When it comes to Controlled Environment Agriculture [CEA], Valerie Loew wants the U.S. to catch up with Europe and China before it’s too late.
“The rest of the world is so far ahead of us, because they are so limited with their own resources,” says Loew, who is professor and horticulture department head at Fullerton College in Southern California. “They are taking advantage of this technology way before us because we have sunshine and we have water; but we really don’t. Between Europe and China, the amount of greenhouses they have is just off the charts. We need to start catching up.”
One of the largest diocese in the nation, the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles has made food justice a top priority. In 2013, it created Seeds of Hope, a food justice ministry that “provides universal and affordable access to basic nutrition,” says Seeds of Hope Executive Director, Tim Alderson. “In the six California counties that make up the Diocese of Los Angeles, that condition does not exist. Our job is to do what we can to address these issues.”
The idea for Seeds of Hope was conceived when Bishop Jon Bruno was diagnosed with leukemia and admitted for his final treatment at City of Hope. Though not his patient, he met endocrinologist Raynald Samoa, M.D. who was covering rounds. The two men spent over two hours talking about food related illnesses, food access issues and disparities of food health in communites. Dr. Samoa also knew Alderson, who was working on a farm project for City of Hope.
Marking the most recent victory in a growing nationwide movement to promote the legality of seed libraries, The Seed Exchange Democracy Act (Assembly Bill 1810) was signed into law in California on September 9, 2016. The bill amends the “seed law” chapter of the state’s Food and Agricultural Code to expressly exempt seed libraries from onerous seed testing and labeling requirements. While necessary to protect buyers and consumers of commercial seeds, the impracticality of these requirements for community seed libraries would effectively cause them to shutter. California follows Minnesota, Nebraska and Illinois as the fourth state in the last 18 months to adopt laws favorable to seed sharing libraries.
Neil Thapar, a food and farm attorney at the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) in Oakland, California who helped launch and draft the bill, explained how seed libraries work. “Seed libraries are essentially community-based initiatives where people can borrow seeds, plant them, and at the end of the season take back some seeds to replenish the seed stock at the library for other people to borrow.” He continues, “There really isn’t any ownership over those seeds. They’re held and stewarded by the library, but they’re shared freely throughout the community.”
David King grew up in Kansas where, despite being very poor, his family ate very well because they grew their own food on his grandfather’s three acres. This was where David got his first taste of seed saving.
As founder and chair of the Seed Library of Los Angeles (SLOLA), David’s been committed to teaching others how to save seeds. He says he was spurred into action to start the library in 2010, when the Obama administration approved GMO sugar beets.
“It was just too much,” he says. “I lost it.”
So on a cold, drizzly day in December of 2010, he held the first meeting of SLOLA. About 45 people showed up, more than he had expected, and 15 of the people who attended that first meeting are still active members today. As stated on their website, SLOLA was founded with the idea of enabling all who live in the Los Angeles area to have access to nutritious, pesticide-free, non-GMO food.
Only a bird’s eye view truly reveals the extent of Los Angeles’s urban sprawl; a city crossed by ribbons of highways supporting unending streams of cars, where even its river is mostly encased in concrete. It’s hard to imagine that this was once a fertile place of such abundance that its name conjured up images of vineyards, orange groves and orchards; in which neighborhoods were better known for their celery than their celebrities. A timely new book, From Cows to Concrete: the Rise and Fall of Farming in Los Angeles, by Rachel Surls and Judith Gerber explores Los Angeles’s past as the agricultural center of North America, tracing its precipitous path as it developed into a concrete metropolis. It’s a cautionary tale that also offers hope for the future in the form of the burgeoning urban farm movement and a renewed interest in community and backyard gardening.
Seedstock recently spoke to co-author, Rachel Surls, Sustainable Food Systems Advisor at the University of California where her job includes overseeing a volunteer program of 300 trained master gardeners who teach local communities sustainable gardening.
The Grow Local OC: Future of Urban Food Systems Conference presented by Seedstock in partnership with the OC Food Access Coalition, and scheduled for Nov. 10 – 11, 2016, at California State University, Fullerton, will explore the community and economic development potential of fostering local food systems in cities.
