Organic growers explore urban farming - The Packer

Organic growers explore urban farming

03/07/2014 11:28:00 AM
Tom Burfield

ANAHEIM, Calif. — “Farming the Urban Edge” was more than just a catchy theme for this year’s California Certified Organic Farmers annual meeting.

A.G. Kawamura, partner in Orange County Produce LLC and former California agriculture secretary, talks with participants at the annual CCOF meeting tour.A.G. Kawamura, partner in Orange County Produce LLC and former California agriculture secretary, talks with participants on a bus tour following the annual meeting of California Certified Organic Farmers March 5 that included a stop at The Great Park in Irvine, Calif., where the company grows 100 acres of organic produce.After the annual gathering in Anaheim, members had a chance to take a bus tour that spanned several California counties and get an up-close look at what urban farming is all about.

A highlight was a commentary from A.G. Kawamura, partner in Orange County Produce LLC and former California agriculture secretary.

Kawamura and his brother, Matt, who are third-generation growers, have 100 acres of organic produce at The Great Park, Irvine, formerly the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station. The park includes a garden demonstration site and a veterans’ farm retraining program.

Kawamura said he’s more excited about the future now than he was 10 years ago because of the new emphasis on locally grown produce.

Kawamura, who leases the land, said skyrocketing costs for rent and water are major challenges to urban farming, as is marketing.

“If your marketing is not right, you can find yourself in deep trouble quickly,” he said.

Allan Price, president of the Orange County Farm Bureau, spoke of the importance of the facility’s educational offerings.

After lunch at 123 Farm/Highland Springs Resort in Cherry Valley, the resort’s president, Tina Kummerle, and farm coordinator Kristi Meyer, told guests how the farm hosts a camp for children ages 7-13 who learn about growing fruits and vegetables and eating healthy. They even experience cooking the produce they harvested.

The farm grows much of the produce served by the resort’s restaurant, and scraps from the kitchen, in turn, help feed some of the animals on the ranch.

During a stop at a University of California-Riverside citrus research site, Citrus Research Board entomologist Raju Pandy described his work using tiny wasps and other methods to combat the Asian citrus psyllid that threatens to spread citrus greening disease in California. The disease has wreaked havoc on Florida’s citrus crop.

Those on the tour heard from Renata Brillinger, executive director of CalCAN, California Climate Action Network. The group is co-sponsoring AB 1961, the Sustainable Farmland Strategy Act that would help plan for the long-term retention of farmland.



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