Food Bank looks to expand urban farm

City Council to decide on 20 year land lease agreement this week

Author: Tim Gerber , Reporter,
Published On: Jan 29 2013 06:25:42 PM CST   Updated On: Jan 29 2013 06:41:59 PM CST

The San Antonio Food Bank is looking to get deeper into the farming business with the help of the City of San Antonio.

For the past few years, the Food Bank has operated a small farm on its property, this week they could enter into a lease agreement with the city to expand their urban farm by more than 20 acres.

To make room for its ongoing warehouse expansion, San Antonio Food Bank Executive Director Eric Cooper said their small farm had to be removed.  It will be replaced this summer when construction wraps up and Copper hopes to expand the farm beyond its current four acres.

Cooper said they've found the land in their own backyard on 23 acres of city owned property.

"It was old farm land back in the day, so we're just going to be bringing that back that farm land and it's pretty exciting," Cooper said.

City staff is recommending the city council approve a 20-year lease agreement with the Food Bank to grow fresh produce on the land.

Under the agreement, the Food Bank would lease the land for just $1 annually. In return for the cheap land, the Food Bank would set aside a crop yield from five acres to be donated to Haven for Hope.

With the ability to grow crops nearly year-round, Cooper expects the fields to yield all kinds of vegetables.

"We look forward to lots of cabbage, we want to grow some corn and peppers -- all the great healthy vegetables we can," Cooper said.

If they get the land, Cooper said a salsa maker located next door to the Food Bank has already agreed to share its runoff water to help irrigate the crops.

"As they wash those vegetables to make salsa, they have a lot of water runoff and that current water runs into the sewer," Cooper said. "We're going to be diverting that water from the sewer and we're going to be using that water to irrigate our urban farm and the other gardens here on our property."

While they get plenty of fresh produce from suppliers like year, Cooper said having their own farm could help educate residents about the need for more fresh produce in their diets.

"We can also harvest a lot of knowledge in educating our community about how to grow their own food and I think it's that move from dependence to independence is what we try to do," Cooper said.

If approved by the council Cooper said they would probably harvest their first crops in the spring of 2014.