In Fight Against Food Poverty, L.A. Kitchen Embraces Imperfect Fruit and Intergenerational Workforce

Robert Egger, founder of L.A. Kitchen

Robert Egger, founder and CEO of L.A. Kitchen, a non-profit in Los Angeles that engages, empowers, and nourishes the local community. Photo Courtesy of L.A. Kitchen. Photo Credit: J Wiley Photography.

Fighting hunger is more than just about food for Robert Egger, founder and CEO of L.A. Kitchen, a non-profit in Los Angeles that engages, empowers, and nourishes the local community “by reclaiming healthy, local food that would otherwise be discarded, training men and women who are unemployed for jobs, and providing healthy meals to fellow citizens,” according to the organizations mission statement.

“Fighting hunger is a political act, a social act, an economic act,” says Egger. “I want to be a source and develop a model that shows how you can feed more people a better meal with less money.”

L.A. Kitchen is modeled after Egger’s first enterprise, D.C. Central Kitchen in Washington D.C. A chance experience of accompanying friends to feed the homeless there highlighted some inadequacies Egger couldn’t ignore, such as purchasing the food when so many people in the food industry he knew lamented over wasting food at the end of the night. Read more

SoCal Urban Farming Org Increases Supply of Fresh Produce to Homeless Shelter by Healing Soil and Residents

GrowGood Urban Farm Bell California employee Shelter resident

Velva, an employee of GrowGood, a CA-based nonprofit that has been working with the Salvation Army since 2011 to develop a garden-based program for the residents of the Bell Shelter that uses healthy food and gardening as a catalyst for healing. (Photo courtesy of GrowGood. Photo credit: Amy Gordon.)

Prior to the establishment of the GrowGood urban farm on a lot across the way from the Salvation Army Bell Shelter located in Bell, CA, the shelter, which serves nearly 6,000 meals per week, incorporated very little fresh produce into its menu.

“They were spending cents per meal on fresh produce. Food was donated, so no one was going hungry; but the nutritional quality was often low,” says Brad Pregerson, co-founder of GrowGood, a CA-based nonprofit that has been working with the shelter since 2011 to develop a garden-based program to not only increase the supply of fresh produce to the shelter, but also to provide its residents with meaningful work and act as catalyst for healing.

The Salvation Army Bell Shelter, which opened in 1988, was established with help from Pregerson’s grandfather, Harry, a federal judge and veteran, who perceived the dire need to provide housing for the growing Read more

‘Future of Food: Urban Ag Field Trip’ to Explore Urban Farming Operations in L.A. County

Urban agriculture ventures of all different stripes – from commercial hydroponic enterprises and rooftop aeroponic farms to community gardens planted atop formerly vacant lots – are not only disrupting the food system, but also generating community and economic capital.

To give you an up close and personal look at a series of innovative urban farming operations that have emerged to tackle challenges to food access, meet marketplace demand for local food, and increase food security, Seedstock has put together the ‘Future of Food – Urban Ag Field Trip’.

future-of-food-urban-farm-field-trip-los-angeles

Slated for Friday, January 27, 2017, the field trip will look at the community and economic development potential of urban farming. Tour stops include the USC Teaching Garden, Local Roots Farms, and The Growing Experience.

Scheduled for Friday, January 27, 2017, the field trip will look at the impact of urban farming in Los Angeles County, the most populous county in the United States, and include lectures on such topics as the past, present, and future of urban agriculture, vertical farming, and sourcing local food from urban farms.

Spots on the field trip are limited, and it will sell out. So grab your Early Bird Tickets before it’s too late!

Scheduled Field Trips Stops include:

  • The USC Teaching Garden is utilizing aeroponics to challenge the food systems status quo on campus. The University of Southern California (USC) Teaching Garden was established this spring to supply fresh produce to the university’s on-campus restaurants, dining halls, catering services, and hotel, while also teaching students and staff about flavor and sustainability. The garden utilizes aeroponic towers to produce chemical-free fruit, vegetables, herbs, and edible flowers without traditional soil growing media.
  • Local Roots Farms is an indoor vertical farming company based in Los Angeles that designs, builds, deploys, and operates controlled environment farms. Situated in shipping containers, the farms (called TerraFarms) grow with up to 99% less water, 365 days a year, pesticide and herbicide free, and with absolute consistency in production. Their plug and play form provides an innovative solution to the retail and foodservice sectors by greatly reducing supply-chain risks such as price volatility and food safety exposure.
  • The Growing Experience (TGE) is a seven-acre urban farm in North Long Beach that is located on a previously vacant lot. TGE is unique in that it is owned and operated by the Housing Authority of the County of Los Angeles (HACoLA), which manages 3,229 units of public and other affordable housing for the county’s Public Housing program. The urban farm utilizes traditional as well as aquaponics growing systems to help meet the needs of the community by increasing access to healthy foods.

Register Now for Early Bird Tickets!

http://seedstockurbanag.eventbrite.com

Select Confirmed Speakers include:

  • Rachel Surls – Sustainable Food Systems Advisor for UC Cooperative Extension and co-author of the book ‘From Cows to Concrete: The Rise and Fall of Farming in Los Angeles’.
  • Erik Oberholtzer – Co-founder and CEO of Tender Greens
  • Chef Eric Ernest – Executive Chef of USC Hospitality

farm-to-fork lunch hosted by Local Roots Farms featuring lettuce grown on site in the company’s TerraFarms will be provided by lunch sponsor:

Grow Local OC Conference Delves into the Future of Urban Food Systems in Orange County and Beyond

grow local oc conference future of urban food systems orange countyOn Nov. 10-11 hundreds of attendees from across Southern California and beyond showed up for the inaugural Grow Local OC Conference: The Future of Urban Food Systems held Nov. 10-11 in Orange County, CA at California State University, Fullerton to learn more about the community and economic development potential of fostering local food systems in cities.

The conference attendees were treated to lectures from the foremost urban farming experts, entrepreneurs, and community advocates in the sustainable and local food system space. Topics explored by the speakers and panelists included the role that food plays in bridging the rural urban divide, the potential for urban farming to generate community and economic capital, the challenges faced by entrepreneurs seeking funds for their local food and farming ventures, the potential for controlled environment agriculture in cities, and the power of community development initiatives to increase access to healthy, local food.

The conference provided ample opportunity for the local food champions, entrepreneurs, and advocates in Orange County to continue to strengthen their base of support to increase food access, improve health outcomes, and meet the demands of a thriving local food marketplace. Read more

Only 6 Days Left Until the ‘Grow Local OC: Future of Urban Food Systems Conference’

seedstock conferenceIf you’re curious about the potential for urban farming endeavors to generate community and economic capital, or how stakeholders – from farmers and food bank administrators to healthcare providers and community advocates – can build connections to foster robust local food systems, or how entrepreneurs utilize hydroponics and aquaponics to create new farm enterprises in cities, you won’t want to miss out on the upcoming Grow Local OC: Future of Urban Food Systems Conference.

The event, presented by Seedstock in partnership with the OC Food Access Coalition, is only SIX DAYS away. Scheduled for Nov. 10 – 11, 2016, at California State University, Fullerton (Hosted by U-ACRE), the conference will explore the community and economic development potential of fostering local food systems in cities.

Below is a summary of the conference details:

Day 1 – Conference Day 

Day 1 (Nov. 10) of the conference, attendees will convene at the Portola Pavilion at California State University, Fullerton in Orange County, CA for a series of panels and keynotes that will address such topic areas as:

  • Finding Funding for Local Food and Farming Ventures
  • Urban Agriculture
  • Food Access
  • Controlled Environment Agriculture, from Hydroponics to Aquaponics
  • Community and School Garden Development

Full Program: http://growlocaloc.com/conference/program

Register Now!

 http://growlocaloc.eventbrite.com

Confirmed Speakers:

