East Bay Urban Farmer Field Schools

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What are Farmer Field Schools?

Farmer Field Schools (FFS) and Farmer-to-Farmer methods have been instrumental in building local capacity to develop sustainable food systems in many parts of the world. Farmers, accompanied by a facilitator, establish a peer-learning network based on innovation, solidarity and empowerment. Basic agroecological knowledge and methods are shared between farmer-experimenters and technical experts are brought in as needed. The East Bay Urban Farmer Field Schools (EBUFFS) project emerged from the needs of urban farmers and gardeners in the San Francisco East Bay region to share agroecological knowledge. With technical support from Food First, East Bay urban farmers are learning to build the capacity to develop their own agriculture and sustainable food systems using their own knowledge, networks and locally available resources. This is truly a grassroots project—finding local solutions to local problems.

With technical support from Food First, East Bay urban farmers are learning to build the capacity to develop their own agriculture and sustainable food systems using their own knowledge, networks and local resources.

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In 10 years California’s population will grow from 36 to 46 million people, with 80 percent concentrated in cities. Over the last decade, urban agriculture has improved access to fresh, affordable and nutritious food in the greater Bay Area – where in many neighborhoods one in three residents are food insecure. As we continue to grow, the San Francisco nine-county Bay Area will need effective urban food production to meet the demand for fresh, healthy, affordable food in low-income communities.

The rise of urban farms and gardens in the San Francisco East Bay region is a reflection of widespread community efforts for food security in underserved neighborhoods. Nearly a dozen farms of half an acre to several acres in size and hundreds of community gardens now supply a significant portion of fresh fruits and vegetables to low-income residents in Richmond, Berkeley, Oakland and San Leandro through corner stores, farmers markets, community-supported agriculture, school gardens and grub box programs.

Most of the issues urban farmers face are being addressed independently by each farm, without the benefit of formal extension services. While many problems of urban agriculture are common to all East Bay urban farms—such as access to land, financing, assistance in soil and pest management, as well as packaging, distribution and marketing—the ability to solve them is fragmented. Unlike rural villages, where agricultural knowledge is continually shared and reinforced through extended family networks, informal knowledge sharing between urban farmers in the East Bay is difficult because farms are located in different neighborhoods and communities.

Unlike rural villages, where agricultural knowledge is shared through extended family networks, informal knowledge sharing between urban farmers is difficult because farms are located in different neighborhoods and communities.

Values and Methodology

Food justice is the struggle against racism, exploitation, and oppression taking place within the food system that addresses inequality’s root causes both within and beyond the food chain. 1

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen participating in East Bay Urban Farmer Field Schools (EBUFFS), urban farmers commit to uphold several principles. First, EBUFFS farmers agree that anti-racism and anti-oppression are governing values of the field school. Members consider these values in-group and one-on-one interactions. And, these values emerge in the groups’ commitment to food justice and structural change, as opposed to redistributing the fruit of the existing food system, in that members see the food system as structurally reinforcing racism and oppression.

EBUFFS uses participatory, hands-on learning and teaching techniques that foster high levels of engagement by farmers who attend. In keeping with its commitment to anti-racism and anti-oppression, EBUFFS seeks facilitators who not only are comfortable with these methods, but who come from diverse backgrounds, such as women, people of color, and people with non-traditional educational backgrounds. All of these efforts are paying off. In EBUFFS’ ’first year, urban farmers from nearly twenty food justice groups have participated in EBUFFS. EBUFFS is cultivating the next generation of food justice leaders in the East Bay.

For more information about EBUFFS, contact Hank Herrera at hank@c-prep.org

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  1. Hislop, R. Reaping Equity Across the USA: FJ  Organizations Observed at the National Scale. M.S., University of  California, Davis, 2014