Tour: Urban Agriculture Coming of Age

Ag Institute invites the community to visit seven area farms June 9.

When we started the Institute of Urban Homesteading in 2008, urban agriculture was a marginal activity practiced by a handful of intrepid individuals. Now stories of urban chickens and bees abound, average citizens boast front yard vegetable gardens, urban sustainability projects and glossy urban farming magazines are popping up at every turn.

Urban agriculture has been in the news as cities around the Bay Area create new policy to reflect the need and desire to “grow your own.” Nobody cares about a couple tomato plants, but what about livestock in the city? Should people be allowed to sell the food they grow? What about eggs and meat? Isn’t all that a health hazard?

San Francisco very quickly offered a comprehensive and generous go-ahead, officially allowing gardens in every part of the city as well as allowing people to sell what they grow. Other municipalities are more prohibitive—El Cerrito charges $1000 for a permit to keep a couple chickens. Oakland is still in process, having been in year-long negotiations with the Oakland Food Policy Council, interested citizens and various city departments to draft a policy everyone can live with. Berkeley’s new food policy allowing food growing and sales of fruit and vegetables grown on private property is expected to be in place by June.

Here at the Institute, we believe that Urban Farming makes a lot of sense. On a medium sized lot you can raise enough food for your own family with extra to share, at a fraction of the cost for that same organic produce at the market. Add to this the saved cost to the environment when your food comes from fifty feet instead of five thousand miles away. With good management, vegetable and animal wastes generated from farming activities increase soil fertility and reduce soil toxicity with no smell or hazard to neighbors or ground water. Urban Agriculture provides great conversation, a solid connection to the earth and a healthy outdoor alternative to video games for children.

Whether we like it or not, the urban agriculture movement is seriously underway. As it grows we think it important to look at what is possible, sensible and appropriate for home-scale agrarian practice in urban communities. Urban Farm Tours invites you to see what established urban farmers are up to and what productive urban agriculture can look like on a small, medium, large, or extra large urban lot.

You will see fruit & vegetable gardens, urban orchards, goat dairies, wetlands, composting systems, bees, chicken, quail, food forests, coop designs, natural building materials, mushroom beds, ultra-local CSA-style food production, and more. Each tour will last about 30 minutes with time in between for travel to another location. Ask questions, get advice and sample some of the bounty these farms produce.

-- Darrell MacAulay

Featured Farms
X-SMALL Indigoat Farms (Oakland 580 corridor)
SMALL Tiny Berkeley Garden (Central Berkeley)
MEDIUM Pluck & Feather Farm (Grand Lake)
MEDIUM Beegrrl Gardens (North Oakland)
MEDIUM Shattuck Farms (North Berkeley)
LARGE The Algarden & DaTerra Food Forest (W.Berkeley)
X-LARGE PineHeaven Farm (Montclair)

WHEN: Saturday June 9, 2011 11am-6pm. Tours start on the hour with 7 locations to choose from.
Last Tour starts at 5
COST: Option #1 - Loosy-Goosy, Pay as you go.
$5 per person per tour. Kids under 12, $3. No one turned away for lack of funds.
Option # 2 - Pay in advance as a tax deductible donation. Your donation benefits IUH and the local farmers.
$30 adults, $18 children $5 discount for bicycles. Start at any location to pick up your “ticket” at will-call.
LOCATION: Farms are located from Lake Merritt up to North Berkeley. Exact locations will be sent in an email the week before (see registration).
REGISTRATION: Send an email to iuh@sparkybeegirl.com with Urban Farm Tours in the subject line. You will be notified by mail a week before of the specific locations.

For detailed information about each site, please visit our website:


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