Adapting to Changing Needs through Urban Agriculture2/11/19
Riverside-Corona Resource Conservation District has responded to increased development by becoming a local leader in urban agriculture and local food systems.
Riverside-Corona RCD’s Agricultural Legacy
The area that Riverside-Corona RCD (RCRCD) encompasses was once famous for its thriving sea of navel orange orchards. Like much of Southern California, the area was largely agricultural in the 1800s and early 1900s but has become increasingly developed as the population has grown. Since the 1950s alone, the population within the district has expanded from 50,000 to 500,000 residents.
Riverside-Corona RCD is keeping step with the changes in land use that they have seen in their district through the decades, and is helping farms and gardens thrive right in the middle of cities. Their urban agriculture program is holistic and comprehensive, starting with educational opportunities for community members, technical assistance and trainings for production farmers, youth engagement, support for farmers markets, and publishing resources to centralize information to make it easy for their constituents to connect to their local food system.
LandUse Learning Center
Arguably, one of RCRCD’s most impactful contributions to urban agriculture is the LandUse Learning Center (LLC), a 3-acre demonstration garden that showcases sustainable conservation practices for agriculture, native habitats, and urban areas.
In the agriculture area of the LLC, visitors see cover crops, mulch, a hedgerow, inter-cropping between the orchard rows, building soil health with compost, and more. Master Gardeners also use the LLC to give quarterly presentations and trainings on topics like fruit tree maintenance, water-wise gardening, and integrated pest management.
Riverside Food Systems Alliance & Fresh and Local Guide
Through the Riverside Food Systems Alliance, RCRCD developed the 36-page Fresh and Local Guide that was recognized with a Capella Award for Creative Communication by the Public Relation Society of America’s Inland Empire chapter. The guide, updated in 2018, connects consumers to local food sources, farmers to farming resources, those in financial need to food pantries, and community to educational and gardening resources. The guide features a practical and useable map of farmers markets, farm stands, community gardens. To date, 27,000 hard copies of the Guide have been distributed.
As Riverside and the surrounding area becomes more urbanized, RCRCD will continue to be responsive to local need as a go-to hub and champion for urban agriculture in their community. They are excited to be the lead partner on an upcoming urban agriculture project with the City of Riverside, which received $3 million from the California Natural Resources Agency Urban Greening Grant.
The funds will go to purchase and transform roughly 8 acres in the Northside neighborhood into a greenspace, featuring an Urban Agriculture Education Center, trees, shrubs, trails, orchards, and a community garden.
RCDs and Urban Agriculture
There are more RCDs doing work around supporting urban agriculture. Read this month’s spotlight on Contra Costa RCD’s engagement with urban farms and gardens in the Richmond area. Inland Empire RCD works closely with Huerta de Valle Community Garden, and funds a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) coordinator position there. RCD of Greater San Diego County manages the Tijuana River Valley Community Garden. Alameda County RCD’s Urban Farm Conservation Mini-Grant Program provides rebates and technical assistance to encourage adoption of conservation practices on urban farms.