On 09/02/2023 Civic Urban Farmer Program participants were hosted by Wantda Stewart, Director of Common Vision, at Prescott Elementary School in Oakland. They spent the day learning about urban farming, soil health, and composting. After the interactive learning session, they visited nearby Bottoms Up Gardens which grows fruits, vegetables,and flowers and they keep backyard chickens and goats.

by Erin Min

You may not think of educating urban farmers in the context of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, but the school’s Western Institute of Food Safety and Security (WIFSS) collaborated with UC Cooperative Extension two years ago to launch the Civic Urban Farmer Program (CUFP). The program recently received a 2023 Specialty Crop Block grant from the CA Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to support its continuation.

In its second year of operation, the CUFP is a no-cost program for California growers aiming to support urban farmers with technical assistance in growing, harvesting, handling, and marketing specialty crops to increase food production, food availability, land access, and land tenure. CUFP brings together people of diverse backgrounds and interests in urban farming and is designed to grow the number of economically viable, small and beginning, multicultural, sustainable urban farmers in Northern California.

“We have people who haven’t started a garden yet but want to start one,” Program Director Sara Garcia said. “Some people are growing fruits or vegetables in their backyard and giving them away, consuming them for their own family, or donating them to the food bank and all the way to bigger organizations—whether for-profit or non-profit urban farms—that do the gleaning, redistribution, and growing of food.”

Lasting ten weeks in duration, the program consists of weekly interactive remote workshops with hands-on demonstrations and in-person workshops at local urban farms on weekends. CUFP is advancing the One Health for food systems approach, which considers the health of human, animals, plants, and environment and how they influence each other in the context of food systems—by integrating education in food safety with an emphasis on food-borne pathogens, soil quality and health, integrated pest management, and herb and pollinator patches into the program. CUFP also empowers urban farmers to access markets as part of the farm to fork movement, by helping them obtain certification to sell products at farmers’ markets.

This year Dr. Elina Niño, professor of Cooperative Extension in Apiculture, joined the program and offers her expertise on managing pollinators to increase crop yields and create added value products like honey.

An ultimate goal of CUFP is to create a more resilient local food system to solve the problem of food insecurity. Common Vision, a non-profit CUFP partner organization, seeks to solve the same problems by serving schools and children: educating on and growing school gardens and orchards, redistributing food from grocery stores at schools, and more.

“We serve West Oakland which has deep cultural history, and there’s been a lot of environmental, food, and social injustice,” said Wanda Stewart, director of Common Vision. “We want to certainly elevate all those feelings and celebrate and hold up all of that history, but there’s something to do. We want to make the changes that can lead to a cultural transformation of sorts around the ways that the people in our communities interact with the environment, interact with their food.”

For more information about the Civic Urban Farmer Program.

Learn more about Common Vision.

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