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

Grow Local OC’s ‘Future Farm Field Trip’ Nearly Sold Out

Grow Local OC Field Trip Farms

The Grow Local OC Conference field trip will stop at, from top left to right: Alegria Farm, Future Foods Farms, The Riverbed, and Urban Produce LLC.

Only 10 spots remain for the Future Farm Field Trip on Day 2 (Nov. 11) of the Grow Local OC: Future of Urban Food Systems Conference. The field trip will of offer 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 on the field trip 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 to grab one of the last spots on the trip

http://growlocaloc.eventbrite.com


On 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 local food access, the economic potential of indoor agriculture, 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.

For additional information, and to purchase Seed Saver Discount tickets for the field trip and conference prior to the Oct. 17 deadline, please visit:

http://growlocaloc.eventbrite.com

Select Confirmed Speakers:

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

Register Now!

http://growlocaloc.eventbrite.com

Rachel Surls, Sustainable Food Systems Advisor for UC Cooperative Extension, to Deliver Keynote on State of Urban Ag in SoCal

rachel-surls

Rachel Surls, Sustainable Food Systems Advisor for UC Cooperative Extension, will deliver a keynote on urban agriculture Southern California at the upcoming ‘Grow Local OC: Future of Urban Food Systems Conference’ on Nov. 10-11 at Cal State University, Fullerton.

The organizers of the Grow Local OC Conference: The Future of Urban Food Systems, slated for Nov. 10 – 11 at Cal State University, Fullerton are excited to announce that Rachel Surls, the Sustainable Food Systems Advisor for University of California Cooperative Extension in Los Angeles County, will deliver a keynote address on the state of urban agriculture in Southern California.

From backyard gardens, to urban agriculture, Rachel is involved in a variety of projects related to urban food systems. Since 2013, she has worked with UCLA students to conduct the “Cultivate LA” survey of urban agriculture in Los Angeles. She recently led a UCANR team that carried out a state-wide needs assessment of urban farming. Rachel is a member of the leadership board of the Los Angeles Food Policy Council, and has been active in their urban agriculture working group which has successfully advocated for policies that support growing food in the city.  Rachel and a co-author recently published a book on the local history of urban agriculture, titled “From Cows to Concrete: The Rise and Fall of Farming in Los Angeles.

To hear Rachel discuss the state of urban farming in SoCal – from policy that is helping to pave the way for more urban ag development to  steps that cities can take to increase urban farming capacity –  register now for the upcoming Grow Local OC Conference, by clicking on the following link:  http://growlocaloc.eventbrite.com.

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

Register for the Upcoming Grow Local OC Conference and Qualify for a Chance to Win a Garden Tower

A Garden Tower 2. Photo courtesy of Garden Tower Project.

The Garden Tower, a soil-based vertical container garden system allows urban gardeners to grow 50 plants in just four square feet of space. Photo courtesy of Garden Tower Project.

Grow Local OC “Barn Sponsor” Garden Tower Project wants to help you jumpstart your urban farming efforts.

To do so, the company is offering anyone who purchases a ticket to the upcoming Grow Local OC: Future of Urban Food Systems conference the chance to qualify to win a Garden Tower. Three winners among those purchasing tickets for the upcoming conference will be chosen at random and announced at the conference on Thursday, November 10. Winners will be able to choose to have the Garden Tower delivered to their residence, or to donate it to a local organization of their choosing.

The Garden Tower, a soil-based vertical container garden system allows urban gardeners to grow 50 plants in just four square feet of space. The tower, which utilizes perforated tubing technology to facilitate the movement of worms and nightcrawlers within it, also enables gardeners to seamlessly compost kitchen scraps into organic fertilizer that helps power the system. It can be placed on a porch, an apartment balcony, or a rooftop, and easily rotates for plant access and sunlight.

Background on the Garden Tower Project:

Colin Cudmore, the inventor of the Garden Tower, told Seedstock he does not consider himself a gardener.

