Category Archives: Farms

Designing for Food Security: Leveraging Design to Grow Communities and Feed Cities

By Jessica Karr and Tiffani Patton

 

What does it mean to design for food security?

We found out a few weeks ago at San Francisco Design Week.

On a sunny, but windy, Thursday evening, a mix of Slow Foodies, designers, and social justice advocates gathered in the Parklab Community Garden to discuss how communities can design for food security through urban farming. The rockstar panel included perspectives from leading Bay Area nonprofits, educators, and vertical farming pioneers.

Urban farms can be sites of abundance and foster deeper connection to land, food, and community. Urban gardening, or farming, has been gaining increasing popularity over the past 10 years as community advocates push for urban gardens and farms as a way to combat food insecurity and foster connection. Urban farms can also be signifiers of displacement through gentrification, when they don’t center inclusivity. Because design plays such a huge role in food insecurity — through practices such as redlining which created areas of food apartheid (see Karen Washington’s article). Slow Food wanted to explore how we can instead design for security.   

The panel was moderated by Wendy Leicht, the creator of farmvertically.com. We’re grateful to Wendy, our five panelists, and to our wonderful guests who withstood the cold wind to hear the great discussion!

Logan Ashcraft, our private sector panelist, currently leads the energy team at Plenty, an indoor farming company. Plenty aims to build an indoor farm outside every metropolitan area on Earth, increasing access to healthy food, slashing greenhouse gas emissions from the conventional agricultural monoculture model, and decreasing emissions by reducing the distance from farm to fork.

Anesti Vega, the executive board member for Acta Non Verba, strives especially to improve food security by enabling the youth to become future leaders. Acta Non Verba, a nonprofit organization based in East Oakland, elevates life in the inner-city by challenging oppressive dynamics and environments through urban farming. Anesti emphasized the need to understand a situation before intervening to help. He shared a story of Detroit, where a man decided to give free food away because he saw the number of hungry people; what the man didn’t realize was that some African-American farmers had been selling food at very low prices, and his free food was actually undercutting them, thereby worsening the economic condition. It is easy to jump into “Savior” mode and throw a half-baked solution at a problem, but that approach often exacerbates matters.  It is important to take a step back, talk with those who are impacted, and get direction from impacted folks who are likely already doing the work. Anesti recommends only working to intervene once you’ve been immersed in an environment and spoken with the others who are working to solve the problems.

Haleh Zandi, fearless co-founder of Planting Justice, is dedicated to building alliances with diverse communities and practicing strategies that resist the environmental and social violence of the industrial food system. Planting Justice, also based in East Oakland, hires teams of formerly incarcerated landscapers and pays them a living wage while they build edible gardens throughout the East Bay and cultivate urban farms and training centers. Both Haleh and Anesti grounded the panel in historical knowledge U.S. land acquisition and use, with thoughtful reminders that this San Francisco Bay Area was originally Ohlone land that was stolen from them,  and that it is important for us to acknowledge that and speak truth, because forgetting is another form of violence.

Natasha Margot Blum told the story of Hayes Valley Farm, where she co-taught the Permaculture Design Course. Permaculture applies a set of design principles to care for the earth and care for the people. The Hayes Valley Farm was a 2.2-acre interim-use urban farm project collaboration between a core group of designers, farmers and educators, the city of San Francisco, and the community of Hayes Valley. The site, a former urban wasteland, was transformed into a volunteer-ran urban farm that gave away its products. After three years, the farm was cleared for development, but the lesson remains that permaculture and a team of passionate people can turn a small and oft-overlooked plot of land and rubble into a beautiful and productive urban farm that feeds and inspires. Natasha’s path as a design researcher and consultant has been heavily influenced by Permaculture Design as she brings the principles into her everyday work.

Maggie Marks, the executive director of Garden for the Environment (GFE) and a proud new mother, discussed how GFE aims to educate any and all San Franciscans on how to garden. Their beautiful teaching garden is located in the Sunset, and they are actively teaching workshops as well as a full gardening course every summer.

A special thanks to Phat Beets Produce, who brought us jackfruit sliders and jalapeno cornbread, an organization that centers justice in all of its work. They work to create a healthier, more equitable food system in Oakland and beyond through providing affordable access to fresh produce, facilitating youth leadership in health and nutrition education, and connecting small farmers to urban communities via the creation a CSA, community farm stands, markets, and youth entrepreneurship.

We hope that our guests who attended, or just read the blog, were inspired to collaborate and build an inclusive, supportive community that improves food sovereignty, especially in marginalized communities. Please check out Planting Justice, Acta Non Verba, and GFE and join for a volunteer day or a class. Slow Food invites you to check our website for upcoming events.

If you enjoyed the plots at the Parklab Community Garden, please contact Sally Rogers – sally@slowfoodsanfrancisco – we’d love to build our team of gardeners at Slow Food!

Pictured from left to right: Maggie Marks (Garden for the Environment), Natasha Margot Blum (design consultant), Haleh Zandi (Planting Justice), Anesti Vega (Acta Non Verba), Logan Ashcraft (Plenty), and Wendy Leicht (farmvertically.com).

Introducing the 2017 Slow Food Summer Lecture Series

 

Slow Food San Francisco introduces its first-ever Summer Lecture Series, to promote and highlight the keystone issues that create a society that produces food that is good, clean and fair for all.

This year’s series will focus on fish, farms, and wine, and we will offer a varied program for our community!

The efforts of this year’s event go to promote the Winemmem Wintu Tribe’s Salmon Restoration Project, and their honorable mission to bring native California Salmon back to the Bay Area.

July edition here.

Farm Day – No Food Waste at Front Porch Farm

Our Farm Day at Front Porch Farm was Fantastic! Great wines, food, and a community that we love! Chef Pesha Perlsweig (The Kitchen Underground and Salvage Supper Club) lead a discussion about reducing our food waste. For more information connect with her on FB.

Slow Food SF teamed up with Slow Food Sonoma County North and Slow Food Russian River.

Thank you to all who teamed up with us for our farm day at Front Porch FarmSpecial thanks to Front Porch Farm, Oliver’s Market, Encore Events, and All the Bay Area SlowFood Chapters for getting the word out!

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Meet Slow Food San Francisco’s 2016 Terra Madre Delegate

Sandi McGinnis of McGinnes Ranch in Royal Oaks California represented San Francisco at 2016’s Terra Madre Salone del Gusto in Turin, Italy Sept, 22-26, 2016. As delegate, Sandi brought back stories from the event to share at our Jan, 23rd Member Meeting, and produced a documentary. Check it out!
Hear about the experience of attending Terra Madre from Sandi, in her own words:
Growing up on the farm prepared me to have a strong work ethic and gave me a “can do” attitude, which served has me well in life.  I have come back to the farm in the hopes of keeping it running for future generations, and to transition to organic practices.  We are in our second year of farming organically, with positive outcomes indicating it is possible to return to organic farming.  In working toward this goal we have also experienced our share of setbacks and some crop failures, but I look at them as learning experiences.  I was given a major learning experience by Slow Food SF to attend Terra Madre as a delegate in 2016!
It was an unforgettable experience and it gives me hope and satisfaction to continue the farm, and keep the biodiversity of our crops going.  Without family farms we would be left with corporations growing our food, and harming our environment.  I feel a responsibility to steward the land and leave a positive impact on the ecosystems around me.  Slow Food brings awareness to the importance of biodiversity, which we need now more than ever.  I have put together a video to give a glimpse of my Terra Madre experience.
You can visit us at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market out front, on Tuesday and Saturday.
Sandi McGinnis
McGinnis Ranch