Thursday, February 24, 2011

Will Long Beach follow San Francisco’s lead towards local food security through urban agriculture?

San Francisco is leading the way as an example of a big city successfully embracing urban agriculture as part of its approach towards food security.

Urban agriculture in San Francisco’s mainstream began as a vision of former Mayor Gavin Newsom, who in January of 2009 issued an executive directive “Healthy and Sustainable Food for San Francisco” in which he declared
“Access to safe, nutritious, and culturally acceptable food is a basic human right and is essential to both human health and ecological sustainability.”
In his directive, Mayor Newsom essentially mandated permitting backyard urban agriculture. An outcome of this executive directive was an audit of unused land that can contribute to urban agricultural practices including gardening and farming. The directive stated
“Food production and horticulture education will be encouraged within the City and to the extent feasible, on City owned land, through urban agriculture including community, backyard, rooftop, and school gardens; edible landscaping, and agricultural incubator projects.” 
 The directive further stated that residents must be allowed
“the opportunity to make healthy food choices and reduce environmental causes of diet and related illnesses.”
Since the directive, the city of San Francisco has updated its zoning code to be more compatible with urban agriculture. Most recently, at a hearing held February 17, San Francisco’s planning commission voted unanimously to support an urban agriculture zoning proposal that allows Neighborhood Agriculture activities ≤ one acre in size to grow and even sell produce in all city zoning districts. Neighborhood Agriculture is defined to include backyard gardens, community gardens, community supported agriculture, market gardens and small private farms.

One “healthy food choice” that people might want is to raise one’s own poultry and other small livestock such as dairy animals. Indeed, San Francisco is also leading the way in this aspect of local food security. For example, the San Francisco municipal code allows residents to keep two female goats per any city lot. There are no lot size restrictions, no setback restrictions, no zoning restrictions, and no special permits or exceptions are needed. 

In an interesting interview embedded here from YouTube, Rebecca Katz, Director of San Francisco's Department of Animal Care & Control, illustrated how mainstream urban agriculture including small scale animal husbandry is becoming in her city. When asked about the future of home farming of small livestock in the Bay Area, and whether it's here to stay, Rebecca Katz, Director of Animal Control in San Francisco, said
"I see it growing, certainly with vegetable gardens. The Mayor [former Mayor Gavin Newsom] has called for this here in San Francisco and he had the garden at the Civic Center Plaza for quite some time and he has asked people to do this and it seems that it's a growing trend, it's not a fad. AND AS FAR AS ANIMALS GO THEY ARE GOING TO COME WITH IT [emphasis added]. Like I said, people are coming to take chickens out of our care all the time, they want fresh eggs."
Author of "Farm City" Novella Carpenter's response to the same question
"It's a growing trend and its gonna be building community."
Interviewer Leslie Sbrocco's summary
"Absolutely here to stay.
The Long Beach municipal code currently has several provisions that stand in the way of urban agriculture in our city. However, recently the Sustainable City Commission unanimously supported a recommendation by the Office of Sustainability “to forward a report on Urban Agriculture Ordinances to the appropriate City Council Committee for consideration.” Also forwarded was an independent report prepared by a Long Beach resident who has been working to change the code of Long Beach to allow backyard urban agriculture including chickens and goats. For more information, view her [my] presentation that was entered into the record on December 1, 2010.

Long Beach is one step closer to food security through urban agriculture in Long Beach. Hopefully, the city’s leaders will agree with all of the other major cities who have seen the benefits of urban agriculture and with a recent signer of the pro urban agriculture petition who said that
“Now is the time to think about the future.”
Presentation to Long Beach, CA Sustainable City Commission December 1, 2010

Highly recommended additional reading:
Urban agriculture zoning proposal hearing February 17.

Enjoy this? Please share it and comment below even if only to say "Hi!"

You might also be interested in Donna’s other work as National Science News Examiner, Long Beach Urban Agriculture Examiner and founder and executive director of Long Beach Grows.

Copyright © 2011 Donna Marykwas; All rights reserved.

Friday, February 18, 2011

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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A highly recommended Real Food Nutrition course to WATCH with your Kids!

The Real Food Nutrition & Health E-Course is being offered by Kristen Michaelis, AKA Food Renegade. She is one of the core Real Food Media bloggers in support of the real food philosophy taught by the Weston A. Price Foundation and Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions.

This class is for your children and for you to watch together. It begins this Friday, February 4! You must enroll by then in order to join in on the course. It runs through April 8th, with final assignments due by the 15th. New class materials are posted each Friday.

