California’s cities have new policy tool to support urban agriculture

Little City Gardens, pictured above, is one urban agriculture project in San Francisco hoping to take advantage of the new law. Photo courtesy of Little City Gardens.

Little City Gardens, pictured above, is one urban agriculture project in San Francisco hoping to take advantage of the new law. Photo courtesy of Little City Gardens.
California’s New Urban Agriculture Property Tax Incentive

AB 551 incentivizes food-producing entrepreneurs who otherwise may be jobless and or homeless such as veterans and substance abusers. This is prison reform and reduction while addressing 80% of US population in poverty or near poverty. [Image above was linked in the following post prior to the link being re-worded.]

‘That near poverty statistic is perhaps more startling than the 50 million Americans below the poverty line, because it translates to a full 80% of the population struggling with joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on government assistance to help make ends meet.’

Giving folks the skills and technology to go along with new law incentivizing food-producing, here’s a free offer from

About Permaculture

Permaculture is an approach to designing human settlements and perennial agricultural systems that mimics the relationships found in natural ecologies. It was first developed in the early 1960s and then theoretically developed by Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren and their associates during the 1970s in a series of publications. —

Central to permaculture are the three ethics which form the foundation for permaculture design: care for the earth, care for people, and fair share.

The Beacon Food Forest follows Permaculture methods while planting for the needs of a diverse community. We use the no-till method of sheet mulching to begin creating our beds and forest floor and use companion planting and guild techniques where plant functions are stacked and multiple for maximum health of the forest ecosystem. Our goal is to build and train a community to steward the land.

The 12 Principles of Permaculture:

Observe and Interact
“Beauty is in the mind of the beholder”
By taking the time to engage with nature we can design solutions that suit our particular situation.

Catch and Store Energy
“Make hay while the sun shines”
By developing systems that collect resources when they are abundant, we can use them in times of need. Obtain a yield
“You can’t work on an empty stomach”
Ensure that you are getting truly useful rewards as part of the working you are doing.

Apply Self Regulation and Accept Feedback
“The sins of the fathers are visited on the children of the seventh generation”
We need to discourage inappropriate activity to ensure that systems can continue to function well. Negative feedback is often slow to emerge.

Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services
“Let nature take its course”
Make the best use of nature’s abundance to reduce our consumptive behavior and dependence on non-renewable resources.

Produce No Waste
“Waste not, want not” or “A stitch in time saves nine”
By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste.

Design From Patterns to Details
“Can’t see the forest for the trees”
By stepping back, we can observe patterns in nature and society. These can form the backbone of our designs, with the details filled in as we go.

Integrate Rather Than Segregate
“Many hands make light work”
By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between those things and they work together to support each other.

Use Small and Slow Solutions
“Slow and steady wins the race” or “The bigger they are, the harder they fall”
Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and produce more sustainable outcomes.

Use and Value spanersity
“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”
Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides.

Use Edges and Value the Marginal
“Don’t think you are on the right track just because it’s a well-beaten path”
The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system.

Creatively Use and Respond to Change
“Vision is not seeing things as they are but as they will be”
We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing and then intervening at the right time.

Permaculture Design Principles From David Holmgren (2002) Permaculture Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability

If there’s any possibility of surviving this, the Sixth Great Extinction, of this, the Anthropogenic Era, hunting and gathering has to, must, replace all carbon emission expenditure, now, immediately, until further notice from the science.

If you’re in Seattle, you can soon skip the farmer’s market. The Beacon Food Forest will grow plums, apples, walnuts, berries, vegetables, and herbs–all free for the taking.

There’s free food everywhere, if you know where to look. Falling Fruit, which maps publicly available produce in several countries, lists 554 edible varieties (mostly plants) in 570,000 locations. It’s mostly stuff that currently goes to waste, like fruit that drops into streets, only to get mashed into concrete.

Most of the locations on Falling Fruit’s map are single trees (including some on private property, where asking the owner is advised) or small community spaces. But foraging is gaining scale all the time. Several places are planting dedicated forests for public use.

Look at Seattle’s embryonic Beacon Food Forest. Set to become the nation’s largest forageable space, it will cover seven acres within city limits, offering everything from plum, apple, and walnut trees, to berry bushes, herbs and vegetables. The goal is to recreate the ecosystem of a real forest with food-bearing varieties at different heights.

The community group behind the project has planted about 35 trees so far, and also completed a lot of landscaping and irrigation work, according to Glenn Herlihy, one of the creators. He expects the space to open later this summer, and to start producing food next year, beginning with herbs, vegetables, and annuals.

The forest will include a teaching space, conventional community gardening plots, a barbecue spot, and recreational areas. Since it’s a community project, it has to cater to many groups.

Herlihy hopes visitors will practice “ethical harvesting”–taking what they need, or what they can eat right away. But for those feeling greedy, there will be a “thieves garden” containing lower-grade stuff. “We also plan to have a lot of people around, so you’re not going to feel comfortable taking a lot of stuff,” he adds.

Beacon is using land donated by Seattle Public Utilities, and has a $100,000 grant from the city. Herlihy says the forest could eventually produce “quite a bit of food,” and he hopes it will be a place where the community can come together.

“People are learning where they can find food about the place,” he says, referring to foraging in general. “That’s a good thing. Better that than it going to waste.”

