innovation, diverse culinary traditions, fertile soils, and Mediterranean climate offer unique food system opportunities. In addition to large tech companies, these two counties are home to roughly 1300 farms with agricultural production valued at more than $450 million. Yet high land values make it difficult for farmers to find and keep land. The high cost of living also contributes to many families' struggle to put healthy food on the table. According to Second Harvest Food Bank, one in three children in Silicon Valley are food insecure. Many of those who are hungry are employed, but don't make enough to cover basic expenses in what has become the country's richest region as well as its most expensive.

Despite these challenges, this is an exciting time to work on food and agriculture in Silicon Valley. Santa Clara County is in the process of implementing the Santa Clara Valley Agricultural Plan to preserve agricultural lands and support a vibrant agricultural economy. The nonprofit organization SPUR is piloting a program to make California-grown produce more affordable for low-income families at grocery stores in San Jose and Gilroy. Civically engaged residents successfully advocated for Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones in the City of San Jose, creating new opportunities to put vacant land to productive use. The region's urban farms are involved in growing food for school cafeterias, developing a food entrepreneurship program, and educating students and the general public about food and agriculture, among many other activities.

La Mesa Verde gardeners. La Mesa Verde is a program that helps low-income families in San Jose grow their own organic vegetables. Photo credit: La Mesa Verde, Sacred Heart Community Services
My background is in food systems research. Prior to joining UCCE, I worked as a researcher and lecturer at Santa Clara University.  While there, my research included a study of the impact of drought on urban agriculture and how urban farmers and gardeners in Santa Clara County responded. In collaboration with local partners and with the assistance of many volunteer gardeners, I researched how urban gardens contribute to food security—looking at how much food was produced, how much that food was worth, and its nutritional value. Another project examined some of the broader benefits associated with urban agriculture, such as education, community building, and civic engagement. In my role as an advisor, I'm looking forward to doing applied research, helping to educate about food and agriculture, and finding opportunities to collaborate with partners in the region. Over the next year, I'm making plans to map urban agricultural social networks and identify barriers to farm viability in Silicon Valley.

 Originally from Maine, I relocated to the Bay Area 15 years ago to pursue a PhD at UC Berkeley. For the past eight years, I've been working and raising my family in the South Bay. If you'd like to learn more about my work or Silicon Valley's food system, please be in touch. You can find me here: http://cesantaclara.ucanr.edu/Programs/contact/?facultyid=40005.

Posted on Monday, November 26, 2018 at 10:22 AM

Gopher Management in School and Community Gardens

Pocket Gopher: Ag Natural Photography by Ed Williams
Pocket gophers, more commonly known as gophers, are one of the most common vertebrate pests found in school and community gardens. They are known for their extensive burrow system through the soil and also for the damage that they can cause to plants in gardens. Gophers are also known to chew on irrigation systems. They are responsible for soil erosion since they move soil to the surface when they construct their burrow systems. Their tunneling can damage turf and the mounds they leave behind can be tripping hazards.

Pocket gophers are rarely seen above ground but sometimes you can see them popping out of a feeding hole. They are small mammals with small eyes and ears and have fur lined cheek pouches (pockets) for storing food.

Pocket gophers are considered nongame wildlife, which means that they can be managed by any legal means. In school and community gardens there are many options.

Trapping

Trapping is one of the easiest ways to curtail a gopher issue in a school or community garden. It is really important to monitor the issue and insure that the problem does not get out of hand since gophers are very prolific breeders and are easier to manage when there are less of them.

There are many trap options for trapping gophers. It is important to consider public safety when using these tools. Traps are often very tightly sprung and could damage fingers and toes of anybody that unexpectedly steps in a set trap. While research has shown that it is not necessary to cover over your trap sets and close them up, it is important to reduce the risk of exposure to a trap, especially in a school setting. It is recommended that trap sets in this scenario should be covered and inaccessible to youth.

Gopher burrow entrance
Toxicants

There are some toxicants that are available to unlicensed professionals for use on gophers. The most commonly available products are those containing zinc phosphide. These products are applied below the ground and therefore risk of exposure is very low. Bait shyness can be associated with this active ingredient so it is important to monitor the issue and ensure that it is being reduced. Otherwise, you may be applying rodenticide that is not being consumed.

 

 

Fumigation

Fumigation is a common and often successful way to manage gophers. However, many of these products are considered Restricted Use Pesticides and can only be applied by a licensed professional. Products like gas or smoke cartridges are not considered effective for the management of gophers.

Exclusion

Gophers can be excluded from school and community gardens but the costs of installing underground fencing can be cost prohibitive. Instead, consider excluding gophers from smaller areas like raised beds. Remember that gophers can travel above ground too, so if you install wire fencing with a ¾ inch mesh, be sure to extend it above the ground also. Wire baskets can also be used to exclude gophers from the root systems of high value trees and shrubs. You must take care to ensure that these baskets do not restrict the growth of the roots.

For more information on gophers and other vertebrate pest, please visit the UC IPM Pest Notes.

Does Urban Agriculture Improve Food Security?