The Future Farm Field Trip on Day 2 (Nov. 11) of the conference offers an excursion into the diversity of urban and state-of-the-art hydroponic and aquaponic agriculture operations in Orange County. Tour participants will be treated 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.
Future of Urban Food Systems Conference Coming to Orange County in November; Early Bird Tickets AvailableAugust 22, 2016 | seedstock
Early Bird Special Tickets are now available for a limited time for the Grow Local OC: Future of Urban Food System Conference presented by Seedstock in partnership with the Orange County Food Access Coalition. The conference is slated for Nov. 10 – 11, 2016 at California State University, Fullerton in Orange County (Hosted by U-ACRE). It will focus on the community and economic development potential of urban food systems efforts across southern California and the country to improve food access and health outcomes, connect people to their food, and create new jobs and business opportunities by employing innovative business models and farming systems of the future.
Below are additional details on the two-day conference.
Day 1: Conference Day (Nov. 10, 2016):
Attendees will convene at the Portola Pavilion on the campus of California State University, Fullerton in Orange County, CA for a series of panels and keynotes that will address such topic areas as the importance of local food systems development for cities, the economic potential of indoor agriculture, the expansion of the local food marketplace, urban farming and local food access, community gardens and farms, and more.
Demand for local food in Riverside is growing as a result of awareness building initiatives like GrowRIVERSIDE helping to foster a robust local food system, support for weekly farmers’ markets that allow community members to connect with and purchase local produce from farmers. The fruits, and vegetables, of the growing local food movement in Riverside have also made their way onto restaurant menus across the county. So, if you live in the region, or plan on visiting, read on to discover 5 Riverside restaurants that are dedicated to supporting and serving food raised by local farmers.
Blackburn’s Farm-to-Table – Corona
Chef Bill Blackburn, the chef at Blackburn’s Farm-to-Table, wants to give everyone that comes into his restaurant the real-deal, farm-to-table experience. Everything Blackburn puts on the restaurant’s menu is in-season and comes from local growers in Riverside County and the broader Southern California region.
Community-based agriculture is increasing across the Inland Empire(IE) as more community gardens and the programs related to them are being established. As outlined below, these efforts include many new farm plots where residents are growing their own food, learning new skills and gaining food system awareness. But the people establishing these gardens are going further than just turning bare dirt into growing grounds. They are implementing ancillary programs as well, thereby adding even greater value to their communities. Each of these various enterprises benefits their local cities and neighborhoods by increasing access to healthy and fresh foods, as well as providing employment, educational opportunities and a greater sense of community to everyone involved in their construction, day-to-day upkeep and expansion.
A few years ago, Mary Petit and Eleanor Torres decided to tackle the problem of food insecurity in their local Upland area by working at a local community garden. Petit looked for an existing community garden with no success, so she and Torres began their own and named it the Incredible Edible Community Garden.
Market Demand and Pest Problems Prompt Rialto, CA Citrus Grower with Deep Roots to Diversify OfferingJune 28, 2016 | Kate Edwards
John Adams has deep roots in the Rialto, California citrus grove known as Adams Acres. His great-grandmother bought the original 20 acres back in 1899, and his grandfather put in the orange grove in 1907. Adams, now 72 years old, has spent most of his life on this land, growing and tending to the last orange grove in an area that used to boast some 6,000 acres of commercial citrus.
Today, Adams is down to just two acres and change on which sits the original farmhouse, a century-old stone outbuilding and an antique tractor. Ten of the original 20 acres were sold off to developers in the 1970s, and just this year, Adams was forced to sell about three-quarters of the remaining land. He sold it to yet another developer who is planning to build, as he says drily, “a gated community of houses set three feet apart.”
Adams sold the land for financial reasons. The wholesale price for Valencias, the oranges used in most commercial juice production, has been depressed worldwide for decades due to fading demand coupled with the influx of cheap fruit from Brazil, Chile and South Africa. This means that the local packing house stopped purchasing his crop awhile ago, and the citrus sales at his roadside stand weren’t enough to make up the difference.