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Public Policy

Urban Tilth is committed to active participation in the public policy decisions made regarding food justice, nutrition and urban agriculture in West Contra Costa County. To honor that commitment we are working with local businesses and city council to develop an Urban Agriculture Ordinance that reflects intelligent guidelines for raising locally grown food. In addition, our participation in the Foodshed Council brings us together with organizations across West Contra Costa County to develop policy recommendations of local food justice issues.

  • 5% Local Coalition
  • Foodshed Council
  • Soda Fee Initiative
  • Urban Agriculture Ordinance



Below are policies, initiatives, and information to help grow urban foodsheds.

I. Example US City or Municipal Policies related to Urban Agriculture

  1. Community Garden Policy Inventory This 3 page document (from the folks at Planning for Healthy Places division of Public Health Law Policy institute in Oakland, CA) contains a chart of more than a dozen examples of local government policies already in place in North American cities to support community gardens. References Berkeley, Oakland, and San Francisco. Concise, clear, and well-organized.
  2. Community Garden Policies from the Local Government Commission This colorful, 2 page brochure from the Local Government Commission outlines several policies also mentioned in the Community Garden Policy Inventory.  Of interest to Richmond-ites, is that the Chair of the Board of the Local Government Commission is none other than Richmond City Councilmember Tom Butt!
  3. Portland’s Diggable City Reports: This is a must-read for anyone doing urban agriculture policy work. In 2004, the Portland City Council passed a resolution to inventory sites in the Bureaus of Parks, Water, Environmental Services, and Transportion to assess them for their urban agriculture potential. A team of Portland State grad students using GIS technology put together this series of 3 reports.  Start with the third report, put out in July, 2007.
  4. Kansas City’s Climate Protection Plan:This plan developed by the Kansas City Office of Environmental Quality includes policies to promote urban agriculture as a way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  Look for the local food policies on page 14 and 15 of the .pdf.
  5. American Planning Association—Policy Guide on Community and Regional Food Planning General policy #4 relates most closely to growing urban foodsheds including…”4. Provide incentives and special zoning provisions to integrate locally supported agriculture (e.g.,community gardens, urban agriculture, small farms) into existing settlements and new areas of residential development.”
  6. Community Food Security Coalition: Urban Agriculture and Community Food Security in the United States—Farming from the City Center to the Urban Fringe (February, 2002) Clear, interesting policy suggestions.

    II. Studies related to Growing Urban Foodsheds

    1. Farming Inside Cities Report This 100+ page study was completed in 2000 based on interviews with more than 60+ urban agriculture practicioners. It seemed to me to be very comprehensive, documenting entrepreneurial urban agriculture projects in cities throughout the US. It’s interesting to realize that some of the projects around in 2000 have grown and  evolved, while many no longer exist.

    2. Urban Farm Business Incubator This is the 5 page executive summary of the analysis of the Somerton Tank Farms experiment run by the Institute for Agricultural Innovations using the SPIN-Farming model.

    3. Feeding the City in the Back Forty—Commercial Food Production in Toronto This document was created back in 1999 and is filled with specific ways to cultivate commercial food production in an urban area.

    III. Other Documents which Could Be Useful Developing Policy or Making the Case for Growing Urban Foodsheds

    1. LEED Neighborhood Development Local Food This is a very long document outlining the US Green Building Council’s new pilot program for LEED certification—Neighborhood Development. Page 96 contains details about how developers can earn points by installing and providing organizational support for “Neighborhood Farms and Gardens”. They require approximately 5% of total neighborhood development space be reserved for neighborhood farms and gardens. Developers can also satisfy the local food requirement by placing neighborhood developments near farmer’s markets which have a minimum number of local farmers.

    2.  Nutrient Density Report Executive Summary from the Organic Center This document discusses evidence and possible causes of declining nutrient densities in American foods. This can help make the case for growing sustainable, local foodsheds which prioritize soil health.

    3. Organic Diets Significantly Lower Children’s Dietary Exposure to Organophosphorus Pesticides Scary, important study that helps make the case that ALL children should have access to organic produce.

    4.  Financial Impact of Community Gardens You must read this study of the effect of community gardens on neighboring property values in NYC! (Hint: the news is good for us). You’ll be able to surprise and impress your local redevelopment agencies and chamber of commerce folks by thowing out terms like Tax Increment Financing.

    IV. Documents Related to Bringing Production Gardening Back into Schools

    5.  California State Physical Education Standards About half of the curriculum standards for physical education are performance standards. In other words, students are expected to be able to perform various sports and fitness-related skills, not just know about them. We believe we could apply this same approach to developing gardening education standards. By developing gardening performance curriculum standards, students would be satisfying standards as they engaged in the practice of gardening. This would allow teachers to develop gardening programs with more of a production-oriented focus, rather than a content-knowledge focus. Currently, most of the gardening-related standards are knowledge-based standards dealing with plant biology or earth science which leads gardening programs to have more of a didactic focus.

    6. Writing Workshop Curriculum: Writing and Reading Workshop curriculum which is popular in some districts for elementary language arts instruction could also serve as another model for a more production-oriented school gardening curriculum. For example, in Writing Workshop, students “become” a community of writers developing a writing skills in the context of crafting “real” pieces of writing for a real audience. Classroom time is reserved for students to engage in the regular practice of writing. Didactic mini-lessons are given in the context of student working on real writing pieces; students learn discrete writing skills which they can immediately apply to their works-in-progress. This structure could easily be translated into gardening. Students could become real gardeners with their own garden plots which they tend regularly as part of the school day. Didactic mini-lessons would be provided in the context of students managing their own garden plots. The goal of Gardening Workshop students would be to produce healthy, fresh food for their own consumption, just like the goal of Writing Workshop students is to create real pieces of writing for “consumption” by a real audience. Nancie Atwell’s In the Middle is the seminal book on Reading and Writing Workshop instruction.

    V. Example Urban Agriculture Commercial Enterprises

    1. Draper Farms, San Rafael, CA
    2. Happy Quail Farm, East Palo Alto, CA
    3. Somerton Tank Farms, Philadelphia, PA/SPIN-Farming
    4. City Garden Farms, Portland, OR
    5. City Farm Boy, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

    6. Your Backyard Farmer, Portland, OR

    7.  MyFarm, San Francisco, CA

    8. Village Farms, Buffalo, NY and other locations: Urban agribusiness—fascinating!