Tim Alderson – Vice Chairman at Solutions for Urban Ag
Rachel Surls – Sustainable Food Systems Advisor for UC Cooperative Extension
Ed Horton – President and CEO of Urban Produce LLC
Karen Ross – Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture
Nate Storey – CEO of Bright Agrotech
Farmer Glenn Tanaka – Owner of Tanaka Farms
Megan Penn – Executive Director of Orange Home Grown
Sonora Ortiz – Market Manager, Downtown Santa Ana Farmers’ Market
Rishi Kumar – Co-founder and Director of The Growing Club
Christina Hall – Executive Director of OC Food Access Coalition
Mary Abad – Deputy Executive Director, Slow Money SoCal
Aaron Fox – Asst. Professor, Urban & Community Agriculture at Cal Poly Pomona
Kimi McAdam – Asst. Dept. Administrator for Food & Nutrition Service at Kaiser Permanente
Derek Lutz – Asst. Vice President at American AgCredit
Mark Lowry – Director of the Orange County Food Bank
Rickey Smith – Founder, Urban Green
Colin and Karen Archipley – Co-founders of Archi’s Acres and the AISA Program
Chef Adam Navidi – Founder, Future Foods Farms and Oceans & Earth Restaurant
Frank Fitzpatrick – Owner, 5 Bar Beef
Chris Higgins – General Manager at Hort Americas
Jeremy Samson – Chair of Slow Food OC
Anna Maria Desipris – The Ecology Center/Honeybee Hub
Erik Cutter – Managing Director of Alegria Fresh
Dwight Detter – Executive Director, Slow Money SoCal
Sara E. Johnson – Director of the Urban Agriculture Community-based Research Experience (U-ACRE) program

Register Now!

 http://growlocaloc.eventbrite.com

 

Day 2 – Future Farm Field Trip (SOLD OUT!)

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.

Scheduled stops include:

  • Urban Produce LLC – an indoor vertical farming operation based in Irvine, California that uses advanced hydroponic technologies in a controlled environment. Urban Produce currently grows and sells organic microgreens that are available throughout southern California
  • The Riverbed – an aquaponics community farm in Anaheim, California that uses minimal water to operate and produce over 2,000 pounds of food for underserved residents.
  • Alegría Farm – an urban farm that supports more than 60 cultivators growing over 50,000 plants utilizing hydroponic and natural, nutrient-dense configurations. The farm’s resource-efficient technologies demonstrate how urban microfarms can supply communities with locally grown, fresh produce while reducing transportation and preserving natural resources.
  • Future Foods Farms – one of the largest aquaponic farms in the state, Future Foods Farms is located on 25 acres in Brea, California. The farm produces all organically grown products in several 2,000-4,000 square-feet greenhouses.

Register Now!

 http://growlocaloc.eventbrite.com

 

Thank you to our sponsors:
Kaiser Permanente
Garden Tower Project
U-ACRE
OC Food Access Coalition
Bright Agrotech
Grow-Tech LLC
American AgCredit
Agra Tech, Inc.
Dosatron
Oceans & Earth
Tender Greens
UC Irvine
Orange Home Grown
Association for Vertical Farming

California Dept. of Food and Ag Secretary Karen Ross to Keynote Grow Local OC Conference; Event Kicks off in 9 Days

California Dept. of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross will Keynote 'Future of Urban Food Systems Conference' on November 10-11, 2016 at Cal State Fullerton. Photo courtesy of CDFA.

California Dept. of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross will Keynote ‘Future of Urban Food Systems Conference’ on November 10-11, 2016 at Cal State Fullerton. Photo courtesy of CDFA.

The organizers of the upcoming Grow Local OC: Future of Urban Food Systems Conference are incredibly excited to have Karen Ross, Secretary of the California Dept. and Food Agriculture deliver the conference’s keynote address, which will explore the importance of agriculture and the development of robust local food systems in cities.

Secretary Ross, whom Politico recently reported is at the top of presidential candidate Hilary Clinton’s USDA Ag Secretary list, will discuss how cities and urban oriented counties across California, and beyond, can develop greater capacity for urban ag and innovative growing endeavors, work more effectively with regional growers, increase food security and access, create an equitable food system in Orange County and SoCal, and more!

Secretary Ross was appointed Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture on January 12, 2011, by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. The Secretary has deep leadership experience in agricultural issues nationally, internationally, and here in California. Prior to joining CDFA, Secretary Ross was chief of staff for U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a position she accepted in 2009.

Secretary Ross is passionate about fostering the reconnection of consumers to the land and the people who produce their food, and to improving the access of all California citizens to healthy, nutritious California-grown agricultural products, celebrated for their diversity and abundance in serving local, national and global markets.

The Grow Local OC Conferenceslated for Nov. 10 – 11, 2016, at California State University, Fullerton (Hosted by U-ACRE), is only 9 DAYS away. Limited tickets remain for the conference day, so grab your tickets now to hear Secretary Ross’s address!

Register Now!

 http://growlocaloc.eventbrite.com

 

Additional Conference Details:

Day 1 – Conference Day 

Day 1 (Nov. 10) of the conference, attendees will convene at the Portola Pavilion at California State University, Fullerton in Orange County, CA for a series of panels and keynotes that will address such topic areas as:

  • Urban farming and its role in expanding local food access, benefiting community and growing local economies;
  • How hydroponic and indoor growers utilize sustainability, embrace innovative business models and push the limits of agricultural technology to expand the local food marketplace;
  • Local food policy;
  • The benefits of community and school gardens, and more!

Full Program: http://growlocaloc.com/conference/program

Confirmed Speakers:

Rishi Kumar – Co-founder and Director of The Growing Club
Rachel Surls – Sustainable Food Systems Advisor for UC Cooperative Extension
Tim Alderson – Executive Director at Seeds of Hope
Ed Horton – President and CEO of Urban Produce LLC
Kimi McAdam – Asst. Dept. Administrator for Food & Nutrition Service at Kaiser Permanente
Glenn Tanaka – Owner of Tanaka Farms
Derek Lutz – Asst. Vice President at American AgCredit
Mark Lowry – Director of the Orange County Food Bank
Rickey Smith – Founder, Urban Green
Colin Archipley – Co-founders of Archi’s Acres and the AISA Program
Chef Adam Navidi – Founder, Future Foods Farms and Oceans & Earth Restaurant
Frank Fitzpatrick – Owner, 5 Bar Beef
Christina Hall – Executive Director of OC Food Access Coalition
Megan Penn – Executive Director of Orange Home Grown
Sonora Ortiz – Market Manager, Downtown Santa Ana Farmers’ Market
Aaron Fox – Asst. Professor, Urban & Community Agriculture at Cal Poly Pomona
Chris Higgins – General Manager at Hort Americas
Jeremy Samson – Chair of Slow Food OC
Anna Maria Desipris – The Ecology Center/Honeybee Hub
Erik Cutter – Managing Director of Alegria Fresh
Dwight Detter – Executive Director, Slow Money SoCal
Sara E. Johnson – Director of the Urban Agriculture Community-based Research Experience (U-ACRE) program

Register Now!

 http://growlocaloc.eventbrite.com

 

Day 2 – Future Farm Field Trip (SOLD OUT!)

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.

Presently scheduled stops include:

  • Urban Produce LLC – an indoor vertical farming operation based in Irvine, California that uses advanced hydroponic technologies in a controlled environment. Urban Produce currently grows and sells organic microgreens that are available throughout southern California
  • The Riverbed – an aquaponics community farm in Anaheim, California that uses minimal water to operate and produce over 2,000 pounds of food for underserved residents.
  • Alegría Farm – an urban farm that supports more than 60 cultivators growing over 50,000 plants utilizing hydroponic and natural, nutrient-dense configurations. The farm’s resource-efficient technologies demonstrate how urban microfarms can supply communities with locally grown, fresh produce while reducing transportation and preserving natural resources.
  • Future Foods Farms – one of the largest aquaponic farms in the state, Future Foods Farms is located on 25 acres in Brea, California. The farm produces all organically grown products in several 2,000-4,000 square-feet greenhouses.

Register Now!

 http://growlocaloc.eventbrite.com

Just Two Weeks Remain to Register for ‘Grow Local OC: Future of Urban Food Systems Conference’

grow-local-oc-conference-urban-farming-local-food-systems

The Grow Local OC: Future of Urban Food Systems Conference presented by Seedstock in partnership with the OC Food Access Coalition is only TWO WEEKS away. Slated for Nov. 10 – 11, 2016, at California State University, Fullerton (Hosted by U-ACRE), the conference will explore the community and economic development potential of fostering local food systems in cities.

