June 04 2013

Does Urban Agriculture Have a Real Future in San Francisco, California?

After reading articles about residents growing vegetables in their backyards and seeing community gardens sprouting (pun intended) up in dense cities, I have become intrigued by this idea of growing your own produce instead of purchasing it at your local market. Is there a real future for this contemporary practice or will it continue to be limited to a small demographic?

The movement has evolved recently for several reasons:

  • It saved money during the recession;
  • It is seen as an effective way of promoting a healthier lifestyle;
  • It creates food security.

Victory Garden

Victory Garden during WWII

In San Francisco, there is a reputation for the city to uphold. [San Franciscans] are seen as foodies, and environmentalists,” says Laura Tam, the Sustainable Development Policy Director at SPUR. This is reflected in the city’s decision to establish an Urban Agriculture Ordinance, which calls for an Urban Agriculture Program for the City and County of San Francisco.

There is still great uncertainty as to what kind of impact the Ordinance will have in the City. Land is rather scarce in San Francisco and how it is used will always create conflict, especially during the current construction boom.

Modern Garden

Even if more community gardens start popping up, it does not mean everyone will embrace the concept. For someone to actually start growing his or her own produce requires a lifestyle change. It would reflect a cultural shift, which is rare on a large scale, even if we are talking about a city with only 800,000 residents.

The benefits of urban agriculture are clear. It encourages a healthier lifestyle and a more educated public; it is more sustainable and in the case of shared gardens, a growing sense of community.

Fortunately, there seems to be a strong level of support from the City. But the level of effectiveness is in large part dependent on how receptive the residents will be towards the change.

Does your neighborhood have any community gardens? If so, have they had a positive impact on the community?

Credits: Photos by US Green Building Society and Found SF. Data linked to sources.

Robert Poole

Robert Poole recently graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Anthropology and a minor in City and Regional Planning. He grew up in San Diego but now resides in San Francisco. He is intrigued by, yet concerned with the large discrepancies in socio-economic development within the Bay Area. He currently works at a non-profit organization in San Francisco that advocates for new housing development in the City through policy and legislation. As he continues his work, he hopes to gain a more in-depth understanding of the city’s public process in order to develop solutions that create more affordable housing options for the City's low to middle-income residents.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 4th, 2013 at 9:37 am and is filed under Community/Economic Development, Environment, Infrastructure, Land Use, Robert Poole, Social/Demographics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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4 Responses to “Does Urban Agriculture Have a Real Future in San Francisco, California?”

  1. Nick Says:

    Have you heard of the Alemany Farm in SF? It’s right next to the 280 near College Hill. They have not only been championed by the city, but have also recruited a lot of Mission hipsters in addition to low-income residents around the neighborhood. An article I read about Alemany talked about how hipsters want to leave their digital life for a few hours a day and experience what it’s like to grow something and own their work. Anyway, I think Alemany and your article show how urban ag is becoming more common in the Bay Area. Thanks for this!

  2. Robert Poole Says:

    Hey Nick thanks for the comment. I just looked up Alemany Farm and they actually performed for SPUR, the non-profit I intern at, two Fridays ago. Unfortunately I missed the event. I’ll have to follow their work more. Great blog by the way!!

  3. Nick Danty Says:

    SPUR is a great organization. I keep meaning to go down to the Bay for their seminars/tours, but they’re normally during the week when I work. I’ll be writing for GSP soon about planning/design in Sonoma County, so I look forward to reading more of your posts and piggy-backing on some of your topics seeing as we’re so close geographically.

  4. Robert Poole Says:

    That sounds great Nick. You should come to a SPUR forum. I’m still the Volunteer Coordinator there for another week or two. Let me know if you can come down.

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