Orange Home Grown Goes Beyond Farmers Market Roots to Spread Local Food & Ag Education in OC

“In Orange County, the local food system is not good at all—it’s behind the times,” says Megan Penn, co-founder and executive director of Orange Home Grown. Penn and the organization she leads are working hard to remedy that.

Change is happening, says Penn, who believes that “food is the essence of everything.”

Penn was raised in the City of Orange, but it was not until she went to college at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo that her eyes were truly opened to the wonders of local and sustainable food and agriculture.

“There was a fabulous farmers’ market which was part of my college life,” she says.

Upon returning to the City of Orange, however, Penn noticed the lack of farmers’ markets and locally-produced food.

“My friends and neighbors felt the same way,” she says. Read more

To Tackle Food Insecurity, Orange County Coalition Takes Broad Approach to Increase Food Access

Orange County Food Access Coalition takes advantage of the county’s robust fruit harvest to help meet food equity challenges. (photo courtesy Christina Hall/Orange County Food Access Coalition)

Orange County Food Access Coalition takes advantage of the county’s robust fruit harvest to help meet food equity challenges. (photo courtesy Christina Hall/Orange County Food Access Coalition)

To many, Orange County is known for high-end shopping, affluent neighborhoods and, of course, Disneyland. But submerged beneath the county’s oft-glittery surface is the insidious problem of poverty.

According to U.S. Census statistics, median household income in Orange County is $75,998. However, 12.9 percent of county residents live in poverty (defined as annual income less than $12,331).

Poverty often leads to hunger.

“Orange County is a challenging place,” says Christina Hall, executive director of the Orange County Food Access Coalition. “It’s an expensive brand, but with high levels of poverty and food insecurity. We hide that very well.” Read more

L.A. Food Policy Council Outlines Path to Fresh Food for All in the City of Angels

A blighted vacant lot is seen in Los Angeles. Through urban agriculture incentive zones, the Los Angeles Food Policy Council wants to see more vacant blighted land transformed into thriving urban farms and gardens. (photo courtesy Camille de la Vega/Los Angeles Food Policy Council)

A blighted vacant lot is seen in Los Angeles. Through urban agriculture incentive zones, the Los Angeles Food Policy Council wants to see more vacant blighted land transformed into thriving urban farms and gardens. (Photo courtesy Camille de la Vega/Los Angeles Food Policy Council)

Imagine a world-class metropolis where people take their relationships with food so seriously that all citizens enjoy access to farmers’ markets. The notion of food waste is obsolete (instead, think food capital). Farms and gardens thrive where vacant lots once languished and the streets are alive with an astounding variety of food vendors.

That’s a vision that the Los Angeles Food Policy Council (LAFPC) is working hard to make a reality in the City of Angels. To make food access more equitable for all, LAFPC is stressing four equity initiatives which focus on urban agriculture incentive zones, sidewalk food vending, food waste recycling and compost, and accessible farmers’ markets.

“We want to create a good food region,” says LAFPC executive director Clare Fox. “We want to have a sustainable and equitable food system, with expanded access to underserved communities.” Read more

Local Food Marketplace and New Technology Keys to Future of Agriculture in OC, Says Irvine Farmer

A.G. Kawamura of Orange County Produce is the former Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, and a champion of local food production in Orange County. (photo courtesy A.G. Kawamura/Orange County Produce)

A.G. Kawamura of Orange County Produce is the former Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. (photo courtesy A.G. Kawamura/OC Produce)

Farmer A.G. Kawamura is doing his part to preserve and foster the agricultural heritage in Irvine, California, a city of more than 250,000 in the heart of heavily-populated Orange County, just south of Los Angeles.

Kawamura, the former secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, is in charge of field production at family-owned Orange County Produce. His grandparents immigrated to California from Japan in the early 1900s and began farming. Then, in 1958, his father moved the operation, then known as Western Marketing Company, to Orange County. In 1994, the family changed the company’s name to Orange County Produce because of their belief that Orange County still wants to participate in its agriculture heritage.

Because of its strategic location in Southern California, Kawamura believes Orange County Produce can make an impact throughout the region.

Read more