Below is a summary of the conference details:

Day 1 – Conference Day 

Day 1 (Nov. 10) of the conference, attendees will convene at the Portola Pavilion at California State University, Fullerton in Orange County, CA for a series of panels and keynotes that will address such topic areas as:

  • Urban farming and its role in expanding local food access, benefiting community and growing local economies;
  • How hydroponic and indoor growers utilize sustainability, embrace innovative business models and push the limits of agricultural technology to expand the local food marketplace;
  • Local food policy;
  • The benefits of community and school gardens, and more!

Full Program: http://growlocaloc.com/conference/program

Confirmed Speakers:

Karen Ross – Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture
Rishi Kumar – Co-founder and Director of The Growing Club
Rachel Surls – Sustainable Food Systems Advisor for UC Cooperative Extension
Tim Alderson – Executive Director at Seeds of Hope
Ed Horton – President and CEO of Urban Produce LLC
Kimi McAdam – Asst. Dept. Administrator for Food & Nutrition Service at Kaiser Permanente
Glenn Tanaka – Owner of Tanaka Farms
Derek Lutz – Asst. Vice President at American AgCredit
Mark Lowry – Director of the Orange County Food Bank
Rickey Smith – Founder, Urban Green
Colin and Karen Archipley – Co-founders of Archi’s Acres and the VSAT Program
Chef Adam Navidi – Founder, Future Foods Farms and Oceans & Earth Restaurant
Frank Fitzpatrick – Owner, 5 Bar Beef
Christina Hall – Executive Director of OC Food Access Coalition
Megan Penn – Executive Director of Orange Home Grown
Sonora Ortiz – Market Manager, Downtown Santa Ana Farmers’ Market
Aaron Fox – Asst. Professor, Urban & Community Agriculture at Cal Poly Pomona
Chris Higgins – General Manager at Hort Americas
Jeremy Samson – Chair of Slow Food OC
Anna Maria Desipris – The Ecology Center/Honeybee Hub
Erik Cutter – Managing Director of Alegria Fresh
Dwight Detter – Executive Director, Slow Money SoCal
Sara E. Johnson – Director of the Urban Agriculture Community-based Research Experience (U-ACRE) program

Register Now!

 http://growlocaloc.eventbrite.com

 

Day 2 – Future Farm Field Trip (SOLD OUT!)

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.

Presently scheduled stops include:

  • Urban Produce LLC – an indoor vertical farming operation based in Irvine, California that uses advanced hydroponic technologies in a controlled environment. Urban Produce currently grows and sells organic microgreens that are available throughout southern California
  • The Riverbed – an aquaponics community farm in Anaheim, California that uses minimal water to operate and produce over 2,000 pounds of food for underserved residents.
  • Alegría Farm – an urban farm that supports more than 60 cultivators growing over 50,000 plants utilizing hydroponic and natural, nutrient-dense configurations. The farm’s resource-efficient technologies demonstrate how urban microfarms can supply communities with locally grown, fresh produce while reducing transportation and preserving natural resources.
  • Future Foods Farms – one of the largest aquaponic farms in the state, Future Foods Farms is located on 25 acres in Brea, California. The farm produces all organically grown products in several 2,000-4,000 square-feet greenhouses.

Register Now!

 http://growlocaloc.eventbrite.com

 

Thank you to our sponsors:
Kaiser Permanente
Garden Tower Project
U-ACRE
OC Food Access Coalition
Bright Agrotech
Grow-Tech LLC
American AgCredit
Agra Tech, Inc.
Dosatron
Oceans & Earth
Tender Greens
UC Irvine
Orange Home Grown
Association for Vertical Farming

The Community Development Potential of Embracing Local Food Systems

How do you increase community involvement in the consumption, embrace, and production of local food? How does a city, or county, benefit from the development of community and school gardens? What is the role of a farmers’ market in community development beyond offering a location where farmers can sell direct to the public? What benefits do farmers’ markets confer to the community and economy?

