Food Chain Radio News
Food Chain Radio Show #983
Michael Olson, Author & Urban Farming Agriculturalist
FARMS! IN SAN FRANCISCO?
Can farms be made to grow in city of San Francisco?
Guests: San Francisco Supervisor David Chiu & San Francisco Recreation and Parks General Manager Phil Ginsburg Smith
The assignment was to write about ways to make money growing crops on small survivalist farms out in the country. I failed that assignment.
The problem was a fact I stumbled upon while looking into the Census of Agriculture: Whereas the average acre of farmland in America’s heartland earned a little over $300 per acre / year, the average acre of farmland within the city limits of San Francisco earned $76,421 per acre / year. (At the time, a gallon of gasoline cost $1.30.)
The money is in the city! And so the book about farming survivalist retreats in the country became MetroFarm: The Guide to Growing for Profit In or Near the City.
At the time, the notion of generating profit by farming in or near the city, for the city, was shouted down by ag economists, who demanded that farmers had to “Get big or get out!” And so farmers out in the country got big or got out. Thanks to crops genetically engineered to kill pests and withstand herbicides, one farmer can now grow thousands of acres of crops with no weeds and no insects!
But wait! How does food that has been repeatedly drenched in herbicides and infused with triple-stacked pesticides satisfy the metropolitan hunger for foods that are colorful, flavorful, fragrant, nutritious, safe and unique?
Today, the City of San Francisco has elected to encourage the growth of urban farms on its vacant lots by reducing the tax burden on lots devoted to farming from $10,000 to $100 per year. This effort leads us to ask…