Urban agriculture is more than just a movement these days, its a way of life. You can find community gardens, rooftop farms, and even entire greenhouses adorning city blocks from Baltimore to Portland, with more popping up every year. These little oases of urban green are more than just passion projects. They are a vital source of fresh produce in areas with few healthy alternatives, and are remarkably better for the environment than the conventional food distribution system we all use today. According to one study by Iowa State University, urban farming projects produce 5-17 times less carbon dioxide than the traditional farm-distributor-retailer route. What’s more, the produce from local gardens is often more nutritious as it spends less time on a truck and more time on your plate.
These benefits aren’t lost on the citizens of San Diego, a city that has been tilling its soil for years. Here are just a few of the organizations that are turning San Diego into a farmers’ paradise.
The San Diego Roots Sustainable Food Project was born out of a desire for local, healthy food that took hold in the community 15 years ago. The project has since grown into one of the largest advocates of the local food movement in San Diego County. For the past five years the group has cultivated its own community farm called the Wild Willow Farm & Education Center, a six-acre plot that serves as both a place of learning and a place for the community to gather and share the local harvest. Those with a green thumb and an earnest interest in local farming can take courses that teach students how to farm in small spaces and provide more food for themselves.
The San Diego Sustainable Living Institute is both an advocate and practitioner of sustainable living, offering courses and workshops that teach individuals how to introduce green living into their daily lives. One of their workshops teaches students how to construct their own recycled grey-water system that can reuse water from the laundry to provide irrigation for a backyard garden. Those with even more ambitious sustainability goals can become certified beekeepers and learn how to grow and manage their own backyard bee colonies!
The City Farms Nursery has been providing San Diegans with organic plants & supplies since 1972. But they offer much more to their community than just plants. City Farmers is a virtuoso of knowledge on all things organic, from starting a vegetable garden to building your own bee colony. Any city dweller with farmer aspirations would do well to stop by their nursery to check out their working farm, grab some new plants, and chat up the Nursery staff to learn how to keep your budding vegetable garden thriving!
The UrbanLife Farms are an initiative of the UrbanLife Ministries of San Diego that employs local youth to plant and sell locally grown produce. Every farm in the UrbanLife program is developed on vacant lots that would otherwise remain unused, creating value from property that would otherwise lower property values. Every parcel of veggies and fruit produced by UrbanLife Farms goes towards the program, providing stipends for the youth who work the land and expanding their farms into new lots throughout San Diego.
There are farms literally everywhere in San Diego, including downtown! Part of the Sustainable Urban Agriculture program at San Diego City College, the Seeds@City Urban Farm is one whole acre dedicated to teaching students the finer skills of urban farming. All of the food produced by their farm is sold to local communities and helps maintain the farms presence on campus. Participants can earn an Associate’s Degree in Sustainable Urban Agriculture or use the farm to develop skills that they can apply to their own urban gardens.
While Urban Plantations may not be a nursery or a farm unto itself, they do devote themselves to helping others cultivate their own urban oases. Their company consults with homeowners, assisted living facilities, restaurants, and corporations to install and maintain gardens packed with fruits and veggies. And once the gardens are up and running, they can provide composting systems and food distribution to local nonprofits. A win-win-win for all involved!
The next time you’re cruising around America’s Finest City, take a moment to stop at a local farm or nursery and pickup some of the fruits of their labors!
Main Image Credit: Zoey Kroll CC 3.0