Across Southern California, a new breed of small farmer is emerging to not only take advantage of the growing demand for local food, but also to connect urban communities to their food. These farmers are nimble, resourceful and pushing the limits, often working on backyard plots within or on the outskirts of cities that are less than 1-acre in size. Yet they are creating economically viable business models by growing salable produce on every inch of their land.
To provide valuable insight into how this type of small plot urban agriculture might benefit your city and community, or even find a place in your own backyard, the upcoming Grow Local OC: Future of Urban Food Systems conference set to take place on November 10 – 11 at Cal State University, Fullerton will feature a number of notable experts who will address the “Potential of Urban Farming in Cities.” Experts set to participate in the conference and discuss the economic viability of urban farming and its community development potential include:
Rishi Kumar is a farmer, educator, and urban peasant. co-founder of the Growing Club, co-founder and director of The Growing Club (thegrowingclub.com), 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.
Since 2011, he has operated The Growing Home, an urban farm and model of suburban sustainable living based near Los Angeles. Rishi’s work has been featured by the Los Angeles Times, GOOD Magazine, KPCC, KPFK, KCRW, and the urban farming documentary “Urban Fruit”.
Rishi has a background in Computer Science, with degree from UC San Diego. He has apprenticed at Vandana Shiva’s Navdanya Farm in Dehradun, India. Rishi is a Master Gardener and Permaculture Design Certificate holder.
Sara E. Johnson is a Professor of Anthropology at California State University, Fullerton and the director of the U-ACRE program there. U-ACRE, or the Urban Agriculture Community-based Research Experience (U-ACRE), is a program that seeks to accomplish the following: the development a replicable model of urban agriculture as a tool to increase food security; strengthen community outreach in areas of urban agriculture and food security; provide hands-on community-based research experience for undergraduates; and arm students with knowledge and skill sets for jobs and careers in STEM and NIFA-related fields. The U-ACRE program has been nationally recognized for its community engagement and preparing students to participate in a global society and the workforce.
Dr. Aaron Fox is Assistant Professor of Urban and Community Agriculture at Cal Poly Pomona. Dr. Fox, along with Dr. Eileen Cullen, is creating an Urban and Community Agriculture minor program at Cal Poly Pomona where students will learn the production and business skills as well as the policy and social issues surrounding urban agriculture. Dr. Fox has developed a number of new courses, including a Farmers’ Market class where students meet with market managers, non-profit leaders, farmers and government agencies at 9 different farmers’ markets across Southern California. Dr. Fox has also worked with students on developing indoor growing spaces in shipping containers and creating a kitchen garden for the campus’s fine dining restaurant. Dr. Fox conducts research on what beneficial insects exist on urban farms and has begun looking at sustainable ways of managing pest insects like the Bagrada bug.
Rachel Surls is the Sustainable Food Systems Advisor for University of California Cooperative Extension in Los Angeles County, part of UC’s Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UCANR). 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.”
Early Bird Special Tickets for the Grow Local OC: Future of Urban Food Systems conference are still available, so click on the link below to reserve your spot to hear Rishi Kumar, Sara Johnson and Aaron Fox discuss how you can leverage small plots from your backyard to a vacant parking lot to create thriving urban farms that benefit the city, economy and community.
Register here – http://growlocaloc.eventbrite.com