California is responsible for the production of over two-thirds of our nation’s fruits and nuts and a third of our vegetables.
This could all change in the near future. With global warming causing record-breaking temperatures year after year, agriculture as we know it won’t be the same.
On Tuesday, Nov. 13, A.G. Kawamura, former secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture and founding chair of Solutions for Urban Agriculture, came and spoke to the Cal Poly Pomona community for CPP’s Sustainable Urban Ag Speaker Series. The talk was held in the Agriscapes Visitor Center on campus to educate the public on how farmers, growers and consumers need to adapt to the changing climate.
“The challenge is [that] the new normal are extreme temperatures,” said Kawamura, who has been a farmer for more than 30 years. “We lost 30 to 50 percent of our crop from a heat wave this last July, where the temperature hit 118 degrees in Irvine.”
Kawamura said that if he goes to a piece of land and sees the weeds are growing well, he knows he can farm off the land. Basing himself on the idea of creating edible landscaping, he has farmed on abandoned airport runways, universities and in bustling cities.
He explained that edible landscaping is not new. The first example of it was the Gardens of Babylon, which date back to 605 B.C. He said the great landscapers of that time built a garden in the middle of an area where a garden wouldn’t naturally grow.
Kawamura emphasized the importance of having an imagination when it comes to creating new technologies for farming because he said we are now able to create things we once thought were impossible.
Kawamura also talked about developments in farming technology and how they changed the way we grow food.
One of those more modern farming technologies are greenhouses. Thanks to this Dutch invention, Kawamura said we now grow over 60 percent of the United States’ vine-ripened tomatoes in greenhouses.
Other technologies are also making their way into the farming industry, such as self-driving tractors and automated irrigation systems that allow for automated harvesting, he said. Another interesting technique is vertical growing, he said.
“Omni Ecosystems in Chicago grow quite a bit of greenery from the rooftop of a building by laying down really good nutrient filled soil,” Kawamura said.
Omni Ecosystems is a green infrastructure company that creates sustainable agriculture by laying down viable landscapes that can produce an abundance of greenery from the roof of a high rise.
Kawamura is working on a new project at the Great Park in Irvine, where he is developing 100 acres of commercial farming where new 21st century farming technologies will be on display for the public to see and learn about.
Erica Nieves, a health and nutrition education teacher at Seeds of Hope, said she learned a lot from Kawamura’s speech.
“We teach garden workshops, nutrition education and urban food production,” she said. “I learned a lot about the new developments that are coming to urban agriculture.”
Max Lasiter, a second-year plant science graduate student, said learning about agriculture should be emphasized more.
“It’s such an underappreciated area that is so important, yet it’s so neglected,” Lasiter said. “It’s important to learn and get informed about what is actually going on.”
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