To learn the answer to these questions, and more, you won’t want to miss the ‘The Community Development Potential of Embracing Local Food Systems’ panel at the upcoming Grow Local OC: Future of Local Food Systems slated for Nov. 10 at California State University, Fullerton. The following expert speakers will address the impact of farmers’ markets, community and school gardens, and community engagement around local food:

tim_alderson_12Tim Alderson is the Executive Director of Seeds of Hope, the food justice ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, which grows and distributes food in over 100 communities of need across six Southern California counties. His lifetime in agriculture has included nearly 20 years as CEO of AgriGator, Inc., a multi-national soil amendment manufacturer, as well as numerous industry boards including the board of directors of the National Agri-Marketing Association. He was the founding chairman of the California School Garden Network and was appointed by two California governors to the board of the Schools Agriculture and Nutrition Program where he currently serves as President. He was also appointed to the California Department of Education School Garden Advisory Committee. Tim lives in Pasadena, California where he has served as Chairman of the city’s Recreation and Parks Commission and the Mayor’s Workforce Housing Task Force.

sonora-ortiz-boatSonora Ortiz is the manager of the Downtown Santa Ana Farmers’ Market, a culinary and nutrition educator, farmer, and future astrobiologist. They work all over the world but are currently back home in Orange County to help transform the local food system. Sonora draws from permaculture and Transitions principles to guide their work with an emphasis on accessibility and community collaboration.

 
 
 

megan-pennMegan Penn – Born and raised in the City of Orange, CA, Megan truly knows the meaning of “homegrown”. She is a graduate of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and holds a BS in City and Regional Planning with an emphasis in Urban Design. Megan spent 12 years as an accomplished Urban Planner and Senior Project Manager before venturing into the position of Executive Director for the grassroots driven Orange Home Grown (OHG) organization. As a co-founder of Orange Home Grown Inc., which started in 2009, she is passionate about providing access to locally grown food, works to improve the local food system through education, and develops opportunities that create “community” here in Orange County. Megan holds a position on the City of Orange Community Development Block Grant Committee and is a board member for the Pitcher Park Foundation. Megan is a wife and mother and enjoys growing food at home and raising backyard chickens.

jeremy-samsonJeremy Samson is an Urban Farmer who works with several different organizations to improve the food system in Orange County with gardens. He is Co-director of Cultivate Together, a non-profit focused on facilitating the creation and sustainability of neighborhood farms and community garden spaces. As an Orange County Master Gardener he is a member of the Speakers Bureau that teaches gardening classes around the county. After attending the Edible School Yard Academy in Berkeley last year, he now serves on the School Garden Team for the Master Gardeners and as the Slow Food Orange County Garden chair. Jeremy also owns a small landscape design and consultation business specializing in edible and drought tolerant landscaping with an emphasis on resource conservation and wildlife habitat.

rickey-smithRickey Smith is founder and principal of Urban Green LLC, a social entrepreneurship dedicated to restoring, developing and promoting “green space” within the communities it serves. Urban Green LLC was designed upon Rickey’s philosophy of Circular Synergy, which seeks to establish a CLEAR path connecting the inter-disciplines of Cuisine, Land-use, Environment, and Architecture into Renewable cycles of self-reliant communities. As a youth, Rickey worked the land upon his family’s rural property in Wartrace, Tennessee. He received his Bachelor in Business from University of Tennessee, Knoxville and a MFA in Visual Anthropology/Cinema from University of Southern California.

Register Now!

http://growlocaloc.eventbrite.com

California Amends Law to Allow Seed Libraries to Freely Share Noncommercial Seeds

Photo by Rick Proser. CC BY-SA 3.0.

Photo by Rick Proser. CC BY-SA 3.0.

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.”

According to David King, Chair of the Seed Library of Los Angeles (SLOLA), who advocated for AB 1810 alongside Thapar, the two key aims of all seeds libraries are to increase biodiversity through local seed saving and sharing, and to alleviate food insecurity. “I recall my grandfather saving his own seeds, and I recall those seeds were passed on to other people, to other generations,” says King. “And we’ve lost that. My generation didn’t hand down seeds to their children—we got off the farm, we quit gardening. But now as an older person I see the loss of diversity and I know the only way we can get it back is to grow these seeds, and care for these seeds as much as we would care for our dogs or cats, or even our children. It’s a sacred duty, it’s a sacred trust.”

Thapar and King cite the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s notice to the Simpson Seed Library in Mechanicsburg, PA in 2014 as inspiring their efforts to become involved in the campaign to amend California seed law. The notice informed the library that it was in violation of the state’s Seed Act of 2004, which required routine testing of large quantities of seeds according to commercial testing guidelines. As the library lacked the resources to comply, it was reduced to distributing only seeds that were commercially packaged, or hosting swap days where individuals could exchange seeds with each other without donating them to the library.