Cudmore germinated the idea for the Garden Tower one weekend, as he volunteered to man a booth for a local farmers’ market in Bloomington, Indiana. He noticed a couple of Amish farmers who were selling seedlings and starter plants, but had few customers, despite the bustling crowd in the marketplace.

Curious, he asked the two farmers why no one had bought their starter plants. The answer surprised him. The farmers told him customers did not buy the plants, because the market’s patrons had no knowledge of how to grow their own food.

That revelation inspired Cudmore to dig deeper into the subject of home gardening, and he later attended a lecture by Will Allen, founder and CEO of Growing Power.

What he heard inspired the inventor to find a way to make container gardening more accessible to people all over the world. He subsequently nurtured a vision: Turning patios, balconies, and decks into self-fertilizing gardens that would give food-deprived areas of the world a new weapon to fight hunger and poor nutrition around the globe.

What began as a desire to encourage gardening, would eventually lead the inveterate tinkerer to devise a completely self-sustaining gardening container that creates its own compost. The technology needs no electricity, so it may be used around the globe, Cudmore told Seedstock.

Neither a gardener, nor an environmental scientist, Cudmore recalls he wasn’t sure how well the concept would actually work. So, he networked with permaculture experts, gardeners, and advanced master gardeners in the Bloomington area, asking them to test the process. As it turned out, it worked far better than he had ever expected. He tweaked the process further, “and it performs incredibly well,” he says.

The innovative breakthrough was inserting verma-compost tubing. This provides a compost highway, through which worms and nightcrawlers spread worm castings throughout the gardening container. The end result works so well, and creates so many worm castings, there’s enough rich organic fertilizer to spread over the neighbor’s garden beds, too, says Cudmore.

“I was mulling around with using fish waste as a flow-through byproduct to fertilize the soil. There was no easy or simple way to do that. And, I’m certainly not the first one to come up with the concept of vertical gardening, nor am I the first one to come up with a round barrel as the vertical garden. But, no one really had done the compost within the garden container,” Cudmore says.

Thomas Tlusty, one of Cudmore’s business partners along with Joel Grant, says, “the beauty of this design, is that it’s self-contained, in that the plastic covers the majority of the soil, so there’s very little evaporation. And all the water that’s not needed by the plants, drains out of the bottom, and it’s reintroduced back into the soil [through the verma-compost tubing]. So it’s extremely beneficial for areas of the world that are suffering from water scarcity, or poor or sandy soil conditions, or toxic soil.”

Register now for the Grow Local OC Conference for your chance to win a Garden Tower!

http://growlocaloc.eventbrite.com

A Garden Tower 2. Photo courtesy of Garden Tower Project.

A Garden Tower 2. Photo courtesy of Garden Tower Project.

 

Dr. Nate Storey to Discuss Viability of Indoor Farming in the City at Grow Local OC Conference

Nate Storey, CEO and founder of Bright Agrotech, a

Nate Storey, CEO and founder of Bright Agrotech, a company that develops vertical and high density farming equipment, will discuss the viability of indoor farming in cities at the upcoming Grow Local OC Conference at Cal State University, Fullerton on Nov. 10 – 11.

The organizers of the Grow Local OC Conference: The Future of Urban Food Systems, slated for Nov. 10 – 11 at Cal State University, Fullerton are excited to announce that Dr. Nate Storey, the CEO of Bright Agrotech, a company that leads the industry in vertical and high density farming equipment, will be participating as a speaker.

Nate began to have the first stirrings of what would eventually become Bright Agrotech when he was a student at the University of Wyoming. The program is well-known for turning out leaders in the farming and ranching fields, and Nate is no exception. He self-funded the startup while pursuing his Ph.D. in Agronomy.

Bright Agrotech offers several services and products, including farm consulting and financial analysis. But they are best-known for their ZipGrow growing towers.

The ZipGrow system is comprised of food-safe plastic towers filled with growing media that replace the need for soil. The towers weigh eight pounds each and are engineered to be hung or set on any surface.

