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Posts Tagged: urban agriculture

UC partners with Gotham Greens to advance indoor agriculture

Gotham Greens is building a state-of-the-art greenhouse near UC Davis and partnering with UC ANR and UC Davis to advance research and innovation in indoor agriculture, greenhouse technology and urban agriculture. Photo courtesy of Gotham Greens

Gotham Greens, a pioneer in indoor agriculture operating high-tech greenhouses across the United States, is placing its latest state-of-the-art greenhouse near UC Davis.

“We are building a Controlled Environment Agriculture Consortium to support and advance the indoor farming industry, grow more fresh produce on less land and create new jobs for Californians,” said Gabriel Youtsey, UC ANR chief innovation officer. “Gotham Greens is an anchoring partner of this research and industry collaboration that we hope will spur innovation, create a new indoor farming workforce and support industry growth.”

University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources and the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences have entered into a partnership with Gotham Greens to advance research and innovation in the areas of indoor agriculture, advanced greenhouse technology and urban agriculture. The new greenhouse facility enables opportunities for Gotham Greens and the University of California system to collaborate on research and innovation focused on advancing the science, workforce, technology and profitability of indoor agriculture globally.

“We are proud to bring Gotham Greens to the West Coast and partner with one of the highest ranked agricultural research centers in the world to advance the entire agriculture system,” said Viraj Puri, Gotham Greens co-founder and CEO. “California is responsible for growing one-third of the country's vegetables and two-thirds of the nation's fruits, yet in recent years, issues surrounding drought, food safety and worker welfare have demonstrated the need for continued innovation. Gotham Greens offers consumers clean, safe and sustainably grown leafy greens, herbs and versatile, time-saving plant-based dressings, dips and cooking sauces.”

Located in Solano County, the first phase of Gotham Greens' 10-acre greenhouse facility is expected to open in 2021 and will enable the company to deliver fresh, greenhouse-grown leafy greens to more retailers, foodservice operators and consumers on the West Coast. The company operates one of the largest and most advanced networks of hydroponic greenhouses in North America, where the demand for indoor-grown produce continues to surge. Nearly a decade after launching the nation's first commercial-scale rooftop greenhouse, Gotham Greens continues to reimagine how and where fresh produce is grown across America. 

“We're excited about collaborating with Gotham Greens, which is a coveted employer for tomorrow's leaders in agriculture and engineering,” said Helene Dillard, UCD CAES dean. “This partnership will offer our students the chance to learn best practices from leading experts in indoor farming.”

The greenhouse will generate 60 full-time jobs and provide students in the University of California system with an opportunity to learn firsthand from the industry leader. Gotham Greens recently raised $87 million in new equity and debt capital, bringing the fast-growing company's total financing to $130 million and fueling its next phase of growth.

"We are delighted for Gotham Greens to join Solano County's thriving agricultural economy and help to usher in a new era in farming innovation, job creation and economic growth for the region,” said Solano County Supervisor John Vasquez.

Gotham Greens owns and operates greenhouses in New York, Illinois, Rhode Island, Maryland and Colorado. Its products are currently available in more than 40 U.S. states and 2,000 retail stores. 

Posted on Tuesday, March 2, 2021 at 10:39 AM
Focus Area Tags: Innovation

New food-safety guide outlines laws and best practices for urban farmers

The Produce Safety Rule regulates the growing, harvesting and packing of produce. Photo by Evett Kilmartin

Californians growing food in cities now have help understanding the food safety laws that apply to them. A free publication containing California-specific information on rules and regulations for urban farmers was recently published by the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Growing fresh fruits and vegetables in community gardens, backyards and rooftops helps provide more food for urban communities, creates jobs and teaches people about the value of healthy foods, according to Jennifer Sowerwine, lead author and UC Cooperative Extension specialist at UC Berkeley.

"There are a growing number of backyard and community producers who are scaling up to sell some of what they grow,” said Rachel Surls, UC Cooperative Extension sustainable food systems advisor based in Los Angeles County and co-author. “We hope this guide will help them navigate the regulations and learn best practices for keeping food safe for consumers."  

“California Urban Agriculture Food Safety Guide” provides urban food producers with an overview of food safety laws and regulations that may impact their operations. To help minimize the risk of contamination of foods during their production and exchange, it also provides best practices, or Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs).

"People donating produce grown or gleaned from urban environments will learn what laws may apply to them, and practical steps they can follow to minimize the risk of foodborne illness from urban-produced foods,” Sowerwine said.

Fresh radishes for sale at an urban farm in Ontario. Urban farmers, community gardens and backyard gardeners should read California regulations before selling or donating food for public consumption. Photo by Rachel Surls

The 72-page guide covers fresh produce safety, urban soils safety, as well as food safety considerations for eggs, poultry and small livestock in the urban environment. The authors also point out which aspects of the Food Safety Modernization Act apply to urban farms, California laws that apply, record keeping requirements,  information on working with gleaners, how to register as a community supported agriculture (CSA) organization, permitting requirements, and how to develop a food safety plan.

Urban farmers can do a food safety assessment of their own farms using a check list included in the publication.

