Local food vital to urban reform

by Randy Wilde

Last Tuesday’s San Diego City Council meeting proved to be a critical moment in shaping the future of this city. The council voted unanimously to approve a set of reforms to urban agriculture regulations. The new rules now allow backyard chickens, bees and even miniature goats at urban residences. The change also increases opportunities for the sale of fresh produce at farmers markets, farm stands and on-site at urban gardens and farms.

Though these steps may seem trivial, they are both the culmination of a long and hard-fought campaign and the beginning of a more profound transformation. Organizations such as the International Rescue Committee, the San Diego 1 in 10 Coalition and San Diego Food Not Lawns, among others, have labored to increase awareness of urban food issues and push positive reforms for years now. Their hard work has begun to manifest tangible results – results that will improve the lives of many San Diegans in a very real way.

Urban agriculture is a nexus issue. It could potentially contribute to the solution of many of our most pressing issues: poverty, public health, crime, environmental degradation and the decay of our urban landscape. Selling homegrown produce can be a source of both healthy food and supplemental income for struggling low-income families. It can provide more affordable, nutritious food to a population plagued by obesity and diabetes in this age of fast food and processed garbage. Sourcing food from local, sustainably grown farms and gardens also drastically reduces environmental impact from agricultural chemicals, machinery and transportation emissions.

Now that funding for urban redevelopment has largely dried up, we can take this opportunity to focus on urban agriculture as a means of renewal and transformation. Not only do urban gardens, small farms and farmers markets beautify our neighborhoods, they make them safer, more livable and bring a sense of community currently lacking in many areas. And the beauty of this route is it can be quite inexpensive.

As important as decisions like the city council’s can be, this movement is more about the everyday actions of San Diego citizens. We must all strive to be more than just consumers.