The city of Sacramento wants to transform an empty lot near the Executive Airport into some kind of teaching farm. It's hoping the community will step up and provide input.
The lot, which used to be the city’s tree nursery, is in the Mangan Park neighborhood, next to its archery range. It's fenced off, but you can see a dilapidated greenhouse at one end.
The place hasn’t been in use for 10 years, according to city council member Jay Schenirer, who wants to see the roughly 5-acre parcel become a teaching farm for people who want to start careers in urban agriculture. He also envisions it as a place that offers hands-on classes for local students and adults.
"Bringing schools there to teach them about urban ag, about health and issues tangential to that,” Schenirer said. “And also, for community [members] that want to come in and learn about farming, we'd like to do that as well."
Schenirer didn't rule out the city using public funds to make it happen.
"I don't know if that money comes from the city, or through private donations, but we would have to find a funding source in order to be that glue that holds it all together," he said.
Sara Bernal's been running a group of incubator farms in West Sacramento for five years. The program is part of the Winters-based Center for Land-Based Learning, which helps beginning farmers get established before launching on their own.
"I think one of the larger parts of having a successful incubator program is just having the funding to dedicate towards staff time," Bernal said. It’s difficult to find USDA funding for staff time for an urban farm, she adds.
Bernal says a 5-acre site like the one by the Executive Airport would need at least a minimum of one and a half full-time staff just to run the incubator program, in addition to administrative staff that secure grants to keep the funding going.
Lisa Littleton, a longtime resident of Mangan Park, thinks having an urban farm nearby could be good. But she also wanted to know if it was “the only idea being considered for that area.” A fenced-off dog park would be a good fit for the many dog owners in her neighborhood, Littleton said. As an avid walker, she’d also like the city to consider extending the recreational area of the park.
"Because there is a park and playground over there, but it's for little kids and it's a small area,” Littleton said. “I walk along that fence line all the way to one end of the park to back. So, if it could be extended as a walking trail, I would like that.”
There are some restrictions on how the defunct tree nursery site can be used, according to Councilmember Schenirer. He says that may mean only 50 people will be allowed on-site at a time.
Friday afternoon is the deadline for people — or organizations — to let the city know they want to take an active role in the project.