No Need to Re-Invent the Wheel — Collaborate! | Civil Eats

No Need to Re-Invent the Wheel — Collaborate!

San Francisco is a-buzz with support for growing food within city limits: from the Mayor’s Executive Directive, “Healthy and Sustainable Food for San Francisco” [PDF] to the large groups of volunteers showing up weekly to sheet mulch underutilized lots. But who makes up this urban agriculture movement? How do they work together and what can help San Francisco become a role-model city for a sustainable food system?

On Tuesday, March 9th approximately fifty of the city’s gardeners, urban farmers, beekeepers, and strong allies met to pose and answer questions like these in hopes to develop cooperation between the different groups that make up San Francisco’s urban agriculture movement.

Similar meetings are happening in other cities. In Los Angeles, the Urban Farming Advocates recently formed to “legalize urban farming in the City of L.A.” and gardens in NY have worked cooperatively to save gardens, extend garden hours, and secure resources. The urban farming community in San Francisco is proactively coming together to create and steer a change that is growing in popularity, rather than to react to a threat or restriction.

In doing so, San Franciscans passionate about growing food and community have a rich documented history to learn from, starting with the 1975 San Francisco Community Congress, a two day conference of 1,000 representatives of “ virtually every San Francisco community.” The resulting document touches on school and community garden policy, issues discussed in more detail in the 1996 five-year Sustainability Plan for the City of San Francisco [PDF] which also considers city food procurement, fruit tree plantings in backyards, interim use agreements for urban farms, and access to healthy food.

As such, the discussions that happened on March 9th about policy, movement coordination, and food justice are not the first and are planned to continue. Discussions that included deciding how to manage the recent increase in volunteers ready to pick up a shovel and help out, identifying local, regional, and national political partners, the importance of defining an overall vision, and planning how to ensure that all San Franciscans interested in having a backyard kitchen garden can get one installed and learn the maintenance skills required.

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It’s important as excitement over urban food production grows to listen to people who have built a wealth of experience in urban agriculture. Most San Franciscans want their city to be more green, both in color and in concept, and the clearest way to do this is to encourage and support the projects that are working and the people who have dedicated a lot of passion and thought as to how this city can be more self-sufficient. As Kevin Bayuk, a member of the San Francisco Permaculture Guild, noted in the Urban Permaculture Institute blog, “It may be that what is needed…is not only passionate individuals, acting with urgency, implementing diverse strategies…but also a wholistic strategy that connects and relates these projects and actions, helps prioritize and leverage energy, helps prevent burnout and expose opportunities to share resources and be more effective.” The resources are present, the people are present, the land is in greater abundance than many realize, know we just have to link up all three and let the collards, tomatoes, and friendships grow.

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The calluses and knife cuts on her hands point toward Ellen Roggemann's two greatest passions: gardening and cooking in community with others. She is an active volunteer at Alemany Farm, a 4.5 acre volunteer-run farm in San Francisco, organizes and cooks for local food gatherings under the name Radical Radish, works on issues of international trade and agricultural livelihoods with the Educational Network for Global and Grassroots Exchange (ENGAGE), and is an assistant gardener at McEvoy Ranch in Petaluma, CA. She graduated Suma Cum Laude from Occidental College with a B.A. in Urban Environmental Policy, received a Ford Foundation fellowship to study Fair Trade initiatives in Europe, completed the Garden for the Environment Gardening and Composting Educator Training Program, and recently received her Permaculture Design Certificate. Read more >

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