I'm not alone in this program - there are four other smart and talented people who are also part of this year's fellowship class. I thought I'd introduce them through the projects they're working on - here's Introduction Number One.
Sena Christian is a freelance reporter from Sacramento, California and she's done a lot of writing on food and sustainability issues. She makes a mean mac 'n' cheese and, as a vegetarian, suffered mightily on our trip to New Orleans (veggie options were kind of hard to come by). And she's a total go-getter - she's already kicked off her project with a nice piece on urban farms.
These farms - cultivated within the city limits - can be found everywhere from vacant lots to school and church property to private property and other areas like park land or road sides. The crops are often sold right there at the farm and, in many cases, those farms are the only nearby source of fresh fruits and vegetables.
That can alleviate the problem of food deserts - neighborhoods where there is limited or no access to fresh, healthy food - which are most common in low-income areas. But urban farms are also beneficial to communities as a whole. As Sena points out in her piece, "They create jobs, alleviate hunger, reduce food waste, improve public health, create economic opportunities, and beautify neighborhoods."
As far as I can tell, there's not much to complain about here. And many cities - Portland, Seattle, Philadelphia, Minneapolis - have already adopted urban farm programs, or at least come up with policies to encourage them.
But other cities haven't come as far and among them, I was surprised to learn, is Sacramento - a city that's been at the forefront of the local food movement. There, the city is just starting to consider a new urban agriculture ordinance. But they've limited who can sell produce - it has to come from farms in areas where agriculture is the primary use. That means vacant lots. Produce grown on church or school or private property would be subject to more rules and require farmers to jump through extra hoops. Which is kind of dumb. It makes something that seems like common sense - growing good food and making it available to the neighborhood in which it's grown - unnecessarily complicated.
Sacramento's Urban Agriculture Coalition is pushing back on these restrictions in advance of a City Council vote coming up later this year - and I'm hoping that my fellow fellow will cover the results.
In the meantime, you can follow Sena's writings, about sustainable farming and other topics, at her blog, Wailing Peacocks.