The Dirt on Urban Ag
- Seattle is simply gaga for gardening. As I describe in an article for seattlepi.com, elected officials, nonprofit groups, churches, businesses, and schools are pushing all sorts of programs to promote in-city farming, even naming 2010 the Year of Urban Agriculture. It's exciting stuff. But the Emerald City is not alone in its love of fresh, seasonal homegrown pickings. That made me wonder what Seattle's farms-and-foodies neighbor to the south is doing in the field of urban ag.
It turns out that Portland is out in front on many of the pro-ag initiatives that leaders in the Puget Sound area are considering, providing an opportunity for a little cross-pollination of ideas and initiatives that could benefit both regions.
But first, a quick rundown of what Seattle is up to. City leaders this month will get a look at a package of policy changes to encourage more folks to grow produce in their own backyards, whether for themselves or for profit. A church in the Broadview neighborhood has ripped out landscaping to make way for a community p-patch. Seattle Central Community College is offering what it believes is the first US program in sustainable, urban agriculture. There's a handy new site coordinating it all called Urban Farm Hub. And the examples go on (see the P-I article for more information).
Because Seattle is more concrete jungle than fertile farmland its food issues extend well beyond its borders. So the city is teaming up with King, Snohomish, Pierce, and Kitsap counties to create a much-needed Regional Food Policy Council, which replaces a smaller Seattle-King County Acting Food Policy Council that was formed in 2006. The council's priorities will include strengthening the policies and infrastructure related to growing, processing, transporting, and distributing food across the counties. It will also work to make sure that low-income and minority communities have access to fresh, healthy foods.
(Quick aside: the importance of boosting local food production to ensure food security was highlighted for me following the volcanic eruption in Iceland. Among the stories about canceled flights and stranded passengers were tales of produce from Brazil and Africa rotting on runways.) . . .