The Power and Promise of Growing Local
The urban agriculture movement is growing like wildfire. More and more urban farmers, grassroots groups, public health advocates, and community allies are coming to together to build a locally resilient, vibrant food economy. As our oil-based, corporate food system continues to falter, more of us are realizing that growing local is an economical and ecological solution for our communities.
Here in Oakland, a broad, diverse coalition is working to update the city’s outdated zoning codes in ways that will create a vibrant, humane, and neighbor-friendly local food system. Obsolete laws currently place undue barriers on residents and community groups who wish to grow and sell their own produce, and conflicting or unclear language has left a murky legal environment for urban gardeners and farmers.
By breaking down these barriers, we can create more community gardens, more local food enterprises, and more affordable, healthy food options for our low-income residents. We can also open up more safe and welcoming spaces where the community can come together, learn hands-on gardening skills and nutrition, and reconnect with the land. Expanding urban agriculture can also help Oakland reduce the impact of carbon emissions by cutting the need to transport food, and boost the local economy by encouraging food dollars to stay within the community.
Bay Localize, the Oakland Food Policy Council, the East Bay Urban Agriculture Alliance and other allies are working to secure policy changes in Oakland to increase the amount of land available for food production, ensure community access to fresh food, and grow the local green economy. We are forwarding policy recommendations that would streamline the process for residents, community groups, and micro-enterprises to grow and sell produce and value-added goods, while upholding the highest standards for ecological, neighbor-friendly best practices and the humane treatment of animals.
Some have expressed a heartfelt belief that animals have no place in our urban food system. They worry that by affirming their place in our community, animal abuse will rise. We share their goal of ensuring humane, safe treatment of animals. Most people in Oakland who already raise animals for meat, eggs or milk do not wish to participate in the brutal and unsustainable factory farming system.
The choice of whether or not to consume meat, eggs, or milk is a personal one, often deeply connected to cultural heritage. That's not up to the city or any government to decide. Rather, government's role is to make sure that food growing — plant or animal-based — conforms to safe and humane standards. Through the zoning update process, we can place limits on the number and types of animals that can be raised on a plot of land, setting clear expectations of local residents. By clarifying these policies, we can begin regulating a largely unregulated practice, creating a more efficient system for local law enforcement.
This Thursday, July 21st, the City of Oakland will host an urban agriculture community workshop from 6:30-8:30 pm at the North Oakland Senior Center, 5714 Martin Luther King Jr. Way.
Let’s take a stand together for a strong, integrated, and locally resilient food economy where everyone can take part in growing their future. In the process, we can make Oakland a national model for urban sustainability and local self-reliance. Join your fellow Oaklanders in seizing the power and promise of growing local!
Kay Cuajunco is the Multimedia and Communications intern, and Aaron Lehmer is the Campaigns Director at Bay Localize, an Oakland-based environmental nonprofit. Lehmer also serves on the Oakland Food Policy Council. For more information, please visit www.baylocalize.org or www.oaklandfood.org.
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