The guide was produced by Sowerwine; Christina Oatfield, Sustainable Economies Law Center policy director; Rob Bennaton, UC Cooperative Extension urban agriculture advisor; Alda Pires, UC Cooperative Extension in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine; Surls; Valerie Borel, UC Cooperative Extension program representative; and Andre Biscaro, UC Cooperative Extension agriculture and environmental issues advisor.

The publication “California Urban Agriculture Food Safety Guide: Laws and Standard Operating Procedures for Farming Safely in the City” is available for free download at https://anrcatalog.ucanr.edu/pdf/8660.pdf

The Cottage Food Law allows small-scale commercial food processing in a home kitchen. Photo by Pam Kan-Rice

 

Posted on Tuesday, February 16, 2021 at 9:53 AM
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture

Urban ag supplies fresh fruits and vegetables, part of a healthy diet

Farm stands, like this strawberry stand in Sacramento County, must now practice social distancing and heightened disinfecting procedures.

Even as Californians shelter in place to contain the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, nutritious food remains vital to the health and well-being of our communities.

“Eating fruits and vegetables is known to benefit our overall health and help our immune system,” said Lorrene Ritchie, director of the UC Nutrition Policy Institute. “At a time when we need to be especially vigilant about staying healthy, eating healthy is essential.”

Farms, farm stands and farmers markets are listed as “essential businesses” in the state shelter-in-place order because they are important parts of the food supply. Urban farms are included in this category. As large produce distributors struggle to switch from selling large quantities to restaurants, schools and institutions to supplying supermarkets, these small businesses may offer a better selection of fresh foods, and may be closer to homes and less crowded.

To help minimize exposure and risk of spreading of the virus, urban farms need to follow some key guidelines from the CDC , said Jennifer Sowerwine, UC Cooperative Extension metropolitan agriculture and food systems specialist in the Department of Environment, Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley.

UC Cooperative Extension has compiled a list of resources for farmers, community gardeners and other people working in the food system to ensure that they can continue supplying fresh, healthy and affordable food to Californians. 

“Social distancing, heightened health and hygiene practices and cleaning and disinfecting reduce the risk,” said Sowerwine. 

Farmstands provide a local source of fresh fruits and vegetables, typically without the crowds seen at supermarkets.

Although eating a nutritious diet can boost our immunity, the Los Angeles Times reported produce sales plummeted by 90% or more at Southern California produce markets after the statewide shelter-in-place rules went into effect.

“It's worrisome to see that sales of fruits and vegetables are dropping so sharply, but not surprising,” said Rachel Surls, UC Cooperative Extension sustainable food systems advisor for Los Angeles County. “As people shop during the crisis, they may be prioritizing groceries that can be stored for a longer time in the fridge or pantry. And they may be on a very limited food budget, even more so than usual, so they are likely prioritizing essentials like bread and rice and baby formula.”

To support farmers in California, the UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program created a directory at http://www.calagtour.org for consumers to find local farms to purchase produce directly.

For families who have lost jobs and income, the risk of food insecurity increases. Some families could supplement their food from gardens and urban agriculture during this crisis.

Consumers must practice safety, too, when visiting farmers markets and farm stands. UC Cooperative Extension small farm advisor Ruth Dahlquist-Willard explained, "Things like keeping the minimum six-foot distance from customers, not touching any produce that you're not planning to buy, leaving as soon as you've made a purchase and washing the produce when you get home would be some good guidelines."

City Slickers Farms in Oakland is an example of urban agriculture, which can supplement the supply of fresh produce.

The virus is thought to be spread mainly from person to person, however there is evidence that COVID-19 can last for days on hard surfaces, thus the need to ramp up good health and hygiene practices, social distancing and cleaning and sanitizing of surfaces.

University of California research and extension faculty have compiled a list of helpful fact sheets and resources for farmers, community gardeners and other food system workers to ensure fresh, healthy and affordable food for communities across the state:

All of these resources are posted on the UC Urban Agriculture website at https://ucanr.edu/sites/UrbanAg.

“During this challenging time, I am heartened by the quick and thoughtful responses by many extension, grassroots and institutional efforts, including Community Alliance with Family Farm's COVID-19 Responses and Resources for California Family FarmsMutual Aid organizations where groups of young, healthy and lower-risk people are bringing food and services to vulnerable people who shouldn't be in public at all, and Bayareafood.info that seeks to support local restaurants, farmers, and food systems workers as they weather this latest storm,” said Sowerwine. “Crisis can spawn innovation, and I am hopeful that through this, we will come out the other end with a more compassionate and resilient food system.”

Farm stand signs and safety guidelines are at http://smallfarmsfresno.ucanr.edu/Crops/Strawberries/COVID-19.

 

 

Posted on Thursday, April 16, 2020 at 9:22 AM
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture, Food

Urban farming workshops start soon in Sacramento and San Diego

Are you an urban farmer in the Sacramento or San Diego region? Are you a gardener thinking of selling some of your produce to neighbors, restaurants or at a farmers' market? Are you part of a non-profit organization growing and distributing food in your community? If so, you are invited to join other urban farmers at one or more of four low-cost full-day workshops starting soon in both the Sacramento and San Diego regions, offered by UC Cooperative Extension and local partners.