“Our towers are designed to put the user experience and the future experience in mind. When we developed the product, we weren’t just trying to build another stacked pot technique,” Storey told Seedstock earlier this year. “We wanted to create a design specifically for the unique growing variables inherent to vertical plane agriculture.”

Despite only being three years old, Bright Agrotech enjoys approximately 10,000 customers across the United States and around the world.

At the upcoming Grow Local OC Conference, Nate will discuss the potential for  launching indoor farms in cities, as well as the tools and training programs available to do so. Register now to hear him speak:  http://growlocaloc.eventbrite.com

Urban Farmer and Educator Rishi Kumar to Address Grow Local OC Conference

rishi-kumar

Rishi Kumar, co-founder and director of The Growing Club will discuss urban farming opportunities at the upcoming Grow Local OC Conference: The Future of Urban Food Systems on Nov. 10-11 at Cal State University, Fullerton.

The organizers of the Grow Local OC Conference: The Future of Urban Food Systems slated for Nov. 10 – 11 at Cal State University, Fullerton are excited to announce that urban farmer and educator Rishi Kumar will be participating as a speaker. Rishi is the co-founder and director of The Growing Club, a non-profit organization based in the San Gabriel Valley of Los Angeles, CA working to create systemic cultural change through the avenues of food, farming, and community empowerment.

What began in 2009 with Rishi and his mother taking over increasingly large sections of their home backyard to grow more fresh food has developed into an educational non-profit that facilitates a network of urban farming demonstration sites in Los Angeles’s San Gabriel Valley. These sites include a ½ acre demonstration farm in Pomona, a new public demonstration garden in Claremont called The Growing Commons, and the original Growing Home, which has evolved into a heavily integrated demonstration of sustainable living techniques that can be implemented by the average homeowner or tenant. Read more

In Fight Against Waste and Food Insecurity, SoCal Gleaning Org Recovers Millions of Pounds of Fresh Produce

Food Forward's Wholesale Recovery Program Manager, Luis Yepiz, insp

Food Forward’s Wholesale Recovery Program Manager, Luis Yepiz, inspects grapes recovered from a wholesale donor. The program works to reduce waste by collecting unwanted produce from wholesale donors in and around the downtown Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market. Photo courtesy of Food Forward.

This post originally appeared on seedstock.com.

The number of food insecure residents in Southern California is staggering. According to Rick Nahmias, founder and executive director of Food Forward, there are nearly 2.4 million people in Los Angeles and surrounding counties who lack access to sufficient quantities of affordable, nutritious food. If that number were a state “its population would rest somewhere in between Nevada and New Mexico in size,” says Nahmias.

That is the challenge that Food Forward tackles each and every day by recovering excess fruits and vegetables and donating them to local agencies that feed the hungry.

In the five years since Seedstock first wrote about the gleaning organization, it has gone beyond backyard harvests on private properties to become a large-scale food recovery program that gleans fruit not only from trees, but also from farmers’ and wholesale markets. As a result, Food Forward is now one of the largest food recovery programs in Southern California.

Since its inception seven years ago, the nonprofit has donated 25 million pounds of food; and this year alone it will glean 14 million pounds of produce that will reach people in need across Southern California.

“We are reaching eight counties from San Diego to Santa Barbara, and are now working with over 100 agencies from backyard harvests to farmers’ markets,” says Rick Nahmias, Founder and Executive Director.

It was Nahmias’s frustration with food waste, that resulted in the creation of the Food Forward’s Wholesale Recovery Program and subsequent rapid scaling in fresh produce donations.

“The waste is maddening,” says Nahmias. “Our wholesale district starts at the market and goes for a mile or two in any direction. It is the largest food receptacle in the entire continent as far as food that comes in, redistributed and packaged to go out to the rest of the country.”

The Wholesale Recovery Program, which works to reduce waste by collecting unwanted produce from wholesale donors in and around the downtown Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market, has been operating for two and one-half years and has far exceeded expectations.

“We expected 300,000 pounds the first year, which was a conservative estimate,” says Nahmias. “In reality, it was 4.3 million pounds. Some of this would have gone into other avenues, but, most would have been put in a landfill.”

