Oakland Pushes for Urban Farming Policy

Oakland food activists are petitioning the city to create new municipal policy regarding urban farming and local production.

Urban farming is one of the fastest growing agricultural fads sweeping the country. By transforming unused, abandoned, and dilapidated urban buildings and properties, the urban farming movement seeks to rejuvenate economically depressed urban centers, create jobs and boost city revenue, and expand access to nutritious food to lower-income residents.

This last goal is particularly important in Oakland, which some experts have qualified as a food desert. Food deserts are urban centers that lack easy access to nutritious and affordable food. As a result, many low-income Oakland residents rely on convenience stores and corner stores. Other residents often travel to neighboring cities, citing a lack of access to fresh produce.

Local food activists argue that this situation is bad for residents and bad for the city. By expanding local production and consumption, they argue, the city could generate significant amounts of revenue. An Iowa State University report suggested, for example, that Iowa residents could generate $6 million and nearly 500 local jobs just by eating locally grown fruits and vegetables. Oakland activist hope the same logic will apply in California.

The city has the capacity to greatly expand local production. Currently, only 5 percent of the city’s fruits and vegetables are grown locally. If abandoned buildings and properties were repurposed, this figure could increase to 30 percent. Several activist groups, including the Oakland Food Policy Council, are recommending that the city change zoning laws to allow for residential production and sales, and to use its purchasing power to encourage local production.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer