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Can City Farmers Make a Living? Activist Eli Zigas on the Challenges of Urban Agriculture

Will urban agriculture become a major part of the food system in San Francisco?

With commitments to food security, programs like mandatory composting and the Urban Orchards Project, San Francisco has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the expansion of urban agriculture. With Mayor Gavin Newsom's 2009 Executive Directive on Food (PDF) which articulated a vision of a food system with nutritious food for all San Franciscans, the city demonstrated its commitment to scale up the amount of food that's grown within city limits.

Even with strong support from the city, progress towards that goal has run into several obstacles. Working tirelessly to help eliminate many of them has been Eli Zigas, the executive director of Cultivate SF, which seeks to catalyze the development of self-sustaining urban agriculture ventures in San Francisco through research, education, and policy advocacy. He also coordinates the San Francisco Urban Agriculture Alliance, which specifically seeks to increase the the amount of food grown within the city and provide greater access to it. "Backyards and community gardens can produce a lot of food, and I am a strong proponent of those gardens," says Zigas. "But, to really bring a new level of scale to food production in the city, urban farmers need to be able to make a living selling what they grow. And the only way they can do that is if they can grow produce for sale legally under the zoning code."

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