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Leaders, residents set to talk crops in North Richmond

on June 3, 2011

In terms of need, few places might be better suited for urban agricultural production than North Richmond.

And that’s part of why City of Richmond officials and Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia will host a workshop Saturday exploring ways to bring healthy foods and much-needed development into an unincorporated community with little of either.

“I am hoping that our event is a bit of a surprise,” said Councilman Tom Butt, who came up with the idea of a community event during a visit to North Richmond several months ago. “Maybe we can put a lot of energy and thought into this and the critical mass can come together and explode into something. “

The “West County Urban Agriculture Summit” is scheduled to run all day Saturday, June 4, beginning with a 9 a.m. welcome address by Butt and Gioia. The event is the first of its kind and represents a partnership between city, county and local environmental groups and businesses, Butt said—a coalition that may be crucial to not only to building urban agriculture in Contra Costa County but also in improving the dire economic situation in North Richmond.

“The goal is to expand urban agriculture in West Contra Costa County as a way to increase access to healthy foods, economic opportunity and environmental stewardship,” Gioia said.

North Richmond is a community of just over 3,000 residents that is divided between the city and unincorporated county jurisdictions.

“This effort ties into job opportunities,” Butt said. “The kinds of jobs that urban agriculture can generate could be widely available to people without special skills or education, and could earn incomes while providing useful products.”

The event will be held in a large greenhouse operated by Sunnyside Organic Seedlings, a commercial nursery at 377 Brookside Drive. The agenda calls for a series of panel discussions and featured speakers, all exploring the economic, social, environmental and biological benefits of increasing local, urban agriculture production.

Organizers are expecting a packed house. Registration for the event has been closed.

The keynote speaker, LaDonna Redmond, is a Chicago-based advocate for urban agriculture and the president and CEO of The Institute for Community Resource Development (ICRD), a non-profit that assists residents of urban communities in accessing fresh foods.

Jennifer Ly, a sustainability associate for the City of Richmond, said the inaugural event is part of a larger effort by the city to support urban agriculture.

“The city is in the process of completing an urban agriculture assessment document right now,” Ly said. “And part of the hope is that this event will provide policy information and background for our council members to make decisions on urban agriculture policies in the future.”

According to the Richmond Community COOP Collaborative, a local blog that features city staff as authors, the goal of the event is “… for local organizations, current and potential urban agriculture operators, City and County staff, legislators and potential customers to come together to share challenges and successes. We want to learn what is needed from government, what can be done collaboratively and what each can contribute to make urban agriculture a viable business opportunity in West County. We want to learn how to eliminate legal and institutional barriers to urban agriculture and develop new policies to foster its growth in Richmond and throughout West County.”

The needs are particularly acute in North Richmond, where there is not a single grocery store that provides fresh produce, nor any restaurants. Per capita income in the neighborhood is about $9,000, and jobs are virtually non-existent.

“There’s just no substitute for fresh, locally-grown fruits and vegetables,” Butt said. “This is a direction that communities are going in today, and Richmond needs to be a leader in this movement.”

Sunnyside Organic Seedlings

View Sunnyside Organic Seedlings in a larger map


  1. Troy McCormick on June 9, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    What a great project we need to really fund it and get it off the ground. -The Friends of El Cerrito del Norte:

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