Republican candidate for agriculture commissioner James Comer wants to utilize some of Louisville’s abandoned properties for community gardens to address the lack of fresh produce in low-income areas.
The GOP nominee and state representative says it is a challenge to hold the attention of urban voters while running for this office, but this project could provide a segue to discuss bolstering economic development in rural communities and provide agricultural needs in urban centers.
Comer says he’s talked to other state representatives in the Jefferson County delegation about creating this urban-agricultural initiative, which would mirror a program in Chicago. It would also partner with state universities to address food security.
“And I drive around Louisville, especially in more of the poverty stricken areas and I see a lot of abandoned land and it’s close to the Ohio River so it’s good land. I mean the soil is good,” says Comer, who represents parts of southeastern Kentucky. “We could have a lot of gardens pop up all around Louisville and it’s a project that I want to make a priority for me and I’m real excited about it.”
For the past several years, Metro Government has launched a number of healthy food initiatives to combat a crisis in certain parts of the city. Recently, Mayor Greg Fischer appointed members of the Food Policy Advisory Council, which works to combat and reduce obesity in the city.
It’s unclear if the initiative would require the state to seize the property or demolish some abandoned houses, but Comer, who is a cattle farmer, says more details of the program are forthcoming.
“It not only helps people to grow their own locally grown food, it gives them a greater appreciation of where there food comes from,” he says. “So many of our young people and even adults now have no idea where milk comes from or where lettuce comes from. These are some of the things we can do in Louisville. It doesn’t take a large amount of land to produce a lot of vegetables.”
The Comer campaign is also planning a bus tour with another member of the GOP ticket, Republican attorney general candidate Todd P’Pool, to bring more attention to the race.
Comer is running against Democratic candidate Bob Farmer of Louisville in the fall election.