Falling Fruit’s founders, Caleb Phillips and Ethan Welty, see foraging as more than just another source of food. “Foraging in the 21st century is an opportunity for urban exploration, to fight the scourge of stained sidewalks, and to reconnect with the botanical origins of food,” they say, at their website.

The Many Benefits of Hugelkultur Inspiration Green and Permaculture magazine | Thursday, 17th October 2013 Hugelkultur are no-dig raised beds with a difference. They hold moisture, build fertility, maximise surface volume and are great spaces for growing fruit, vegetables and herbs.

The Many Benefits of Hugelkultur
Inspiration Green and Permaculture magazine | Thursday, 17th October 2013
Hugelkultur are no-dig raised beds with a difference. They hold moisture, build fertility, maximise surface volume and are great spaces for growing fruit, vegetables and herbs.

Hugelkultur, pronounced Hoo-gul-culture, means hill culture or hill mound.

Instead of putting branches, leaves and grass clippings in bags by the curbside for the bin men… build a hugel bed. Simply mound logs, branches, leaves, grass clippings, straw, cardboard, petroleum-free newspaper, manure, compost or whatever other biomass you have available, top with soil and plant your veggies.

The advantages of a hugel bed are many, including:

The gradual decay of wood is a consistent source of long-term nutrients for the plants. A large bed might give out a constant supply of nutrients for 20 years (or even longer if you use only hardwoods). The composting wood also generates heat which should extend the growing season.

Soil aeration increases as those branches and logs break down… meaning the bed will be no till, long term.

The logs and branches act like a sponge. Rainwater is stored and then released during drier times. Actually you may never need to water your hugel bed again after the first year (except during long term droughts).

Sequester carbon into the soil.

On a sod lawn Sepp Holzer (hugelkultur expert) recommends cutting out the sod, digging a one foot deep trench and filling the trench with logs and branches. Then cover the logs with the upside down turf. On top of the turf add grass clippings, seaweed, compost, aged manure, straw, green leaves, mulch, etc…

Hugel bed in Ontario, Canada (By Travis Philip)Hugel bed in Ontario, Canada (By Travis Philip)

Hugelkulter from Pallets used around peripheryHugelkulter from Pallets used around periphery

Steeped raised beds: From 'Sepp Holzer's Permaculture'Steeped raised beds: From ‘Sepp Holzer’s Permaculture’

Sepp Holzer recommends steep hugel beds to avoid compaction from increased pressure over time. Steep beds mean more surface area in your garden for plants and the height makes easy harvesting. The greater the mass, the greater the water-retention benefits.

Vertical logsVertical logs

Hugel bed dug in clay with logs put in vertically, next branches and lots of wood chips. Top 6″ will be wood chips and dirt. This bed will store water and give nutrients for many years to come.

Straw bale gardens require less soil, less water and hold heat. As the straw breaks down nutrients feed the plants. Combining a straw surround with a hugel interior, topped by lasagne layering is an excellent idea for an area with poor quality soil.

Hugel bed in Ontario, Canada (June 28) by Tim Burrows. Tim surrounded his very tall hugel bed in pallets!

Sheet mulching (lasagne gardening) is like composting in place. Above: just a suggestion as to sheet mulching layers. Nitrogen-rich material such as fresh grass clippings or green leaves put right on the hugelkultur wood would help jump start the composting process. Could also include seaweed, straw, dead leaves, leaf mould, etc…

The first year of break down means the wood (and fungi) steal a lot of the nitrogen out of the surrounding environment, so adding nitrogen during the first year or planting crops that add nitrogen to the soil (like legumes) or planting species with minimal nitrogen requirements is necessary, unless there is plenty of organic material on top of the wood. After the wood absorbs nitrogen to its fill, the wood will start to break down and start to give nitrogen back in the process. In the end you will be left with a beautiful bed of nutrient rich soil.

Tree types that work well in hugelkultur:

Hardwoods break down slowly and therefore your hugel bed will last longer, hold water for more years and add nutrients for more years. But softwoods are acceptable as well, a softwood bed will just disintegrate quicker. Mixing woods with softwoods and branches on top, to give off nutrients first, and hardwoods on bottom, sounds like a plan if you have access to multiple types of wood. Yet the newly decomposing softwoods at top will eat up a lot of nitrogen at first, so compensate for that.

Woods that work best:
Alders, apple, aspen, birch, cottonwood, maple, oak, poplar, willow (make sure it is dead or it will sprout).

Trees types that work okay:
Black cherry (use only rotted), camphor wood (well aged), cedar/juniper/yew (anti-microbial/anti-fungal, so use only at very bottom or unless already well aged. Cedar should be broken down before new plant roots reach it), eucalyptus (slightly anti-microbial), osage orange (exceptionally resistant to decay), Pacific yew (exceptionally resistant to decay), pine/fir/spruce (tannins and sap), red mulberry (exceptionally resistant to decay).

Tree types to avoid:
Black locust (will not decompose), black walnut (juglone toxin), old growth redwood (heartwood will not decompose and redwood compost can prevent seed germination).

This article was cross-posted from


One thought on “California’s cities have new policy tool to support urban agriculture

  1. Pingback: Legislative Initiatives to represent 99% plus of us | Cambio con Jack lindbladforsenate 2014

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