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Top local chefs offer support for Sacramento urban farming ordinance

Saul McCoy, left, and Tirtsah Yisrael harvest squash and prepare a planting bed for the next round of organic crops last month in Sacramento.
Saul McCoy, left, and Tirtsah Yisrael harvest squash and prepare a planting bed for the next round of organic crops last month in Sacramento. aseng@sacbee.com

More than three dozen area chefs are calling on city and county political leaders to approve ordinances encouraging urban agriculture in Sacramento.

Proposals sought recently by the Sacramento Urban Agriculture Coalition would update zoning and sales requirements for food grown in the city and county. Chefs are confident that passage of new ordinances would encourage small-scale urban farming.

“We should be looking for ways that a big city can become a model for integrating healthier lifestyles and food systems that move to more sustainable directions. Urban agriculture could be the beginning of a great conversation for Sacramento,” said Ed Roehr, chef at Sacramento’s Magpie Cafe and co-author of a letter delivered to city officials.

The 39 signatories include some of the area’s leading chefs and restaurateurs, such as Patrick Mulvaney (Mulvaney’s B&L), Rick Mahan (Waterboy) and Bill Ngo (Kru).

A proposed ordinance is expected to reach the Sacramento City Council by year’s end, and Sacramento County is considering one as well. Advocates are calling for on-site sales of produce at urban farms, incentives to use vacant lots for agriculture and greater assurances that urban residents can grow produce where they live.

Last month, representatives of seven advocacy groups gathered at south Oak Park’s Yisrael Family Farm to build support for an urban agriculture ordinance. The farm is seen as an example of the kind of agriculture that can take hold in the city, especially in areas with many vacant lots where access to fresh food is limited.

In particular, changes to the city’s ordinances would allow Yisrael owner Chinawok Yisrael to start on-site sales of what he grows, including amaranth, beets, collard greens and other vegetables. Sacramento does not allow farmers to sell such products where they are grown.

Call The Bee’s Edward Ortiz, (916) 321-1071. Follow him on Twitter @edwardortiz.

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