El Monte Urban Agriculture Initiative Program

El Monte Urban Agriculture Initiative Program

Connecting a community through healthy food

**NCC-ASLA Honor Award / 2015

In 2010, El Monte was awarded funding from the State of California’s Strategic Growth Council to establish an Urban Agriculture Initiative Program (UAIP), which was a one-year program that resulted in the development of a recommended list of action items for the City to achieve sustainable food production policies within the city.  Over a 10 month period, and in collaboration with PMC, we engaged city staff, non profit organizations, school districts and community members from across the city, seeking input on all aspects of urban agriculture from key issues and concerns, to needs, and potential solutions and strategies for action.

The scope of the project was to develop an Urban Agriculture Initiative Program Report. This report was to be created after an extensive community outreach process and needed to include: 1) Existing Food System Inventory & Analysis; 2) Agricultural Models; 3) Barriers Inventory & Analysis; 4) Best Practices Inventory & Analysis; 5) Impacts Assessment & Analysis; 6) Site Inventory & Analysis; 7) Conceptual Plans & Designs; 8) Partnership Inventory & Analysis; 9) Financial Sustainability Analysis; 10) Public Outreach Campaign with educational materials as well as prepare and process the required environmental documents in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

Urban Agriculture (UA) is the process of growing, processing and selling food within the urban environment including animal husbandry. The intent of the project was to identify the communities top priorities and the areas where the different UA activities could be developed within the City. The project was aimed at improving the health and welfare of El Monte residents by developing a comprehensive set of implementation guidelines to encourage UA activities. We helped the City identify the different ordinances and policies that required modifications in order to allow, promote and incentivize UA activities within the City. The over arching goals of the UA plan were to facilitate the creation of community gardens, school gardens, farmers’ markets, and improve the access to healthy foods within the local food system. Specifically, the plan looked at establish policies and guidelines to meet several social, economic, and environmental sustainability goals set forth by the City of El Monte General Plan, within the Health and Wellness Element and the Urban and and Community Forestry Management Plan. The project was set forth seeking to improve the overall quality of life for El Monte residents by providing healthier food options and more opportunity for recreation and connection through food.

We helped the city draft the UAIP Report, as well as a guide for several issues the community wanted to develop. It  included a guide to start farmers markets, edible schoolyards, community gardens, and recommendations on possible changes to city policies and ordinances (e.g. planting edibles in public spaces and creating a pollinator-friendly habitat). The report was designed and written with the intention of making it a reader friendly document that can be picked up by any member of the community and easily read.

We especially enjoyed the time spent with the community and hope this innovative project serves as a base to inspire the community of El Monte to grow lots of edible gardens and be the model for other cities. We are proud to have worked with the City of El Monte, leading the way on this exciting and new approach to sustainable planning.

You can download and read the full report here

Year: 2014
Status: Completed 
Location: El Monte, California

City of El Monte Economic Development Department
El Monte Urban Agriculture Initiative Program
We were first introduced to the community at the Children's Parade in October 2013. Here, they were made aware of the efforts the city was taking for the UAIP. We used the time to gather input.
El Monte Urban Agriculture Initiative Program
At the Community Workshop #1 (Jan. 2014), we gathered input on existing conditions, where people shopped for produce, and what needs, barriers, and opportunities they sought.
El Monte Urban Agriculture Initiative Program El Monte Urban Agriculture Initiative Program
The second Community Workshop (April 2014) allowed community members to flesh out and prioritize solutions.
El Monte Urban Agriculture Initiative Program
Community Workshop #2
El Monte Urban Agriculture Initiative Program
A series of educational materials were produced to help people understand the concepts of urban agriculture and how they could be implemented in El Monte, like a coloring book for children and a booklet on how to start a school garden.
El Monte Urban Agriculture Initiative Program
To assess the existing urban agriculture conditions in El Monte, the project team conducted a number of site visits to city parks, schools, community events, city agencies, and community gardens and farms. Here, we are bike touring the Rio Hondo, trying to identify possible locations for urban agriculture.
El Monte Urban Agriculture Initiative Program
Meeting the farmers at Earthworks Farm in South El Monte, CA
El Monte Urban Agriculture Initiative Program
El Monte is nested between two rivers and had its origins as an agricultural community with rich fertile soils and a temperate climate. It used to be called the "Garden City of the Valley" and it is now considered to be a food desert--an area where healthy and nutritious food is hard to obtain. We want to thank the City and community members for all of their participation in this project. We hope this UAIP will empower the community to transform their City back to its abundant roots.