According to data, one in seven San Diegans is food insecure.
When Avery Cramer learned of this statistic, he knew he wanted to help address this issue.
To date, Co-Harvest Foundation has 50 micro-farms on residences and commercial properties throughout the county, said Cramer, with the goal of growing 100,000 pounds of food and adding another 100 farms by the end of 2021.
Big Boom During COVID
“We definitely saw a big boom with people interested in urban agriculture and wanting to help the community as a result of COVID-19,” said Cramer, who attended Loyola University Chicago where he studied environmental policy. “The silver lining of COVID is that people wanted to rally together to help people in need. Urban agriculture in general has seen a big boom during the pandemic with people wanting to grow their own food in efficient and sustainable ways. But beginner farmers sometimes don’t know what to do.”
That’s where Co-Harvest comes in.
The way the program works is on a subscription model, said Cramer, created with middle and high income families in mind.
Members that pay $50/month get Co-Harvest experts on their home farm twice a month to help maintain the property and educate the homeowner or tenant on how to effectively care for their crop in between visits.
For $100/month, users get what Cramer calls the “hands-free” membership. This means Co-Harvest farmers tend to the micro-farms on a weekly basis, leaving virtually no work for the resident.
The end goal, said Cramer, is that 50% of the food grown goes to the paying subscriber, and the other 50% goes to a partner food pantry that then distributes to those that need access to fresh fruits and vegetables the most. So far, Co-Harvest has roughly 10 nonprofit partners throughout the San Diego area, he said.
Climate Action Plan
Co-Harvest not only helps those that are food insecure in the county, it also helps with the City’s Climate Action Plan in contributing to make San Diego a more sustainable city one micro farm at a time.
According to the City of San Diego website, in 2012, the city adopted the Urban Agriculture Amendments to the General Plan. These amendments support expansion of urban agriculture to “realize environmental, economic and public health benefits including increasing access to fresh local food, reducing energy use for food transportation and distribution and increasing opportunities for economic development and local enterprise.”
To become an urban farmer with Co-Harvest, San Diegans need access to no less than 100 square feet of green space, said Cramer. They then set up a consultation with the Co-Harvest team, which checks out the space and the irrigation system and provides an estimate for cost of materials, like wood and stones. A one-time $200 joining fee for properties under an acre (the cost is $400 if over an acre) is required to start, and all soil and starter plants are included, he said, adding that members are also set up with composting programs.
For San Diegans with urban farming aspirations but with less than the required greenery, Co-Harvest works with Bayside Community Center, also in Linda Vista. Bayside Community Center has a Tiny Gardening Program, he said, for people that live in apartments or have smaller yards or patios.
In the future, Cramer hopes to continue to expand the Co-Harvest reach by helping more and more San Diegans start and maintain their own micro-farms. The long-term expansion plan is to grow 400,000 pounds of food and have over 900 Co-Harvest members by 2022, he said, and by 2023, reach 1,000 micro-farms and grow over 2 million pounds of produce.