The incident in Pennsylvania sent shockwaves across seed libraries nationwide, and prompted King and SELC to delve into existing seed laws in states across the country, including California.

“Most of those laws that govern seeds were considered between the 1930s and 1950s,” explains King. “Nobody at that time envisioned the idea of a seed library. They were written in answer to the fact that you had hucksters giving farmers bad seeds, or old seed, just trying to make a quick buck. So the seed salesman makes his money, but the farmer is left with a crop that’s not saleable and so he’s ruined. That was part of why the law was written to exclude almost any transfer of seed from person to person. So the laws just don’t fit the current situation.”

King adds that particularly problematic for seed libraries in California was AB 2470, adopted into law in 2014, which forbade sharing of seeds from farther away than three miles unless they were tested and labeled under commercial standards. AB 1810’s passage allows for noncommercial seed sharing to occur anywhere in the state without the need to comply with commercial testing and labeling regulations.

The bill encountered some speedbumps along the way. “It ended up being more controversial than we expected,” says Thapar. Potential threats posed by seed sharing were raised, including the introduction and proliferation of weed seeds or invasive plant species, illegal sharing of patented seeds, low seed viability or germination percentages, and contamination or cross-pollination of seeds.

King and Thapar contend that cross-pollination is the only realistic concern for seed libraries, since many libraries have open membership and participants come with varying levels of experience. But both explain that most seed libraries aspire to educate people as to how to properly plant and save seeds. “That’s the promise and the opportunity of seed libraries,” says Thapar. “Master gardeners oftentimes work with or offer advice to seed libraries, and the libraries offer people, mostly who aren’t farmers, which is most of the people in our country, the opportunity to reconnect with that skill and that familiarity with how plants grow. And the idea is that people are going to make mistakes; it’s not that there will not be some cross-pollination that will happen in the garden of someone who then takes that seed to a seed library. It’s that the effect of that cross-pollination is not going to be a threat to agriculture, and is going to at the same time be a great learning experience for that person about how to hand-pollinate better the next year.”

With over 500 seed lending libraries now open worldwide, and many of those in the U.S., SELC encourages individuals in other states to become actively involved in researching and, if needed, amending laws to support unencumbered seed sharing. As for state laws already favorable to seed sharing, Thapar notes, “The only ones I know of that I would say are ‘good’ as-is are in North Carolina and Alabama. North Carolina has an existing exemption for nonprofits, so that would support most seed sharing, because most seed sharing that happens in an organized fashion is usually hosted by some sort of nonprofit. And in Alabama, they have a really great exemption for anybody who sells up to $3,000 worth of seeds that they grew themselves, annually. So they exempt not just seed sharing, but if you sell a small quantity or small dollar value of seeds, you are also exempt from some of the provisions of the law.”

SELC moderates a Seed Law Toolshed, an open-source, crowdsourced database with links to state seed laws. Thapar encourages everyone to check out and contribute to the database.

Those interested in tracking seed sharing advocacy efforts nationwide can follow the development of law and policy on SELC’s “Save Seed Sharing Campaign” website.

Finally, Thapar underscores the vital role of community organizations and individuals in shaping law and policy on seed sharing. “The value that lawyers add [in grassroots efforts] are as technical advisers or advocates that can read legislative language or have experience doing policy and can offer some kind of strategy for setting up a legislative campaign,” Thapar says. “Generally, my take on policies based on the experience I’ve had in the last few years is that it’s more effective when people who are actually going to be harmed by or benefit from the policy advocate for it.”


This article originally appeared on Seedstock: http://seedstock.com/2016/09/20/california-amends-law-to-protect-seed-libraries-ability-to-freely-share-noncommercial-seeds/

Only Four Weeks Remain Until ‘Grow Local OC: Future of Urban Food Systems Conference’

conference-speakers-and-field-trip-destinations

(left to right) Rishi Kumar, urban farmer and co-founder of The Growing Club; A view of Urban Produce’s high density vertical farming system in Irvine, CA; Karen Ross, Secretary, California Dept. of Food and Agriculture; The Riverbed aquaponic community farm in Anaheim, CA; Tim Alderson, executive director of Seeds of Hope.

