Three CNR researchers have been awarded a grant from the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) to promote ecological resilience and economic viability for the Bay Area’s urban farms. The research will be led by Jennifer Sowerwine, an assistant Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management (ESPM), as well as ESPM faculty members Timothy Bowles and Céline Pallud, and Charisma Acey from the College of Environmental Design.
The team will work to improve the sustainability and resilience of urban farms by building healthier soils, conserving water, and promoting beneficial insects. Researchers will also evaluate the effectiveness of existing urban and peri-urban food access and food distribution methods for meeting food needs of urban low-income, food insecure communities.
FFAR, a nonprofit established in the 2014 Farm Bill with bipartisan congressional support, awarded Sowerwine’s team a $295,000 Seeding Solutions grant. The FFAR grant has been matched with funding from UC Berkeley and other private sources for a total investment of nearly $600,000. Drawing from expertise in soil science, ecological diversity management and urban planning, the team will use the grant to conduct research that studies urban farming from multiple angles, from soil to supply chains and distribution to community access to agricultural products.
“In order to ensure urban agriculture can grow and sustainably feed urban populations into the future, we need to better understand urban agriculture challenges from a policy and systems perspective,” said Sowerwine. “This Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research grant will support both research and a participatory process with the public to co-create solutions that can support ecological sustainability, economically viable livelihoods, and equitable access to fresh, healthy, and affordable foods in culturally acceptable ways.”
Policy recommendations and best practice outcomes will be developed in close collaboration with low-income and culturally diverse communities, community leaders, technology and marketing innovators, policy advocates, food producers, educators and extension specialists. The Berkeley Food Institute is providing coordination in this project and will work with the team to disseminate the results widely to decision makers, community advocates, and urban food producers and distributors.
Research will take place throughout the East Bay and findings will be applicable to other urban communities throughout the United States. Collaborators include several urban farming businesses and nonprofit organizations, including the Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture and Planting Justice.
This project is supported by FFAR through its Seeding Solutions grant program, which calls for bold, innovative, and potentially transformative research proposals in the Foundation’s seven Challenge Areas. This grant supports the Urban Food Systems Challenge Area, which aims to enhance our ability to feed urban populations through urban and peri-urban agriculture, augmenting the capabilities of our current food system.
“The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research is pleased to support this integrated approach to improving the economic and environmental strength of urban agriculture systems,” said Sally Rockey, executive director of FFAR. “This project shows exciting potential to improve urban farmer livelihoods and nutrition in food insecure communities.”