Urban Homesteading Berkeley Traditional Landscape, San Francisco
Photo: Lauren Edith Anderson © 2016 Houzz
Photo of a traditional landscaping in San Francisco. — Houzz
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Stewart’s front yard garden offers the best sunlight on her property for her crops. Her corner lot, with two sides exposed to the street, puts her close to many of her neighbors. Some city governments are seeing the advantages. “Many U.S. cities have been making strides toward supporting urban agriculture by offering affordable vacant land to lease, access to water, and land trusts to ensure land tenure for the future,” says Raychel Santo, a program coordinator with The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future in Baltimore, and an urban gardener herself. Santo was also the lead author of a review released in May 2016 that highlighted the benefits and limitations of urban agriculture. “California passed some relatively innovative state-level policies to support the right to grow food for renters and members of homeowners associations, and provide tax incentives to encourage food growing on private land,” she says. San Francisco was the first city in California to incentivize food growing on private land. Berkeley allows homeowners to keep animals, including chickens, female goats and rabbits, without a permit if they comply with enclosure requirements and other municipal code regulations. In certain cases, animals can be kept in Oakland, California, as long as they are for personal use and don’t become a public nuisance. Neighbors come with living in the city, and it’s important to consider them when doing urban farming, especially if animals are involved. “Invite them over and give them a tour,” says Ruby Blume, founder of the Institute of Urban Homesteading in Oakland. “Make sure their concerns are addressed.” And don’t be afraid to spread the wealth, she suggests. “Offer them honey or eggs.” The Lure of Local Organic and Humanely Raised FoodThe demand for and availability of organic food are rising. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that three out of four conventional grocery stores in the U.S. now sell organic products. But a 2015 Consumers Reports study comparing 100 organic products with their conventional counterparts found that the organic items were, on average, 47 percent more expensive. These higher prices didn’t necessarily guarantee locally grown food. And when it comes to animal products such as meat and eggs, the pricing, labeling and sourcing can be challenging to navigate.High-quality, locally grown food was important to Stewart, but when she saw that the organic, free-range eggs at her local market cost $9 a dozen, she realized that she needed to rethink her food sources. She didn’t want to compromise on what she ate because it cost more. Since she couldn’t afford the food she wanted, she decided to grow it, starting with edible plants she liked and knew grew well in her neighbors’ yards. “I worked in their gardens, asked questions, watched and observed,” she says.