Rose Hayden-Smith •

public policy

Farming in Los Angeles – Yesterday and Today

Did you know that up until the 1950s, Los Angeles was the number-one food producing area in the nation? Now it’s the nation’s most food insecure with many suffering from hunger and poor nutrition.

That’s the topic of LA FOODWAYS, which examines the history of food in the nation’s second most populous city after New York. The multimedia series is comprised of a one-hour documentary, six digital episodes and digital articles. These stories tell the storied agricultural history of Los Angeles, as well as our current food waste challenges. Just as we witnessed with the wartime community and school gardens, there are creative opportunities to bring fresh foods to urban communities.

This series is “a deep dive into the different manners in which local organizations are coming together to ensure the future of agriculture in the region in order to identify environmentally friendly solutions for the future,” says KCET-TV, where it is airing the documentary at following times:

Wednesday        Feb 6, 8:00 PM PT

Sunday                Feb 10, 5:00 PM PT        

Wednesday        Feb 13, 11:02 PM PT

Friday                   Feb 15, 10:00 PM PT       

Tuesday              Feb 19, 10:00 AM PT     

Wednesday        Feb 27, 9:00 PM PT        
Learn about LA’s Agricultural Past

It’s really fascinating to look back at how Los Angeles once led the nation in areas like wine grapes, chicken farms and beekeeping. Many suburban growers contributed to this food production with small acreage, as you’ll see in this article I wrote for

You’ll learn about an important book that illustrates this historical time period when the City of Angels was the nation’s agricultural powerhouse.

This valuable resource was co-written by certified Master Gardener Judith Gerber and Rachel Surls, Sustainable Food Systems Advisor for University of […]

By |February 5th, 2019|Categories: History, Media, public policy||0 Comments

The past could hold keys to a new national food policy

The past could hold keys to a new national food policy. I would encourage policy makers and influencers to search our nation’s past for historical precedents that could help some of these ideas gain traction. They exist.

And there are some things we could do immediately that would facilitate positive transformation in the food system. Many of these recommendations are based in historical practice. These are teachable moments in our nation’s history, but also actionable moments.

1. Capitalize on the phenomenal interest in gardening. Support a gardening ethos at all levels, incorporating policy, practice and demonstrating personal value.

To paraphrase Gandhi, be the change you want to see in the food system. Grow something for yourself. Grow something for your community. Move your backyard garden and make it a front yard garden. Claim an unused space in your community and grow it. Share your gardening skills with youth in your community, at a school or an after-school program, or through a church youth group. Volunteer to grow container vegetables at a senior facility. Scale up to the community level – and the state and then national level – much like the Victory Garden programs of WWI and WWII.

2. Preserve what is grown. Reduce food waste.

We should also focus on food conservation and preservation…and on reducing food waste. The amount of food waste in our nation is staggering; simply reducing that could help address at least part of the nation’s hunger issue. WWI and WWII models of food conservation and preservation programs provide a clear road map on how to accomplish this task. The Cooperative Extension Service is seeing growing interest in its Master Food Preserver Program, which equips volunteers to train others in communities on food preservation […]

“A hungry man is not a free man”

Adlai Stevenson once said: “A hungry man is not a free man.”

As a Victory Grower, I am not only concerned about growing things in my own garden, but about the dynamics of the larger food system(s) in which I participate. I am particularly concerned about hunger, which I believe is one of the most pressing moral issues of our time, and also one of the most vital national security challenges we face.  The federal government once used the term “nutritional defense”.

Hunger in America is complex. It reflects many societal and policy issues, including stagnant wages, a lack of affordable housing, workforce trends influenced by globalization, and other ineffective public policies. Hunger is a highly political issue. In fact, be on the watch in the next few days for more widespread labor actions among low-wage food workers. Ironically, many of those who help produce, prepare, serve and sell us food are at risk for hunger.

I discuss hunger (see also food insecurity, food security) throughout my book, and I have some public policy recommendations that I think are important.

You can help some this weekend, by participating in the U.S. Postal Service’s annual food drive. Simply leave food items by your mail box for your mail carrier to collect.  To my knowledge, the USPS doesn’t have the ability to handle fresh produce donations from the garden, but shelf-stable food items are most welcome.

“A Garden for Everyone. Everyone in a Garden.”

By |May 9th, 2014|Categories: public policy||0 Comments

China’s Farmland Crisis: 1/5th Polluted

A recent report produced by the Chinese government indicates that nearly 1/5th of that nation’s farmland is polluted.

This is astounding, troubling and heartbreaking. It has enormous implications for the global food supply and myriad ecosystems. It impacts each of us – even if we don’t live in China – because food and environment are global issues.

The environmental degradation in China and how it affects food production there, in the end, is owned by all of us, because our life together on this planet transcends national interests. We are inextricably linked by our mutual reliance on a thin crust of earth – soil – to sustain all human life. Lack of sustainability in one part of the globe impacts the sustainability of the entire system.

Please read my book, “Sowing the Seeds of Victory: American Gardening Programs of World War I” for some contemporary observations about American food policy vis-à-vis China. You’ll find I don’t like some of it, and I’ll provide reasons why I believe it’s not sound food policy.  The book may surprise you: it is not only about WWI food policies, but also has a great deal of information about current food policies and ways we might improve them.

“A Garden for Everyone. Everyone in a Garden.”




By |May 6th, 2014|Categories: public policy||0 Comments