A newly published literature review in the Journal of Sustainability conducted by a team of Berkeley Food Institute researchers has found that while many studies cite the potential food security benefits of urban agriculture (UA), there are few that robustly measure the impact of urban farms on improving food security in low-income communities. Results of this review are guiding a three-year research project, funded by the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research and the Berkeley Food Institute to investigate and address urban food access challenges in the eastern region of the San Francisco Bay Area, where interest in UA abounds, yet levels of gentrification, food insecurity, and income inequality are growing.

Without understanding the actual links between UA and food security or which specific characteristics, models or approaches reduce insecurity, urban policymakers and advocates risk backing policies that could have unintended consequences or negative impacts on vulnerable individuals and communities. We argue that in addition to more robust analyses that measure the actual social, economic, and health impacts of urban agriculture, and how they impact food security, it is important to understand which approaches to policy, governance and civic engagement support UA models that are effective in reducing food insecurity.

In general, we see three trends in current scholarship on UA in relation to community food security: (1) a focus on the production potential of urban lands, (2) individual case studies highlighting various nutritional, health, and other community benefits or outcomes from urban gardening initiatives, and (3) more critical analyses of UA through food justice and equity lenses. To this latter point, robust theoretical analyses have emerged critiquing the risks of UA when approached without an equity lens, potentially reinforcing structural injustices and racism and negatively impacting communities that ideally should benefit the most.

Deeper historical and structural challenges including poverty, racism, and divestment in specific communities and neighborhoods are increasingly being recognized as the root causes of the problem of unequal access to sufficient supplies of safe, nutritious, affordable, and culturally acceptable food facing cities. Designating land for agricultural use in urban areas may conflict with other city planning priorities around affordable housing, community economic development, or smart growth approaches associated with reducing urban sprawl and mitigating climate change, such as transit-oriented development. Because of the persistent legacy of systemic discrimination, it is neither inevitable nor guaranteed that urban agriculture will redress food system inequities; in fact, urban farms can sometimes lead to displacement through eco-gentrification. This is a particularly acute concern in areas experiencing housing pressures and population growth, such as the San Francisco Bay area and New York City.

Analyzing the intersection of food access and food distribution literatures reveals three key factors mediating the effect of UA on food security in the urban food system:

(1) the economic viability of urban farms (to sustain the provisioning of affordable urban produced foods)

(2) the role of city planning and policies in advancing racial equity through UA such as secure land tenure and public investment, and

(3) the importance of civic engagement to advocate for and hold cities and counties accountable to the needs of low-income communities.

We highlight examples from both the scholarly and gray literatures that demonstrate how UA can improve food access, distribution, and justice, in a way that supports both consumers and producers of food in cities. The gray literature in particular reveals many emerging and informal distribution networks for urban produced foods that would benefit from further academic study, such as gleaning networks, distribution apps, and online platforms.

The review concludes with a set of recommendations for researchers, practitioners, and policymakers who seek to create spaces in cities for food justice, equity, access, and sovereignty. Most notably we acknowledge that urban farms are producing a lot more than food; and that equitable planning, public investment and civic engagement are crucial elements in securing the long-term viability of urban farms. More robust analyses documenting the multifaceted benefits and risks of UA such as public health, food security, youth development, food literacy, eco-gentrification and environmental justice can help inform more equitable public policy and planning efforts.

Urban Farm Story: Sacramento’s Yisrael Family Urban Farm

Yisrael Family Urban Farm is located on a double lot in the South Oak Park neighborhood of Sacramento, at the home of owners Judith and Chanowk Yisrael. South Oak Park is one of Sacramento's underserved communities; it has been called a “food desert,” with more fast food outlets than places selling healthy food. The half-acre farm currently includes a front-yard food forest with healing and culinary herbs, more than 40 fruit trees, rows of vegetable beds, herbs, a small flock of chickens, worm composting bins, beehives and a high tunnel hoop-house used for giving seedlings an early start in cold winter months. Yisrael Farm also makes space for community gatherings with welcoming tables and a circle of tree stumps and seats around a fire pit on a grassy area. The farm is home to many gardening and cooking workshops and other community gatherings.

Yisrael farm produces healthy food for the Yisrael family and their community. More importantly, Chanowk and Judith help to grow a healthy community by sharing their skills and knowledge, offering classes, workshops and programs for youth, and teaching others how to grow their own food and cook healthy meals. Their mission is to “transform the hood for G.O.O.D.” (G.O.O.D. stands for “Growing our own Destiny") using urban agriculture as a tool for community engagement, empowerment and employment. They demonstrate the benefits of growing your own food and principles of cultivation of the soil which they share with their local community and the world.

Programs include farm tours, volunteer work days, Urban Roots Garden Builds, which organizes neighborhood volunteers to create backyard gardens for Sacramento residents, and Project GOOD (Growing Our Own Destiny), which brings youth together to have fun while learning where food comes from, how it is grown and how to prepare it. In addition, the Yisrael family produces (and teaches others to produce) natural soaps, lip balms, candles, and lotions using herbs and beeswax from the farm. The Yisraels are also involved in advocacy efforts in support of Sacramento region urban farming policies that encourage and support urban agriculture.

