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Larta Institute and Los Angeles Food Policy Council:

US (CA): The gaps, barriers, and opportunities for urban agriculture in LA

"Urban agriculture will play a significant role in paving the way for food sovereignty in Los Angeles. At the same time, urban farming is also a potent instrument in mitigating the effects of climate change," said Alba Velasquez, executive director of the Los Angeles Food Policy Council.

"The methods we employ to cultivate, manufacture, and circulate food have a direct influence on the nearby ecosystem. By endorsing local farmers, we not only enhance the availability of locally grown, nutritious food choices but also play an active role in bolstering the micro-economy, thereby promoting it as a sustainable business model."

Larta Institute and the Los Angeles Food Policy Council (LAFPC) unveiled a study on the past, present, and future of urban agriculture in Los Angeles. The report, titled 'Rooted Horizons: Growing food by and for Angelenos,' identifies infrastructural, bureaucratic, and operational challenges facing urban farmers and suggests recommendations to advance urban agriculture in LA County.

ALMA Backyard Farms initiative (Photo credits: Seedlip)

Rooted Horizons was funded by a grant to Larta Institute from the California Community Foundation (CCF) and builds upon the substantial efforts over the past two years of the Los Angeles Food Equity Roundtable, an innovative cross-sectional partnership that focuses on addressing disparities within the local food system and advocates for integrated food distribution and development strategies across Los Angeles County. The Roundtable is supported by the Annenberg Foundation, CCF, and the Weingart Foundation and co-chaired by Los Angeles County.

"'Rooted Horizons' builds on findings of the Food Equity Roundtable's strategic action plan, which called for increased support for and expansion of urban agriculture. CCF is eager to continue to uplift urban agriculture as a means of not only achieving food justice, but also environmental justice, economic justice, and more, and 'Rooted Horizons' provides practical recommendations to advance urban agriculture in our city," said Lauren Uy, program associate of California Community Foundation.

The report adopts a holistic approach to urban agriculture, drawing from historical agricultural practices, including Indigenous wisdom. This approach not only revives the region's agricultural heritage but also generates economic opportunities spanning various occupations, ultimately benefiting communities across the region. Compton, a city within LA County, is cited as an exemplar for facilitating urban farming and is recognized in the study for its clear regulatory pathways and strategies that empower urban agriculture.

Photo credits: LA Urban Farms

"In keeping with Larta's long national engagement in food and agriculture, we are honored to contribute insights to 'Rooted Horizons' with the goal of advancing urban agriculture entrepreneurship and community resilience in our hometown. We greatly value the research and knowledge provided by the Los Angeles Food Policy Council, and we will work to advance the report's recommendations through initiatives with our partners," said Rohit Shukla, founder and chief executive officer of Larta Institute.

Difficulty of a multi-jurisdictional environment
The report surveyed urban growers and, through selected case studies, highlighted their needs, the challenges of dealing with a multi-jurisdictional environment, including the one-size-fits-all environment in zoning and regulation, and calls for several specific actions in addressing both the problems and the promise.

Erika Cuellar, co-founder of ALMA Backyard Farms, which was profiled in Rooted Horizons, challenges community leaders to "focus on the civic, infrastructural, and relational supports (that) need to be built… to embody true food security and food justice in Los Angeles."

"Knowing the great potential of LA County as an important source for urban agriculture, this report offers a valuable and necessary action plan to help address the critical issue of food insecurity in our region. Rooted Horizons' provides tangible steps to make quality, affordable food more accessible as we empower community growers and residents to create systems that help improve access to healthy foods," said Cinny Kennard, executive director of the Annenberg Foundation.

Photo credit: Los Angeles Food Policy Council

Quick facts
Key points highlighted in the report include:

  • Advocating for community engagement to foster direct connections between residents and their food, facilitated by small farms within residential spaces throughout the county.
  • Calling for the creation of methods and infrastructure to aggregate and scale products from small urban farms, offering both economic and social benefits.
  • Exploring the creation of hyperlocal food hubs that provide urban agricultural entrepreneurs and communities with technical assistance, marketplaces, and access to private and public funding.
  • Advocating for closer integration of well-established food assistance programs like CalFresh into a comprehensive urban agriculture program.

Download the report here.

Rooted Horizons explores the problems and promises related to LA County's role in the American food system. Despite being a major food exporter, one in four households in LA County grapples with food insecurity. The report calls for prioritizing urban agriculture within the county to root the development of urban farms more firmly in the region. This strategy recognizes the potential of localized food production and its integration with community-centered approaches to food and nutrition.

For more information:
LARTA Institute
Tel.: +1 213 694 2826