OAKLAND — A new report by two people with backgrounds in geography and sustainable agriculture identifies 1,200 acres of vacant and underutilized public land in Oakland that could be used for food production.

In the report, the authors say that if only half this land were cultivated using intensive ecological farming methods, the area could contribute to at least 5 percent of the city's recommended vegetable needs.

The authors are Jenny Cooper, who holds a bachelor's degree in geography from UC Berkeley, and Nathan McClintock, a doctoral candidate in geography at UC Berkeley and a member of the Oakland Food Policy Council.

The 64-page report, "Cultivating the Commons: An Assessment of the Potential for Urban Agriculture on Oakland's Public Land," emphasizes urban agriculture's potential contributions to the city's sustainability goals, such as sourcing one-third of its food locally.

"This report should play an important role in the expansion of urban food production in Oakland," said Alethea Harper, coordinator of the Oakland Food Policy Council. "The careful inventory and assessment of our publicly-owned land will be a useful tool for citizens and for policy makers seeking to strengthen our local food system."

Several local urban agriculture and food justice groups have endorsed the report as "an important first step in expanding local food production," according to a statement.


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Some of those include Bay Localize, California Food and Justice Coalition, and People's Grocery.

However, McClintock said "bureaucratic hurdles" to acquiring a lease to farm public land are enormous.

Issues of liability and water are another major hurdle.

McClintock said the study could be a basis for land development, but that is still a long way off.

"Soil sampling is still underway at a number of sites to determine heavy metals concentrations and other indicators of soil quality to see if sites would be suitable for farming," he said.

The inventory of public land was conducted by a UC Berkeley research team and sponsored in part by the HOPE Collaborative and City Slicker Farms in Oakland.

Representatives from public agencies, nonprofits, and community groups also advised on the project.

The Institute for Food and Development Policy (Food First) will be publishing copies of the report and a PDF version is available online at www.oaklandfood.org/home/resources.

The study features color maps, site profiles, case studies of existing urban farming initiatives, and recommendations for policy and further research.

A site index provides information on each of the 495 sites, including tax parcel numbers, ownership, acreage, zoning, slope, ground cover, and water availability.

For more information, call McClintock at 510-552-4825 or e-mail mcclintock@berke ley.edu.