The Yisrael family now raises 45 to 50 percent of their own food, and distribute some of their crops informally in their community. In 2017, they raised about 4000 pounds of food and hosted about 1500 visitors. Yisrael Farm operates an urban farm stand, selling directly from the farm to visitors. Farm stand products are fresh produce, farm-raised eggs, jams produced under a cottage food registration, and soaps and other body care products made using farm products. Marketing the food produced on the farm is not a major part of Yisrael Family Urban Farm's program. The major focus of Yisrael Farm is education. Programs and events and classes are marketed through the website, Facebook, Twitter and through community partners.

Good rich soil grows nutritious crops. Chanowk Yisrael has spent more than ten years building the soil at Yisrael Family Farm, using natural methods including composting, double-digging, cover-cropping and low-till techniques. The farm soil is now distinctively rich and loose and healthy, enabling the growth of abundant healthy food.

Becoming a farmer wasn't easy. Before 2007, Chanowk Yisrael was an information technology professional with no knowledge of agriculture. His first attempt at growing food, in 2007, was planting about 30 square feet with food crops, in July, in Sacramento. Everything died, as July is much too hot in Sacramento for starting a garden. Since then he has learned from experienced Northern California farmers how to grow food, and has taken to heart the advice of one of his mentors: "Forget about the plants; take care of the soil." Other challenges involved obtaining the right to sell produce grown on the farm, which was illegal until 2015. The Yisraels were involved in the community advocacy effort, led by the Sacramento Urban Agriculture Coalition, to legalize urban farm stands in both the city and the county of Sacramento.

Learn More

Address:

4507 Roosevelt Avenue, Sacramento, CA 95820

Website:

http://www.yisraelfamilyfarm.net/

Social Media links:

https://www.facebook.com/yisraelfarm/

Videos:

http://lecture.ucanr.edu/Mediasite/Play/9113f0a530c14549ab1410d614c5f0131d

http://lecture.ucanr.edu/Mediasite/Play/f9dfb812288e42ba90bb30d6de7265051d

Contact:

888-487-9494 option 2, sales@yisraelfamilyfarm.net

Posted on Friday, July 6, 2018 at 2:37 PM

Keeping Your Birds Safe from Disease

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has identified several cases of virulent Newcastle disease in small flocks of backyard birds in Los Angeles County and San Bernardino County. The initial case was detected at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine's California Animal Health & Food Safety Laboratory (CAHFS) when a private practitioner submitted a sick bird for testing.  All detections are confirmed at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS) National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa. This was the first case of virulent Newcastle disease, previously referred to as exotic Newcastle disease, in the U.S. since 2003. CDFA is working with federal and local partners as well as poultry owners to respond to the incident. State officials have quarantined potentially exposed birds and are testing for the disease.

Virulent Newcastle disease is a highly contagious and deadly virus in birds; the virus is found in respiratory discharges and feces. Clinical signs in birds include: 

  • Sneezing, coughing, nasal discharge, green watery diarrhea, depression 
  • neck twisting, circling, muscle tremors, paralysis, decreased egg production 
  • swelling around eyes and neck, sudden death.

It is essential that all poultry owners follow good biosecurity practices to help protect their birds from infectious diseases such as virulent Newcastle. These include simple steps like washing hands and scrubbing boots before and after entering a poultry area; cleaning and disinfecting tires and equipment before and after moving them on/off the property; and isolating any sick birds. New or returning birds from shows should be isolated for 30 days before placing them with the rest of the flock.

For backyard flock owners, biosecurity measures include using dedicated shoes and clothes when caring for birds and not to use/wear those clothes/shoes in other areas.

In addition to practicing good biosecurity, all bird owners should report sick birds or unusual bird deaths through California's Sick Bird Hotline at 866-922-BIRD (2473). Additional information on VND and biosecurity for backyard flocks can be found at https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/ahfss/Animal_Health/Newcastle_Disease_Info.html

Click here for more information regarding vaccination of backyard birds.

Sick or dead backyard birds can be submitted to CAHFS laboratories for post-mortem examination ($20 plus shipping and handling).  Information on this program can be found at:
https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/ahfss/Animal_Health/pdfs/CAHFS_NecropsyFactsheet.pdf

For additional information on who to contact for issues regarding backyard poultry, see:
http://ucanr.edu/sites/poultry/contact/

Virulent Newcastle disease is NOT a food safety concern. No human cases of Newcastle disease have ever occurred from eating poultry products. Properly cooked poultry products are safe to eat. In very rare instances people working directly with sick birds can become infected. Symptoms are usually very mild, and limited to conjunctivitis and/or influenza-like symptoms. Infection is easily prevented by using standard personal protective equipment. 

Posted on Friday, June 29, 2018 at 3:32 PM
  • Jennifer McDougle: Veterinarian, Animal Health Branch, Tulare District Office

Next 5 stories | Last story

 
E-mail
 
Webmaster Email: banielsen@ucanr.edu