Vulnerable communities respond to local/global challenges by stewarding land in ways that sequester CO2, build green economies and health.
Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.
The Inland Empire (IE) of Southern California is possibly the most important and diverse region in the United States, yet it is largely unknown and uncared for. Over 40% of the nation's goods from overseas pass through the IE. The region is crucial to our state, nation, and world's future because it represents ground zero for climate change adaptation, the need for economic innovation, as well as the challenges and opportunities for bringing diverse communities together to create solutions. As a major goods movement hub and also one of the most polluted, hottest, and driest places in the US, the IE's inhabitants are at risk of wildfire, chronic illness, and other unlivable conditions. Industry is the source of most jobs in the IE, yet it does not provide a living wage. Additionally, industry is the primary cause of pollution and environmental degradation in the area. The solutions built here are relevant to solving problems across the nation as everywhere is getting hotter and drier and economic disparity increases. At the same time, agriculture, which was once the region's primary industry, is quickly being replaced by polluting extractive industry. Huerta Del Valle feels hope because there is still land to be worked and capable people to rebuild a green future. Huerta is made of people who live, work, and have families in this region -- our desire to improve the land is not one of choice rather necessity. We work to build a livable future for our families and communities, as well as create a model for the rest of the world. Despite imminent climate disaster, we believe that there is still enough land and resources in the IE to rebuild an innovative, green economy that creates good jobs, heals the land, sequester CO2, and fosters diverse community health. Despite being in possibly the most polluted and unhealthy part of the US we are thrilled as a community to be able to work towards building a healthier way of life.
Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.
Our challenges and our solutions!
A see of polluting warehouses.
The Inland Empire (IE) stretches from the eastern boundary of Los Angeles County to the Western boarder of Nevada and includes both Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. According to the Public Policy Institute, roughly 18.3% of San Bernardino and Riverside residents live in poverty. To add to the burden of poverty, the Los Angeles Times reported in 2015 that “People living near 60 Freeway in Ontario breathe the worst air in the Southland”. The combination of poverty and pollution leads to chronic illnesses such as depression, obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
Also contributing to these chronic health issues is the recent influx of the logistics industry, which builds warehouses on hundreds of acres of what could be agricultural land. Having a landscape full of warehouses instead of greenery negatively affects how people of the IE feel about their communities and their sense of self. However, if this population is prepared to enter into new careers as farmers and start businesses in diverse agriculture, then the regional food system can be preserved. New careers in farming will use land resources in environmentally beneficial ways, create healthy local food access, and provide new living wage jobs.
The inland empire is extremely diverse, and with a massive population of immigrants, the concept of growing one’s own food is not farfetched. From Mexican to Chinese, to Indian, to Native American, to European, our diverse immigrant population has a unique advantage in being able to build a livable future. Huerta del Valle is bringing these people together to make it a key part of the region's future. However, at this time there is no comprehensive program other than ours that offers resources to help vulnerable communities enter careers in farming. Farming and agriculture represent one of the best opportunity
Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.
As community in our region becomes poorer there will be less ability for purchase of high quality food, yet as the same population becomes sicker there will be greater need for such food sources.
As Citrus-greening disease begins to wipe out the citrus industry, thousands of acres will be removed from active farming and at risk for development. If not kept as working farms, our region will no longer sequester as much carbon and absorb what little rain there is. There are no clear alternatives to citrus especially as it gets hotter and drier.
There are not currently enough training resources to build capacity for new and beginning farmers to enter the green industry of agriculture which compounds the loss of citrus, which is a traditionally easy crop to grow.
More industry continues to develop which adds to pollution and compounds poverty by offering low-wage jobs. Electric vehicle and zero-emission tech is not being prioritized or coming out fast enough.
Our communities are at greater and greater risk of wildfire each year as drought persists and temperatures rise.
As the region becomes more and more diverse, traditional leadership and English language only government will not be able to serve the needs of the most vulnerable populations.
Each of these issues is interrelated and we see land-use decisions as ground zero. If land continues to be converted from farms to industry then pollution, warming, low-wage jobs, poverty, and illness will continue to compound. We see land-use as the key deciding factor connecting all of these issues.
Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.
