Producing Urban Agroecology in the East Bay: From Soil Health to Community Empowerment

Authors: Alana Siegner*, , Jennifer Sowerwine, University of California, Berkeley, Cooperative Extension, Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, Charisma Acey, University of California, Berkeley Department of City and Regional Planning
Topics: Agricultural Geography
Keywords: urban agroecology, community food security, food access, informal distribution networks
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Roosevelt 5, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


With over half the world’s population living in cities, it is essential to consider the role of urban agroecology in a broader transition to agroecological food systems and a just, carbon-free economy. By engaging city residents in caring for natural resources and providing access to green spaces for healthy food production, urban agroecology can create the workforce and political will to enable a food system revolution. Urban agroecology 1) educates and empowers communities to care for natural resources, 2) produces food through sustainable practices, 3) builds healthy soil, 4) remediates air and water pollution, and 5) closes the loop between consumption and production by utilizing waste streams as compost inputs into urban and rural farms. The Berkeley Food Institute is conducting research on East Bay urban agroecology, exploring the ongoing challenges and opportunities to providing the aforementioned benefits while addressing community food security. Urban agroecology “produces” much more than food; it builds an engaged, environmentally literate citizenry “with a stake in natural resource management” (Food First 2017). Building on the work of organizations such as Food First and our national literature review of urban agriculture, we analyze through surveys and interviews how urban farmers employ a justice approach to natural resource management and the distribution of urban produced foods and gardens. This paper examines the multiple products of urban agroecology and how these can scale up to achieve broader food systems change, creating an alternative to the current political economy where people and planet are prioritized rather than profit alone.

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