Overcoming Barriers to Urban Agriculture In American Cities

PHILLY’S URBAN FARMING PLAN COULD INCLUDE HUNDREDS, POSSIBLY THOUSANDS, OF VACANT LOTS . MARCH 20, 2019. JESSICA GRIFFIN / FILE PHOTOGRAPH PHILLY.COM

PHILLY’S URBAN FARMING PLAN COULD INCLUDE HUNDREDS, POSSIBLY THOUSANDS, OF VACANT LOTS. MARCH 20, 2019. JESSICA GRIFFIN / FILE PHOTOGRAPH PHILLY.COM

Overcoming Barriers to Urban Agriculture In American Cities

Achieving such yields in a test garden does not mean they are feasible for urban farmers in the Bay Area. Most urban farmers in California lack ecological horticultural skills. They do not always optimize crop density or diversity, and the University of California’s extension program lacks the capacity to provide agroecological training.

The biggest challenge is access to land. University of California researchers estimate that over 79 percent of the state’s urban farmers do not own the property that they farm. Another issue is that water is frequently unaffordable. Cities could address this by providing water at discount rates for urban farmers, with a requirement that they use efficient irrigation practices.

In the Bay Area and elsewhere, most obstacles to scaling up urban agriculture are political, not technical. In 2014 California enacted AB511, which set out mechanisms for cities to establish urban agriculture incentive zones, but did not address land access.

One solution would be for cities to make vacant and unused public land available for urban farming under low-fee multiyear leases. Or they could follow the example of Rosario, Argentina, where 1,800 residents practice horticulture on about 175 acres of land. Some of this land is private, but property owners receive tax breaks for making it available for agriculture.

Jennifer Garner Co-Founds Once Upon A Farm, Supporting Gangsta Gardener Ron Finley

Jennifer Garner and Ron Finley.png

Jennifer Garner Co-Founds Once Upon A Farm, Supporting Gangsta Gardener Ron Finley

On Saturday, July 14, actor Jennifer Garner celebrated Once Upon a Farm, the new “farm-to-family” food company with a strong focus on babies and children that she co-founded with Cassandra Curtis. The event at Amber Waves Farm in Amagansett invited guests from the Hamptons crowd such as Rachel Zoe, Molly Sims, Jessica Capshaw, Estee Stanley, and their little ones to pick fresh produce, listen to live music and plant fruits and vegetables with Ron Finley, the Gangsta Gardener of the Ron Finley ProjectOnce Upon a Farm later donated the gardening plot from the event, along with $10,000 to NYC’s Edible Schoolyard.

Paper Magazine profiled Finley in Aug. 2017. The food justice revolutionary decided to get his hands dirty back in 2010 over the lack of healthy, organic food options in his LA South Central food desert neighborhood. 

"Being in South Central, the food is food-ish stuff," he explains. "We can walk five minutes in any direction and get liquor, but we can walk ten miles in any direction, and we aren't gonna get an organic banana." Finley came to the realization that cities were designed for the interests of commerce, not people: "If cities were designed for people, they would look more like forests, and be lush and beautiful, and the air would be clean." He looked at the green grass parkway he'd been dutifully maintaining outside of his home, and decided, "If they're not putting beauty in my neighborhood, I'll do it myself." The answer was radical in its simplicity: he would grow his own food. He dug up the grass, and planted flowers, herbs, and all the fruits and vegetables he'd previously had to drive miles to buy.