“Cities Cultivate New Approaches to Urban Agriculture”
“By Kate Wolf on 17 August 2012
When the upscale cafeteria-style restaurant Forage opened in Los Angeles’s Silver Lake neighborhood in early 2010, it did so with a new take on the “farm to table’” movement that’s slowly been gaining ground in California, as well as the rest of the country in recent years.
Forage features produce grown not only by local famers, but, most unprecedentedly, by urban farmers, inviting the latter to bring their backyard harvest to the restaurant for use in its kitchen (in exchange, growers receive market price or store credit). With a stack of positive reviews and a feature article in the Atlantic Monthly, Forage’s chef Jason Kim has gained national recognition for this concept. Despite its popularity, Forage’s “foraging program” was shut down by the Los Angeles County Health Department soon after its inception but has now been reinstated, as long as all participants get grower certified by the county at a fee of $63 dollars annually. And the restaurant is thriving.
That Kim’s fairly simple idea should have drawn so much attention and in many ways come off as radical, hints at an assumed division between the food found in cities and where that food comes from. California has been the most productive agricultural state in the country for over 50 years, but most of the production takes place in decidedly agricultural areas—in the Central Valley or Imperial County—not within a city’s limits.
Even with a grow-local movement that ultimately dates back to the environmentalism of the 1960s, big-city zoning codes have reinforced this rift.
According to Daniela Aceves of the food sustainability advocacy group Roots of Change, in San Francisco: “Zoning policies exist in the first place because of the belief in incompatible land uses.” Activists like Aceves contend that, in cities throughout California, these codes are now proving outdated, keeping out desirable uses, as more and more people turn to agriculture in urban areas for both personal and financial sustenance, to reduce carbon footprint or simply for lack of better options for access to fresh produce and animal products. Many proponents also contend that city-grown foods can help cut down on traffic and greenhouse gas emissions, because of reduced distances from field to table.
A spate of legislation throughout the state in the last two years reflects this trend.
In June of 2010, the Los Angeles city council passed an amendment to its 1946 general plan, which indirectly outlawed the cultivation of anything other than vegetables for sale off-site. Written at the behest of an embattled flower farmer in Silver Lake and informally dubbed the “Fruit and Flowers Freedom Act,” the bill, introduced by Council President Eric Garcetti in 2009, sought to define truck gardening to include berries, flowers, fruits, herbs, mushrooms, ornamental plants, nuts and seedlings, essentially ensuring the legality of small-scale agriculture throughout the city by clearly addressing the previously murky term.
“In Los Angeles, there’s definitely been a growth of interest in locally-grown food, and I was proud to author an ordinance that clarified city policy on urban farming. L.A. has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to sustainable living,” said Garcetti, himself an avowed gardener.
Other recent changes throughout California, include a 2011 ordinance passed by the City of Santa Monica that allows backyard beekeeping on single-family residential properties, allotting a maximum of two hives per residence to be registered with Santa Monica’s Animal Control Office.”
Via: California Redevelopment and Planning Report