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The Feds want to bring farming back—starting with this garden in the Bayview

A man tends to plants in a sunny urban garden with rows of vegetation and buildings in the background.
People tend to area of the Florence Fang Community Garden in San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood | Source: Han Li/The Standard

Every Saturday, Shaomei Ouyang walks to a garden near her home in San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood to volunteer and help tend the vegetables: Chinese chives, A-choy and turnips.

“We are here for fun,” Ouyang said in Cantonese, laughing. “We are retired old people with nowhere to go. We can come here and talk to each other.”

Ouyang may not realize that her weekly activity is part of a national movement to promote urban agriculture and sustainability.

Led by President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is kick-starting an initiative in California to support farmers and increase farming and food production in cities.

Florence Fang Community Farm, the Bayview garden that Ouyang goes to every week, is ground zero for this initiative. The farm, named after a prominent Chinese American leader and former media tycoon, was the first to register with the federal agency in the city and has received thousands of dollars and other support from the initiative.

An elderly person in a straw hat is watering plants with a hose in a sunny garden.
A volunteer waters the vegetables at the Florence Fang Community Farm in San Francisco's Bayview neighborhood on Friday. | Source: Han Li/The Standard

Ted Fang, Florence’s son, oversees the garden. He told The Standard that since the farm got started 10 years ago, the neighborhood’s Black and Asian American residents have worked together to make it a success. Fang said the food produced on the farm will go to places with charitable purposes, especially helping the Bayview—where fresh produce is harder to find than in most other San Francisco neighborhoods.

On Friday morning, government officials, including California State Treasurer Fiona Ma and San Francisco Mayor London Breed, farmers and activists gathered at the Florence Fang Community Farm to kick off the urban agriculture initiative and announce two service centers to help urban farmers in Oakland and Southern California. The programs are intended to provide loans, grants, research, outreach and technical support.

Blong Xiong, the USDA Farm Service Agency’s executive director in California, said small urban farms became an important food source for many families during the pandemic.

Three people are smiling in front of a sign for the Florence Fang Community Garden.
U.S. Department of Agriculture's California official Blong Xiong, right, kicks off the urban agriculture initiative with Ted Fang, left, and Mayor London Breed. | Source: Han Li/The Standard

“That's why we need to support and continue to grow the organic community,” Xiong said. “To be a part of our agricultural infrastructure is critical.”

According to Mayor London Breed, who attended the press conference, San Francisco has 112 small community gardens serving over 100,000 people. Fang suggested all of them register with the USDA and utilize the resources from the initiative.

“[This farm] is not just for the surrounding community,” Breed said. “It is a bridge builder and a way to bring communities together to establish resiliency.”