You can use urban farming to address social and environmental issues.
That was the big takeaway for Gina Anderson during an environmental justice summit at Jesuit High School, where she worked. There, an urban farmer spoke at length about how eating locally reduces carbon emissions and improves the health of the community. After hearing that, Anderson thought to herself, “I’m sold. I want to do that.” Then she filed that dream away and waited.
A year or two later, she was with the principal of St. Robert Catholic School when the topic of urban farming came up. “She told me, ‘Please come do this in our back field,’ and she told me about a grant that Raley’s put out to help get school gardens off the ground,” Anderson said. She won the grant and went on to study at the Center for Land-Based Learning’s California Farm Academy to learn the ropes of farming. By early 2018, she was ready to plant.
The resulting farm is a one-fifth-acre plot at the Hollywood Park parochial school. It produces vegetables such as tomatoes and lettuce, along with flowers. “Local, homegrown flowers can’t be beat,” says Anderson. “They’re lovely to give or take home to admire.”
The first year, more than 100 people, many of them teachers and students at the school, volunteered to help plant, weed, and harvest. In 2019, the farm donated 1,100 pounds of fresh produce to River City Food Bank. The farm also supports South Sacramento Interfaith Partnership, a local food bank, with food donations and community-sponsored produce bags.
Anderson recently moved to New York, but not before finding someone to fill her boots. The Table UMC, a church in East Sacramento, took over the farm, with pastoral apprentice Chloe McElyea serving as its new farm lead. “We see this as a central ministry of feeding people in our neighborhood,” McElyea says. “We want to tackle issues of food justice on a local level and help people who experience food hardships. Our focus will be on how we’re supporting our neighbors and how we work alongside each other to feed each other.”
The farm currently doesn’t have a farm stand, but it offers CSA produce boxes and Tuesday flower sales. For more information, go to thetable.farm.