On Weds, June 11th, our Seeders workgroup convened at Growing Experience Urban Farm to discuss policy, give updates on our projects, and connections to “feeder” project ideas.
The “seeders” in attendance included: Joe Corso (LBOrganic), David Hedden (LBPL), Damon Lawrence (Grocery Co-op), Ryan Serrano (Foodscape), Jimmy Ng (Growing Experience), Kelli Johnson (Spring Street Farm), Desiree Gutierrez (LA Food Policy Council, Coalition for a Healthy North LB), Rick Berry (Willmore home grower), Steve Passmore (Long Beach Grows), Jennifer Ammirato (Long Beach Food Swap), Sarah Rosenberg (Growing Experience). All of these attendees gave updates on their projects, and told us what they’re growing (everything from goji berries and comfrey, to squash, tomatoes, figs, and avocados!)
Here are some highlights from project updates:
Growing Experience – securing multiple grants for aquaponic production systems and a food forest, and opening a massive multi-lingual cook book library;
Long Beach Organic – looking for residents to fill their South Street garden which currently houses chickens and bees;
Long Beach Grows – opening an Heirloom seed library in concert with the Long Beach Public Library;
Grocery Cooperative – moving forward with fund-raising;
Spring Street – Successful launch of the School Farm Stand;
Foodscape – gaining non-profit status and launching “foodscape your lawn” and other programs this summer;
Farm Lot 59 -launching Second Saturday morning education and food festivals;
Wilmore Neighborhood – Opened the first ADA accessible community garden in Long Beach.
The first policy we discussed was AB 1990, Community Food production, which asks local farms and farm stands to label their food, and allows cities or counties health departments in California to require registration. Some of our feedback, which has since been shared with the Long Beach Department of Sustainability included:
1. Labeling: Signage over Stickers – While most in our group would like to see food at farm-stands labeled clearly (since they often get produce from multiple sites), the bill seems to indicate that individual labels would be required rather than general signage. Some of us would love to see more of a brand for “Long Beach Grown” food, but at the same time most feel that individual sticker labeling would be too much unnecessary labor and create lots of gluey waste. The consensus was that signage that provides addresses indicating the production site is reasonable. We’ve since received clarification that the bill would not require stickers, but that signage would be adequate.
2. We also thought that this policy holds great potential to streamline the registration process on a local level, since some thought the current state registration process was not ideal for small and mid-size operations.
3. Some folks also thought that there should be a threshold for the amount of profit / sales that would make the law applicable only to large volume operations.
4. Our group was curious what type of discretion cities would have in enforcing the policy as well, and thought that giving cities like ours (who are lucky to have a department of health) more leeway would be reasonable.
5. We also like the language of “community food producers” and think this bill seems well intentioned in trying to track where food comes from, something we all think is important!
The second policy we discussed was AB 2561, the Neighborhood Food Act.
This bill permits growing for consumption or sale at home state-wide, and mandates that landlords and HOA’s must allow residents to grow food. Though we all agree that food sovereignty is a human right that should be protected, we had very different perspectives on the future impacts, such as the bill asking landlords to designate the space for growing and the types of containers that may be used, which could be to the grower’s detriment. Our discussion was more nuanced, but overall there was disappointment that many key elements of this bill were scrapped in the process. Still, many of us see it as a small step forward for food security if we continue to work on implementation that protects tenant and property owner rights.
The third policy discussed was AB 551, a tax incentive that was passed state-wide for land owners who allow their space to be used for urban agriculture.
While some don’t feel that there has been political will for this to be implemented in Long Beach at this time, some thought it would be feasible if implementation was driven by property owners, and focused on property value increase in the surrounding area. Our growers see this policy as a way to push for access to private land.
We also talked about Change Lab’s Policy Scan of Long Beach. We discussed ways that public land could be opened up – particularly a need to identify, with Parks and Recreation, what space they have that are idle, and what we can do to improve the proposal process. As of now, the proposals have to be submitted blind to the realities of the parks department and their needs. We would like to see the city more able to help us work with parks and recreation, possibly through an innovative proposal contest, to make more park space food-producing. We also considered how we might try approaching policy around urban agriculture that addresses water conservation – we are lucky to have so many growers with expertise in this area, from drip irrigation to permaculture – and would love to further the conversation so that drought-resistant urban ag., community gardens, and home growing culture can gain even stronger, and more sustainable roots in our city!
Lastly, we discussed ideas generated at the feeders meeting – including restaurants who are looking for master gardeners to work with, potential for more farm-to-table events and press releases, and potential events that can bring the food movement together! (See our Opportunities Page for more on the project ideas we’ve been generating)