The Bay Area Coalition for Urban Agriculture (BACUA), a coalition of more than 30 non-profits and community organizations, has a proposal to establish a center for urban agriculture in UC Berkeley College of Natural Resources. Urban agriculture produces 1/7 of the world's food supply, and within the United States it is estimated that about 30% of the agricultural output originates within or on the edges of metropolitan areas. UC owns the largest tract of farmland within the urban Bay Area, the Gill Tract agricultural research station. Despite this opportunity, CNR administration has drug its feet, stonewalling attempts to create a such a venture. We feel that this behavior, when coupled withe resources expended to secure the Novartis alliance, represents a distinct bias within UC to favor global industrial agriculture at the expense of the people of California and low-impact food production. This contradicts the mission of the land grant university.
Teach-in: BACUA will be hosting a teach in on their proposal to establish a center for urban agriculture, based at the Gill Tract. 10 AM to 2 PM, South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis, just off Ashby. Read a flier on the teach in, and a question-and-answer fact sheet.
Proposal summary: BACUA proposes that the University of California enter into a university/community partnership in order to create the world's first university center on sustainable urban agriculture and food systems. The purposes of the Center would be to promote research, education, extension and outreach on the various social, environmental, economic and ecological dimensions of urban farming and sustainable food systems. The expansion of urban agriculture and alternative food systems is a worldwide phenomenon that has caught the attention of policy makers, activists and funders as a new response to issues of food security, economic development, poverty alleviation, urban blight, waste recycling and environmental preservation. The proposed Center would be located at the Gill Tract in Albany and would benefit the university community as well as a diverse array of constituencies in the Bay Area, California, the U.S., and internationally. It is becoming increasingly common throughout the world for public institutions, and universities in particular, to form partnerships with non-profits. The University of California needs to be embedded within a supportive community to carry out its land grant mission. Urban agriculture and sustainable food systems is an area where the University can continue serving the public good. Research can help increase food security in our cities, can help farmers cut costs and develop ecologically sound and economically sustainable businesses in urban areas, and can help build educational and training programs that help fight unemployment and isolation. Readthe full proposal, or a question-and-answer fact sheet.
University response: UC has chosen to react unfavorably to this response. The administration has drug its feet and stonewalled this innovative proposal. They have claimed that such a University - non-profit has not been tested. However, CNR was quite willing to expend resources into developing a novel partnership with Novartis, a huge Swiss life sciences corporation. The administration has insisted that any such proposal be faculty initiated. However, at least 9 faculty have endorsed their proposal. When this was pointed out to CNR Dean Gordon Rausser, he stated that these faculty are simply not the important ones.
Urban agriculture: In the United States it is estimated that about 30% of the agricultural output originates within or on the edges of metropolitan areas. Urban farmers and gardeners come from a wide range of economic levels, ethnic backgrounds and relationships to the market. In the Bay Area there are private businesses, neighborhood groups, youth programs, projects for seniors, for the homeless, and for people in recovery, all of whom farm some part of our urban habitat. A growing number of educators are also recognizing the potential of school gardens as tools for the teaching of ecology, biology and other sciences as well as the teaching of food production. Throughout the U.S. an alternative and perhaps more sustainable urban food system is arising, which includes urban farms and gardens, farmers' markets, metropolitan food security councils, community supported agriculture (subscription farms), and other relatively recent phenomena. Yet no land grant university has taken a leadership role by placing urban agriculture and sustainable food systems squarely on the agenda for research, education and extension. This is a unique opportunity for the University of California to both serve its local community and to put itself in the vanguard of a worldwide trend that is receiving growing attention from policy makers and funding agencies. For more information on urban agriculture, go to City Farmer.