If you enroll in the class, you probably should buy a copy of Real Food Nutrition & Health, the textbook for the class.

This course is not a regurgitation of what the U.S. government has convinced us is healthy, with its upside down food pyramid. Instead, here you will learn the truth. Even if you don't homeschool your children, it would be good to teach them the truth, perhaps highlighting and contrasting what they learn from this course with what they learn from their public school teachers.

My child is in the public school system, and I find that I often have to tell her what is right and what is wrong of the information she is learning at school. It makes it awkward for her, because when tested she has to give the answer that is expected, not the answer that her mother tells her is the truth, but in the end I hope that she learns the truth and the fact that our understanding of the truth evolves as we learn more, and not just from the research conducted by scientists, medical doctors, nutritionists, and university professors, but also from reviewing the traditional dietary practices of the past, which the above-mentioned professionals often overlook.

If you decide to take this course based on my suggestion, please let me know by commenting below. I hope that you enjoy it.

Enjoy this? You might also be interested in Donna’s other work as Long Beach Urban Agriculture Examiner, Long Beach Restaurant Examiner, National Science News Examiner and founder and executive director of Long Beach Grows.

Copyright © 2011 Donna Marykwas; All rights reserved.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

What is permaculture? An introduction for beginners

A Google Earth view of the Dervaes family's urban homestead in Pasadena, CA.
Long Beach residents who wish to contribute to their own food security might consider a permaculture approach to growing their own food. This term, permaculture, has been bouncing around lately. But what does it really mean?

The simplest definition, literally, is permanent agriculture. That is, the cultivation of our land to meet our basic needs in a way that is permanently sustainable. The grander vision, though, is that we sustain not just our immediate personal needs to get through this life but the capacity of this Earth to sustain future generations (of humans and ALL of Earth’s creatures), at least until the next big asteroid hits.

Thus permaculture, if successful, means permanent culture. This will require species conservation, resource conservation, and responsible, low-impact living, not just for those who live in rural locations, but for those who live in urban human settlements called cities as well.

In essence, the practice of permaculture doesn’t really sound like a choice, as was offered to Long Beach residents at the start of this article, but a necessity if we are to conserve our culture. The alternative is dire. Conserving our culture mandates a shift from our current, selfish, resource-greedy lifestyles to a more conscious, conservative way of living.

The permaculture philosophy is based on lessons learned from nature, from those ecosystems that haven’t yet been tampered with by man. These natural ecosystems are balanced, diverse, resilient, stable, yet living and thus evolving.

Most of the food that feeds the world is grown NIMBY on rural land set aside for agriculture, in most cases big ag. Large tracts of land are planted with a single crop, one variety of a particular genus and species, for as far as the eye can see. This is the antithesis of diversity. There is no ecosystem involved. The soils may even be sterilized by chemical fumigation before the mono-crop is installed. This type of agriculture is unstable and lacks resiliency. If afflicted with an infectious plant pathogen, the whole crop will be susceptible since it is all one and the same clone. It will die without constant human attention because it lacks the self-supportive infrastructure of a diverse ecosystem. And with the exception of perennial crops like fruit and nut trees and grape vines, the vast field must be replanted year after year. Farming is inherently labor intensive, but it is made even more so when it includes labor to kill the soil of all life, labor to deplete the soil of fertility, and labor to chemically supplement the soil with nutrients, a destructive rather than sustainable cycle.

The world’s population is expected to approach 9 billion people by the year 2050. How are we going to feed everybody? It seems that it is our personal and global responsibility to break this cycle in part by taking responsibility for our own food security. The more we can do to feed ourselves and to teach others to feed themselves, the less burden there will be on big ag to use unfriendly practices that might temporarily increase yield but ultimately defeat the principles and practices of permanent agriculture.

This of course is going to mandate an attitude facelift and land use reform so that anyone, regardless of where they live and whether they are vegetarians, flexitarians, or omnivores, can grow their own food at home, in their backyards, front yards, rooftops, parkways, and other under-utilized spaces.

In practice, a permaculturist need not merely replicate a natural ecosystem but can apply an understanding of basic principles and work with nature to design a homestead supported by an intentional ecosystem that includes plants and animals that supply his or her needs.

While this article focuses on food, other cultivable resources include plants for building materials, plants for energy generation, and plants for other uses. Learn more about permaculture here.

Enjoy this? You might also be interested in Donna’s other work as Long Beach Urban Agriculture ExaminerLong Beach Restaurant Examiner, National Science News Examiner and founder and executive director of Long Beach Grows.

Copyright © 2011 Donna Marykwas; All rights reserved.

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