Our vision is that land resources can be protected from development and held in trust though our partner organizations such as the resources conservation district. In particular land that is used for mitigation from devlopment can be held in trust by our resources conservation partners. Once protected our organization can work with diverse vulnerable communities to train them to sustainably manage these valuable land resources in ways that regenerate soil, sequester carbon, cool the environmental protect from wildfire, rebuild habitat, absorb water and produce delicious nutritions crops which can be the backbone of a new green industry. Our region was famous for being the Mecca of citrus 100 years ago. It can become a farming Mecca again, in which the most vulnerable populations steward the land creating environmental wellness visa vi a green food economy that creates good jobs and supports community health. We will address the compounding issues simultaneously through this model. Farms have always been key to the American Economy and now through this model can be the key to building a greener and livable future. This model, when successful, is scaleable and replicable across the US. As more people in vulnerable communities are trained and working in green industry there will be more demand and ability to purchase high quality food, which will in turn sustain the industry that is regenerating the planet and bringing health rather than destroying it. Once a viable livelihood that works to regenerate the environment is established we can transform into a more sustainable society. The agricultural and food industry and the IE is ground-zero to attempting this model.
High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.
People in the IE live in communities in which their friends, neihbors and families work in regenerative green industry on local farms and in local food business and make living wages. These people live in communities that are not polluted by industry rather breath in clear air and walk on clean soil that is the result of thousands of acres of trees, grassland, and sustainable farms. People eat well and avoid illness by having access to green space and healthy food that they can afford. People are able to walk or bike to work in fields, labs, restaurants, and offices that are dedicated to the local regenerative food and agriculture business. People can finish school and access training to join in this growing industry. Thousands of acres are preserved as working lands and managed in ways that conserve water, build soil, and sequester CO2 thus supporting our region's ability to resist and adapt to global warming. Land is seen as the key to the economy and health rather than a blank slate to extract from or build on. People feel happy, healthy, and safe in their communities and recognize the strength in diversity of their neighbors who all work together to care for the land-base that sustains them.
Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?
Keys to our vision:
Preserving land for regenerative agriculture through land mitigation and land bank program.
Involving the most vulnarable communities as stewards of this land through training and land connect pipeline.
Creating training, jobs, and a market for this land stewardship to result in viable livelihoods
Ultimately transforming land-use, economy in our region.
Ultimately impacting public health an environmental health.
Our mission is to bring people together to grow their own food and through so doing, create sustainable community empowerment and health.
Our vision is that the most vulnerable communities can be the ones to build solutions in our region that work for everyone. Vulnerable communities can do this be leveraging their very own assets as knowledgeable stewards of the land to preserve, regenerate, and enhance the land while producing an innovative green industry that provides needed jobs without damaging the environmental and public health. This vision is transformative because it dramatically repositions vulnerable communities from being the problem and those most impacted by pollution and poverty to being the ones who transform the entire region into a prosperous green region.
Taking into account our partners, our current assets, and current conditions Huerta del Valle is confident that this vision can become a reality within a decade with little achievements along the way. Land-use policy currently causes rapid development and mitigation for such development happens outside of the region. Land is preserved in other counties even when land is developed in our region. Policy and planning can be changed in order to create an innovative working lands bank/trust held by our partners IERCD. We already have over 60 acres to work on a small-medium-scale version of this. We are already working on needed policy change to achieve land preservation. We have already been successful on the 4-acre small scale and influencing policy in the city of Ontario.
Once achieved our farmer training programs and community engagement programs can connect people from vulnerable communities to this land where solution-making can begin. Specifically we will make a community-land pipeline that trains people to care fro the land with regenerative practices that also produce enough to match the growing food demand of our growing region and provide living wages for workers in the industry. People in our communities, especially immigrants, already have decades of knowledge about stewarding land. Usually its just the lack of resources the stops them from doing this.
Once thousands of new farmers are stewarding the land with regenerative practices other industries will emerge to sustain the farms such as restaurant, catering, farm to School, farm to hospital, land conservation science, green construction, composting and other green industries.
An abundance of green jobs, green spaces, and healthy food in the region will support development of greater public health outcomes and open opportunities for people to get healthier if they are already ill.
Ultimately this vision is something that we want to share with the world. We are asking for the all of the support we can get to make it a reality so that we can scale it, replicate it and demonstrate solutions for communities across the globe.
Develop 60 acres into regenerative farm models
Train 100 new farmers and connect them to the 60 acres or other land
Build local markets for production from farms
Preserve land through innovating land bank/trust policy across the region.
Scale the farmer training into farmer pipeline getting thousands to connect their livelihoods to managing the preserved land.
Explore larger industry investment in this vision such as carbon credits.
Continue to grow the model across the IE region.
Work to share the success and learning from this model across the USA and world.
Study impacts on CO2 sequestration, soil regeneration, and habitat restoration.
Study impacts on local economy and public health overall (chronic illness, wellbeing etc.)