The Grow Local OC: Future of Urban Food Systems Conference presented by Seedstock in partnership with the OC Food Access Coalition is only FOUR WEEKS away. Scheduled for Nov. 10 – 11, 2016, at California State University, Fullerton (Hosted by U-ACRE), the conference will explore the community and economic development potential of fostering local food systems in cities. The conference organizers are offering a Seed Saver Special Ticket Price for the next two weeks, so be sure  to register soon to take advantage of the discount.

Below is a summary of the conference details:

Day 1 – Conference Day 

Day 1 (Nov. 10) of the conference, attendees will convene at the Portola Pavilion at California State University, Fullerton in Orange County, CA for a series of panels and keynotes that will address such topic areas as:

  • Urban farming and its role in expanding local food access, benefiting community and growing local economies;
  • How hydroponic and indoor growers utilize sustainability, embrace innovative business models and push the limits of agricultural technology to expand the local food marketplace;
  • Local food policy;
  • The benefits of community and school gardens, and more!

The day will be anchored by a keynote address from Karen Ross, Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, on the importance of agriculture and local food systems in cities.

Confirmed Speakers:

Karen Ross – Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture
Rachel Surls – Sustainable Food Systems Advisor for UC Cooperative Extension
Tim Alderson – Executive Director at Seeds of Hope
Glenn Tanaka – Owner of Tanaka Farms
Derek Lutz – Asst. Vice President at American AgCredit
Kimi McAdam – Asst. Dept. Administrator for Food & Nutrition Service at Kaiser Permanente
Mark Lowry – Director of the Orange County Food Bank
Ed Horton – President and CEO of Urban Produce LLC
Colin and Karen Archipley – Co-founders of Archi’s Acres and the VSAT Program
Chef Adam Navidi – Founder, Future Foods Farms and Oceans & Earth Restaurant
Frank Fitzpatrick – Owner, 5 Bar Beef
Rishi Kumar – Co-founder and Director of The Growing Club
Christina Hall – Executive Director of OC Food Access Coalition
Megan Penn – Executive Director of Orange Home Grown
Sonora Ortiz – Market Manager, Downtown Santa Ana Farmers’ Market
Aaron Fox – Asst. Professor, Urban & Community Agriculture at Cal Poly Pomona
Chris Higgins – General Manager at Hort Americas
Jeremy Samson – Chair of Slow Food OC
Anna Maria Desipris – The Ecology Center/Honeybee Hub
Erik Cutter – Managing Director of Alegria Fresh
Dwight Detter – Executive Director, Slow Money SoCal
Sara E. Johnson – Director of the Urban Agriculture Community-based Research Experience (U-ACRE) program at Cal State Fullerton

Grab your Seed Saver Special Ticket here:

http://growlocaloc.eventbrite.com

 

Day 2 – Future Farm Field Trip

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.

Presently scheduled stops include:

  • Urban Produce LLC – an indoor vertical farming operation based in Irvine, California that uses advanced hydroponic technologies in a controlled environment. Urban Produce currently grows and sells organic microgreens that are available throughout southern California
  • The Riverbed – an aquaponics community farm in Anaheim, California that uses minimal water to operate and produce over 2,000 pounds of food for underserved residents.
  • Alegría Farm – an urban farm that supports more than 60 cultivators growing over 50,000 plants utilizing hydroponic and natural, nutrient-dense configurations. The farm’s resource-efficient technologies demonstrate how urban microfarms can supply communities with locally grown, fresh produce while reducing transportation and preserving natural resources.
  • Future Foods Farms – one of the largest aquaponic farms in the state, Future Foods Farms is located on 25 acres in Brea, California. The farm produces all organically grown products in several 2,000-4,000 square-feet greenhouses.

A limited number of Seed Saver Special tickets remain.

Register Now!

 http://growlocaloc.eventbrite.com

 

Thank you to our sponsors:
Kaiser Permanente
Garden Tower Project
U-ACRE
OC Food Access Coalition
Grow-Tech LLC
American AgCredit
Agra Tech, Inc.
Dosatron
Oceans & Earth
Tender Greens
UC Irvine
Orange Home Grown
Association for Vertical Farming