Photo credit: David Barrie via Flickr/Creative Commons
One common lament about local food is that there simply isn't enough of it. The best part about it -- that it's different in every foodshed, location to location -- also means that the supply can have a hard time keeping up with demand. That's especially true when it comes to larger, more dense urban centers, where locavores greatly outnumber farms and farmers.
Oakland, California is no exception. Almost one-third of the population is food insecure, meaning they aren't always sure where the next meal will come from; even more have limited access to nutritious, affordable food. A new report may help provide a solution, and an answer to the question, "How can urban food production be increased?"
Photo credit: ItzaFineDay via Flickr/Creative Commons
Cultivating the Commons: An Assessment of the Potential for Urban Agriculture on Oakland's Public Lands [pdf] found a whopping 1,200 acres, in 495 separate spots, of vacant and underutilized public land in Oakland that's ready and waiting to be used for food production. The City has a goal of sourcing one-third of its food locally -- what better way to reach that goal than by utilizing vacant, otherwise less useful public land to grow the food?
It isn't quite as easy as finding the land, and sewing some seeds, unfortunately. While several area urban agriculture and food justice groups gave the report a thumbs up, calling it "an important first step in expanding local food production," there are significant "bureaucratic hurdles" when it comes to leasing public land for farming and food production. Water and liability are two of the hurdles nearest the top of the list.
Potential soil contamination could also present difficulties for some of the spots, and soil testing is underway to determine the suitability of the land; soil amendments could be used to improve the quality of any marginal soils, while heavily polluted soils would require more work before the land would be arable. Still, it's there, and can serve as inspiration -- and maybe a wakeup call -- for other cities looking to improve their access to local foods, and the food security of their citizens.