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November 2008: Agricultural Notes

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Food Sovereignty : City Slicker Farms
Community Gardens in Mexico City : Peruvian Community Kitchens

Food Sovereignty

Food sovereignty is a term we are hearing more and more these days. A powerful argument for small farms as the solution to global food concerns, and increasing global agricultural security, has been published by Miguel A. Altieri, president, Sociedad Cientifica Latino Americana de Agroecologia. The article, “Small farms as a planetary ecological asset: Five reasons to support the revitalization of small farms in the Global South,” presents the case for exactly why consumers in North America need to support small farms across the globe: “... the functions performed by small farming systems still prevalent in Africa, Asia and Latin America, in the post peak oil era that humanity is entering, comprise an ecological asset for humankind and planetary survival. In fact, in an era of escalating fuel and food costs, climate change, environmental degradation, GMO pollution and corporate-dominated food systems, small, biodiverse, agroecologically managed farms in the Global South are the only viable form of agriculture that will feed the world under the new ecological and economic scenario. ... Modeling new agroecosystems using such diversified designs is extremely valuable to farmers whose systems are collapsing due to debt, pesticide or transgenic treadmills or climate change, as diverse systems buffer against natural or human-induced variations in production conditions. ”  Much like a diverse diet will make the body healthier, biodiversity or more specifically agrobiodiversity will make the planet healthier. To read more of this article check out


City Slicker Farms

A bold grassroots non-profit in West Oakland, California, is spreading seeds of change. City Slicker Farms builds and maintains backyard vegetable gardens for low-income residents of West Oakland. To date they have installed over 80 raised-bed gardens. Once gardens have been installed, interns work with families for up to three years, helping them raise food from the beds. Other programs include helping their community by providing gardening workshops, and community composting, where residents can drop off kitchen scraps to create soil amendment. City Slicker Farms also organizes and supplies a Saturday Farm Stand offering seasonal organic produce, eggs, honey, herbs and vegetable starts for residents to grow their own food at home. Sliding-scale pricing means that no one is turned away for lack of funds. City Slickers Farms operates five productive Urban Farms throughout Oakland, the largest of which is the Center Street Farm. At over 3,800 square feet, the Farm is home to chickens, ducks, bee hives, 11 fruit trees, a medicinal herb garden, an outdoor kitchen with a wood-fired oven and BBQ, a composting operation, a Biointensive market garden yielding over 2,000 pounds of produce per year, a wildlife habitat perennial border, and a shaded seating circle used for workshops, meetings and events. For information on these programs and more visit


Community Gardens in Mexico City

An excellent article by Sara Miller Llana in The Cristian Science Monitor is bringing attention to a new community garden initiative inspiring bountiful gardens all over Mexico City.  Following a year of  food riots and a 9.18% increase in market food costs, the government of Mexico City has responded by creating 21 new community gardens within the last year. The city is promoting the planting of vegetables in backyards and rooftop terraces as well. The government provides the expertise, training and building materials, and the residents are trained in how to grow food for themselves and their families.


Peruvian Community Kitchens

Now, once the urban farms are producing, what's the next step? Women's groups in Peru have  30 years of experience with an inspiring answer: community kitchens. According to another article by Sara Miller Llana in  The Christian Science Monitor, there are over 5,000 community kitchens in Peru's capital, Lima. The kitchens provide what is sometimes the only daily meal for members and non-members alike. Within the walls of  these kitchens many women have found not only a means to feed their families but a sisterhood and a vehicle for community activism.  When food prices spike they take to the streets and march for increases in government food subsidies. With over 26,000 community kitchen members in Lima, they are a force to be heard and often act as intermediaries between their government and communities. Community kitchens in Peru have been cooking strong since the 1970s, and history has shown that when food scarcity becomes an issue, these community organizations become even stronger and more tightly organized, providing inexpensive meals (60-90 cents each) to those most in need and free meals to the sick, elderly, and those in extreme poverty.





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