An Agroecological Survey of Urban Agriculture Sites in the East Bay, California
Miguel Altieri, Celine Pallud, Joshua Arnold, Courtney Glettner, Sarick Matzen,
This report summarizes a participatory community based project carried out over the summer and fall of 2014 in 21 farms and gardens in the East Bay (Alameda and Contra Costa Counties) . We assessed urban farms to determine main agronomic problems limiting production, including soil quality and pest, weed and disease problems. Farms were assessed for productivity and farmers were surveyed to determine main agronomic challenges and effectiveness of practices used to overcome constraints. Although results indicate that most farms have high soil fertility, and many farmers follow soil building practices and use techniques that emphasize high biodiversity, farmers face a number of issues related to insect and weed pressure, as well as problems linked to soil contamination and water use efficiency. Outreach should be targeted towards methods for increasing functional biodiversity, productivity with lower inputs and resiliency of farms.
During 2014 we conducted a research project to assess actual yields and the main agronomic problems (soil constraints, pest, disease and weed pressure) affecting urban farms in Alameda County. By surveying 21 farms we evaluated the cultural practices used to overcome such problems and their effectiveness, as well as yield levels in farms undergoing different crop combinations and management practices . Such diagnosis has provided us with key information to start a series of on farm-research trials to define and scale-up via farmer field schools best agroecological soil and pest management practices to overcome identified constraints and enhance yields. Expanding the production potential of UA can significantly contribute to food security where it is most needed.