California, Rachael's Stories, Visits

Little City Gardens (San Francisco, CA)

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Little City Gardens is truly the pioneer of commercial urban agriculture, and the only commercial urban “micro-farm” in San Francisco, CA. Co-founded in 2007 by Brooke Budner and Caitlyn Galloway, the project was inspired by a feeling of necessity; the motivation was to examine the potential for economic viability for small-scale urban agriculture production as a livelihood, without a reliance on subsidies. While Brooke has since left the project, Caitlyn continues to cultivate; however, her income is supplemented with other jobs as opposed to the farm providing her income, which is an obstacle given the original intention of the project. Taking into consideration Little City Gardens leases about one quarter acre and looking to stay rooted in their founding principle, that being to valuate the economic evolution of the operation, while the farm does takes advantage of their ability to continue to produce almost year round Caitlyn heavily implements crop rotation, cover cropping, and the use of large amounts of compost to maintain soil fertility and prevent leaching and erosion.

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Up until the 2013 season, Little City Gardens’ sales were done by means of a small CSA consisting of 25-30 families, and they additionally participated in farmers markets. For the past two seasons, most of their marketing has been done through direct sales with local restaurants. For the 2015 season, Caitlyn is planning to re-establish the CSA. In terms of labor, the farm-garden is mostly volunteer driven, with anywhere from 6-10 volunteers weekly with two full-time paid employees. They use the local resources available to them, for example, they make their own compost using leftover vegetables as well as horse manure and straw donated by local stables. Also, recently they have been experimenting with using fish byproducts donated by the local producers at Fisherman’s Warf.

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Caitlyn and Brooke have been the most influential force in the political discussion of urban agriculture in San Francisco, helping implement discussion and regulation behind the Urban Ag Incentive Zones Act or AB 551 in the city. The Urban Ag Incentive Zone Acts look to “incentivize urban landowners to proliferate the availability of land accessibility to urban farmers, thus allowing potential urban farmers to cultivate vacant lots, as well as creating an incentive for urban landowners to lease their land for urban farmers to cultivate.” Further, this also helps bridge the gap between farmers as producers, eaters as consumers, and politics as the guide lines they must live in between. Aligning with the Urban Ag Incentive Zones Act, in recent news, the Gardens plans to coordinate with new landholders: The Golden Bridges School, a school rooted in Waldorf philosophy with a growing student body, will be providing space for Little City Gardens on their quarter acre parcel to keep building soil in the city! The urban agricultural movement is an extremely important aspect of the extended local food movement in the building of community and Little City Gardens will hopefully be a catalyst around the Bay Area and within San Francisco. Everyone has a role to play, whether it be the consumer or producer within a local community in the movement toward a sustainable globalized world. In educating ourselves locally as well as looking at the global perspective, and by getting directly involved we can be part of progressing the future!

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About Rachael Saland

Rachael previously studied Philosophy and International Studies concentrating in Environmental issues at Muhlenberg College. In her studies she deduced that sustainable agriculture is the way that she feels she can change and progress the world on a large scale, in the long term, as well as in her every day life. She has worked on conventional organic, permaculture, as well as biodynamic farms for the past three years primarily around the western slope of Colorado. She also completed a Permaculture Design Course in Costa Rica with Scott Pittman through the Permaculture Institute. Currently, she is a student at The Evergreen State College studying Agroecology and Soil Chemistry.

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