Learn more about the workshops, as well as the 2017 workshop series' held in the Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay Area regions, at ucanr.edu/sites/UrbanAg/Urban_Ag_Workshops.

If you're growing more food, herbs, flowers or fiber than your family or organization consumes, and if you are selling or otherwise distributing the excess, and if you are growing in or at the edge of a city or town, then you are one of an increasing number of urban farmers. Urban farms are often very small scale, commercially marginal and operated by beginning farmers. They can be operated by individuals, families, non-profit organizations, schools or colleges, or by other groups. Research shows that successful urban farms can bring social, health, environmental and economic benefits to local communities, including improved access to healthful food.

A UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) team recently assessed the needs of urban farmers around the state, and found that they struggle with production, business, and marketing challenges, many of which are specific to the urban context of their farms. Additionally, many urban farmers are unaware of agricultural regulations, city zoning and permitting rules, food safety, soil quality issues and pest quarantines.

To help new urban farmers get started effectively, and to help more experienced urban farmers improve their skills and profitability, the UCCE team is offering a series of four urban agriculture workshops in each of the Sacramento and San Diego regions. These communities have recently put policies in place to encourage urban farming, and many residents are getting involved. The workshops will be held at urban farm sites and will include farm tours and discussions with local urban farmers sharing challenges and success stories.

The 2018 workshop series starts March 16 in the Sacramento area and March 23 in the San Diego area.

Workshop #1 will cover urban farming legal basics, including types of urban farm enterprises, zoning issues, soil testing, required permits and licenses, and an introduction to key local resources such as the Agricultural Commissioner and UCCE staff.

Workshop #2 will cover marketing and business management for urban farms, including business planning, record keeping, market channel options, and an introduction to labor laws and risk management.

Workshop #3 will be about production considerations for urban farmers, focusing on water management, integrated pest management (IPM), and soil contamination/soil improvement.

Workshop #4 will cover pre- and post-harvest food safety practices, using CDFA's Small Farm Food Safety Guidelines.

Cost: Each workshop is $20 for a full day of expert speakers, participatory exercises, lunch and refreshments. Each workshop will be a one-day event. Urban farmers and future farmers, and others who are interested can take one, several, or all four of these workshops. 

Registration is open. Space is limited, so please sign up early.

San Diego registration: http://ucanr.edu/sdurbanag2018

Sacramento registration: http://ucanr.edu/sacurbanag2018

More UC ANR urban farming resources: ucanr.edu/sites/UrbanAg/

For more information:

San Diego Series: Mary Redlin, Southern California Coordinator, mvredlin@ucanr.edu, (562) 900-3041

Sacramento Series: Penny Leff, Northern California Coordinator, paleff@ucanr.edu, (530) 752-5208

 

Posted on Monday, March 5, 2018 at 2:47 PM
  • Author: Penny Leff
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture

UC ANR hosts workshops for California's urban farmers

A UC Cooperative Extension workshop series in Los Angeles will help city growers build their knowledge on legal, production, marketing and food safety issues.
In communities around California, urban farms provide fresh produce, community green space, and even job training. However, a 2014 UC ANR needs assessment indicated that urban farmers face challenges, as well as opportunities. They are often beginning farmers, and encounter barriers related to growing in the city, such as zoning restrictions. 

Building on the needs assessment, a team of UC ANR researchers created a resource website for California urban farmers. This year, team members and local partners are conducting a series of trainings for urban farmers around the state, designed to help city growers build their knowledge in key areas. The series just wrapped up in the Bay Area, and will roll out in Los Angeles starting on July 21. The Los Angeles series dates and topics are:

  1.  July 21. Legal Basics of Urban Farming.  Are you an urban farmer navigating the rules and regulations related to growing and selling food? A school or non-profit organization involved in farming? This workshop will help position you for success.
  2. July 28. Production Issues and Urban Farms.  Are you an urban farmer learning the ins and outs of growing and harvesting crops? This workshop is designed to guide urban farmers through common production challenges related to soil, water use, and pest management. 
  3. August 4. Marketing and Business Management for Urban Farmers. From business planning to labor laws, learn the basics to help you succeed.
  4. August 11. Food Safety Basics for Urban Farmers. Learn how to ensure a safe harvest, from the field to the fork. 

Local partners are key to planning and hosting these events, including the Los Angeles Food Policy Council, the Collaborative for Urban Agroecology Los Angeles, Cal Poly Pomona College of Agriculture, Community Services Unlimited, GrowGood, the Growing Experience, and others.

The series will also be held in Sacramento and San Diego in early 2018. For updates and announcements, follow UC ANR's Urban Agriculture blog, Facebook, and Twitter.  And be sure to bookmark our UC Urban Agriculture website which offers resources on production, policies, and more.

Urban Ag Workshop Series-SoCal 5-23-17A (3)
Urban Ag Workshop Series-SoCal 5-23-17A (3)

Posted on Wednesday, July 12, 2017 at 8:56 AM

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