There are so many people fighting for a healthier, more sustainable, more equitable food system in San Diego County, and we're excited to share the good news from The Ecology Center, the San Diego Food System Alliance, CHIP, and Inika Small Earth this week. Here are the highlights.
The Ecology Center is Expanding onto a 10-Acre Encinitas School Farm
The Encinitas Union School District voted 5-0 to accept The Ecology Center’s Joint Occupancy Agreement on their 10-acre Farm Lab site. This unanimous vote opens the door for a long term partnership aimed at inspiring and engaging the 5,400 district students, their families, and the neighboring communities with simple solutions for thriving on planet Earth.
With nine years of experience in building community through an ecological oasis in San Juan Capistrano, The Ecology Center is eager to replicate the model in Encinitas, CA.
The opportunity to create an interactive farm, community gathering space, and social enterprise that is fully integrated into a school district will become a pilot for public-private innovation nationwide. The Ecology Center in Encinitas will support the hands-on, ecological, education of the district students, offer impact-driven workshops for all, host inspirational events such as farm dinners, and organize festivals aimed at celebrating a community that gives more than it takes.
Learn More About the Encinitas Farm Lab and the Ecology Center, sign-up for a class at the new food lab, find a new favorite artisan craftsperson, and find out how you can get involved online at theecologycenter.org.
An Urban Agriculture Incentive Zone has Been Officially Approved by City of San Diego
The City of San Diego City Council officially approved the establishment of an Urban Agriculture Incentive Zone within the City of San Diego today. Urban Agriculture Incentive Zone is a California bill passed in 2013 which aims to increase land access for urban agriculture through the use of vacant, privately-owned land. Landowners with vacant parcels under three acres will be eligible to receive a property tax incentive if leasing with a farmer or a community garden organization for a minimum of 5 years. City of San Diego follows several cities which adopted the Urban Agriculture Incentive Zone bill in California including Sacramento, San Franciso, and Los Angeles. There are over 2000 parcels in City of San Diego that qualify under this bill.
Advocacy for Urban Agriculture Incentive Zone for City of San Diego was a team effort and emerged from the community. The policy was initially brought forward by Kim Heinle and Amy Zink of Bayside Community Center along with community members who wanted to expand their successful Linda Vista community garden. Councilmember Scott Sherman championed the policy within the City of San Diego and Urban Agriculture Incentive Zone was initially approved by City Council back in February 2016. However, due to the process of creating a tax framework with the County of San Diego, the policy implementation was delayed. The ordinance was revised and brought forward again to City Council last month for first reading.
The San Diego Food System Alliance co-sponsored AB465 (TING), the 10 year extension of Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones last year, in partnership with SPUR, PANNA, and Sacramento Urban Ag Alliance. In the near future, City of San Diego City Council will be examining Urban Agriculture Incentive Zone in detail to consider bringing forward an amendment to exclude usage for marijuana production purposes. San Diego Food System Alliance and members will be working with the City of San Diego on the successful implementation of this program.
Stay informed and find out how you can support the development of and an equitable, healthy, and sustainable food system in San Diego County through the San Diego Food System Alliance. Visit them at sdfsa.org.
CHIP Releases Their Good Food Rebate Program Research Report
The key premise of the GFRP is that local, sustainable, fairly produced food may cost, on average, more than ‘conventional’ food, but the cost difference is often only a fraction more than the conventional price. In the pilot of the GFRP, CHIP provided a 20% rebate to the participating district on all qualifying purchases of local, sustainable, and/or fairly-produced foods up to $10,000 in rebates during the 2016-2017 school year. With $10,000 in rebates, the program was designed for the participating district to be able to shift up to $50,000 in total food purchasing.
The pilot of the Good Food Rebate Program in Fallbrook Unified Elementary School District entailed the successful development and deployment of a new approach to growing the farm-to-school, farm-to-institution, and good food movements. By providing targeted, accountable financial incentives, the GFRP pilot demonstrated that a relatively small amount of rebates can be used to shift a substantial amount of a school district’s food purchasing into local, sustainable, and/or fairly produced foods. The power of the GFRP lies in its design as an economic solution to what stakeholder institutions identify as an economic problem. By defraying the costs of a district’s increased good food purchasing for a year, the GFRP provides an efficient and accountable mechanism to bring more good food to those who need it most.
The results of the program were sizeable. From school year 2013-14 to 2015-16, San Diego County public school districts increased local food purchasing by 470% (to roughly $17.7m/year), the participation in F2S activities rose by 200%, and the number of school gardens grew by 40%. This pilot program established that, in the short-term, the GFRP has the potential to parlay $10,000 in rebates into a total of a $50,000 shift of a school district’s food budget into local, sustainable, and/or fairly-produced foods.
Find out more about how you can support food justice in San Diego County, and read the entire report at sdchip.org.
Community Composting Business Development Workshops Launch in San Diego
There is so much momentum towards urban agriculture and so many brilliant ideas to recover value from food waste that remain untapped. Whether you want to do it for self, community or planet - state & local regulations and market factors will be key drivers of your project plan.
That's why Inika Small Earth has begun offering workshops on enterprise-based opportunities in community scale composting to support local food waste innovation. These workshops are designed to help participants get their business plans off-the-ground.
Additionally, the organization offers a "drop-off" donation program through which individuals and families can donate their kitchen scraps for composting.