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Urban agriculture in California
Pomona Valley, California
In response to the recession of 2008, a coalition of community based organizations, farmers and academic institutions in California's Pomona Valley formed the Pomona Valley Urban Agriculture Initiative. The Pomona Valley is a nine city region straddling Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties and is home to nearly one million people. In the six southernmost cities (Pomona, Montclair, Ontario, Fontana, Chino and Rialto) nearly 60% of the population is Latino and another 10% African-American. The aggregate poverty rate of those six cities is 17%. Aggregate unemployment is 14%. (Demographic information is from the U.S. Census Bureau statistics: http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/06/0659451.html and unemployment information is taken from the California Employment Development Department: http://www.labormarketinfo.edd.ca.gov/?pageid=133)
After the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement, cheap grain from the United States flooded Mexico,driving peasant farmers off of their land. Many immigrated into the Pomona Valley and found work in the construction industry. With the 2008 recession, the construction industry also suffered in the region. It is unlikely to regain its former strength because of severe water shortages in this desert region as well as ongoing weakness in the local economy.
These immigrants were dry land organic farmers in their home country by default since they did not have access to pesticides and petroleum based fertilizers. Now they found themselves on the border of two counties: Los Angeles County with a population of 10 million (http://quickfacts.census.gov)and almost no farmland, and San Bernardino County which has the worst access to healthy food in the state (http://www.publichealthadvocacy.org). In both counties there is a growing demand for locally grown organic produce.
In response to these conditions, Uncommon Good, a community based nonprofit organization that works with immigrant farmer families, convened a forum which became the Urban Farmers Association. The Urban Farmers Association is the first organization of its kind for poor immigrant farmers in the Pomona Valley. Its goal is to develop opportunities for its members to support themselves and their families through urban agriculture. With Uncommon Good, it is a founding member of the Pomona Valley Urban Agriculture Initiative (PVUAI).
The PVUAI is working with local colleges and universities to expand upon a food assessment survey that was done in the City of Pomona. ("Disparities in Access to Fresh Produce in Low-Income Neighborhoods in Los Angeles," S. Algert, PhD, RD, A. Agrawal, MA, D. Lewis, PhD, American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2006)The new survey will cover the entire Pomona Valley. It also is working with academics to study the markets and alternative business models for urban agriculture. In addition, it is working with local urban farmers to expand their capabilities so that they can hire more farmers and increase their yields. It also is exploring an educational model wherein urban farmers produce food for local school districts' lunch programs, and the schools recycle the leftovers which then are returned to the land to replenish the soil, providing a whole "food cycle" for students to observe and in which they can participate.
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