Food Forward’s operational model also addresses food waste.

“Not a pound of food is picked up or harvested without knowing where it is going ahead of time,” says Nahmias. “We don’t collect anything without knowing we have a place for it to go, or a recipient, so nothing is stored. The only refrigerator we have is the one in the Fruit Cave, and that’s for staff and volunteers.”

The organization wants to do more work beyond Southern California and is working on an education program to bring food waste and hunger issues to the foray in school curriculums. While Food Forward’s growth has been impressive, Nahmias says that it’s really about “measured growth and doing what we do better instead of shot gunning all over the place.” To that end, he explains that while the organization distributes food to eight counties, the great bulk of the gleaning takes place in Los Angles and Ventura counties and is done as efficiently as possible.

Just as it was in the beginning, Food Forward is volunteer driven. There are about 6,000 volunteer shifts per year, with approximately 150 volunteer events a month between the farmers’ market and backyard harvests across Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, resulting in the participation of around 10,000 volunteers cumulatively.

Despite its growth, the philosophy and vision behind Food Forward remains the same: “You take food off a tree and give it to people who need it,” says Nahmias. “It’s very easy to stay connected to that because of the food system that exists here. We have the trees, these farmers’ markets, a one of a kind wholesale market. It is still this idea of giving something without the expectation of getting anything in return. How do people share without having to be patted on the back, that ability is a gift in itself.”

Episcopal Diocese Plants Seeds of Hope to Address Food Insecurity in Southern California

Tim Alderson,

Tim Alderson, executive director of Seeds of Hope, a food justice ministry that provides universal and affordable access to basic nutrition.

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. Read more

Once the Largest Farming County in US, Los Angeles’s Agricultural Roots Laid Bare in New Book

Book cover image for "From Cows to Concrete: How Farming Transformed Los Angeles County" © 2016 by Rachel Surls and Judith Gerber, published by Angel City Press. All rights reserved. Image used with permission.

Book cover image for “From Cows to Concrete: How Farming Transformed Los Angeles County” © 2016 by Rachel Surls and Judith Gerber, published by Angel City Press. All rights reserved. Image used with permission.

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.

She also leads a statewide project to provide resources and training for urban farmers, as well as working closely with the Los Angeles Food Policy Council.

Seedstock: What inspired you and Judith to write this book?

Rachel Surls: About fifteen years ago I was reviewing some old farming statistics for Los Angeles and it just struck me that this used to be a really big farming center. I dug a little further and found that, in fact, it was the largest farming county in the United States for about forty years in the 20th century. So it was a huge farming center that faded away and became a large urban center in a fairly short period of time. I became fascinated with that history. My co-author, Judi Gerber, grew up in the Los Angeles area and saw the small farms slowly disappear. We both had the same goal of sharing this largely forgotten history with Angelenos today.

Seedstock: How did Los Angeles develop into an agricultural center?

Rachel Surls: From its earliest existence Los Angeles was an agricultural center because the pueblo of Los Angeles was established to grow food to shore up the Spanish colonization of Southern California. Los Angeles’s main economy was producing cattle and it wasn’t until those giant cattle ranches collapsed in the 1860s that you really saw the rise of what we think of as farming today. The amazing diversity of crops came about because after the end of the rancho era, people were looking for ways to make a living. They started experimenting with everything from beekeeping to growing fruits and vegetables and over time some really successful crops arose.

Seedstock: How long did it take Los Angeles to go from pastoral setting to urban sprawl?

Rachel Surls: That happened starting in the 1860s, after the railroad arrived in Los Angeles and many more people started to come here. You saw subsequent land booms where people bought up land and developed it. Where you really saw the pastoral nature of Los Angeles convert to urban sprawl was after World War II. That was when the value of property went up tremendously. It was now worth far more for development than it was for farmland and you saw the conversion of thousands of acres of farmland into subdivisions.

Seedstock: What else was grown here?

Rachel Surls: There were so many crops here it was amazing. The Venice area, for example, was known as the celery capital of the world. Wheat was a huge crop and there were many orchard crops; peaches, apples, cherries, and almonds. The most iconic crops were citrus. Oranges in particular became part of the whole mythology of Los Angeles – a place with sunshine and beautiful orange fruit on every tree is part of what brought people to Los Angeles. There was animal agriculture too. Beekeeping was huge, there were poultry ranches and hundreds of dairies.

Seedstock: What brought about the demise of agriculture?

Rachel Surls: After World War II so many people came here and they wanted nice suburban homes with schools, shopping districts and freeways. Land prices started going up tremendously and farmers simply got edged out because the taxes skyrocketed to the point that they could no longer afford their property taxes. As farms started to fold, the infrastructure started to fold as well. Farmers were unable to sustain their operations and ultimately had to sell their land.

Seedstock: Could you talk about the current state of urban agriculture in Los Angeles?

Rachel Surls: We still have plenty of traditional agriculture in Los Angeles. In the Antelope Valley area there’s large scale carrot, onion, and alfalfa production, as well as peach and cherry orchards and nursery crop production. We also have emerging urban agriculture in the form of school gardens and community gardens. People are also converting vacant lots into mini farms and selling some of the fruits and vegetables that they grow. We’ve been seeing more of this since about 2008, when we had the big economic crisis. People have found that it’s satisfying to grow your own food and it’s also fulfilling a need in some urban neighborhoods where there’s simply not enough healthy, affordable fresh produce.

(Note: Rachel Surls will be participating in the upcoming Grow Local OC Conference on November 10-11, 2016 at Cal State Fullerton. To hear her speak about urban agriculture,  and strengthening local food systems in southern California, click here: http://growlocaloc.eventbrite.com)

Seedstock: What does the future look like for urban agriculture in Los Angeles?

Rachel Surls: We have policies that are helping to promote the growth of urban agriculture. The Urban Agriculture Incentives Zone Act (AB551) was passed in the state legislature a couple of years ago. Local communities have to put their own programs into place and Los Angeles County recently did that and the City of Los Angeles is moving in that direction. This will give private land owners a property tax reduction to offer their land for use as urban agriculture. There’s also new state laws that make it easier to legally sell what you grow in an urban agriculture setting. I think, though, the real wild card is water. How will water be priced? How will it be accessible? Can urban farmers successfully convert to using less water? I think that’s the big question.

Seedstock: Obviously LA can’t return to its former pastoral glory, but to what extent can the green come back?

Rachel Surls: I think a lot of the hope comes from individuals. In the last five to ten years there’s been a renaissance of Americans gardening, doing home gardening, community gardening, container gardening. I think that through activities like these we have opportunity to bring very small pieces of land back into production.

Seedstock: To what extent is the story of Los Angeles a cautionary tale?

Rachel Surls: I think it’s very much a cautionary tale, especially for California. Los Angeles County paved over its farmland on a very fast, precipitous scale, but other counties in California have mostly continued on this same trajectory. In the U.S. we’re losing nearly 40 acres of farmland every hour and in California we’re losing around 50 thousand acres per year. If we don’t protect our farmlands we lose our capacity to grow food and farm products, and we erode other benefits that farms provide communities, such as mitigation of climate change.

Seedstock: What are you hoping people will take away from your book?

Rachel Surls: The most stunning thing about all this is how we now have food deserts sitting on top of what was once bountiful farmland. We have people going hungry in a place that not long ago was producing an amazing array of fruits and vegetables and other crops. Even if we can’t put a lot of land back into farmland because it may not be practical anymore, it’s not necessary for us to let people go hungry in this country. We have the resources to fix that problem and we need to do that.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity. From Cows to Concrete: the Rise and Fall of Farming in Los Angeles is available from Angel City Press and Amazon.


This article originally appeared on seedstock.com: http://seedstock.com/2016/08/30/once-the-largest-farming-county-in-us-los-angeless-agricultural-roots-laid-bare-in-new-book/