In this article, Addie Broyles profiles Jake Stewart, who is Austin Texas’ first full-time sustainable urban agriculture and community gardens coordinator, a position that was created in 2011. This story is indicative of the rise in urban agriculture across the nation.
Urban ag coordinator gains ground in Austin
By: Addie Broyles, Relish Austin
It was the quest for better fuel, not food, that got Jake Stewart into sustainable agriculture.
After studying environmental science at Texas A&M and earning a master’s degree in renewable energy at the University of North Texas in Denton, the 36-year-old Houston native traveled around the world working for international nonprofits to find better sources of biofuel.
But as he saw land and resources leveraged for fuel instead of food and how little was actually being accomplished at an international level, he headed back to Texas, where he switched gears to find ways to improve the food system.
“As I got lower to the ground, at the village level, I saw how much impact you could have,” he says.
A year ago, he was hired as the City of Austin’s first full-time sustainable urban agriculture and community gardens coordinator, a position within the parks departments that the City Council voted to create in February 2011.
When compared with the debate over fuel — both renewable and nonrenewable — food just doesn’t carry the same political baggage, Stewart says. “You don’t run into the angst or opposition that you do with fuel. People understand how spending money on local food is good for the economy, good for kids, good for food security. They see a great value to having production close to home. ”