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  Jac Smit - Career Summary  
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Frequently referred to as the “Father of Urban Agriculture,” Jac Smit is the founder and Past President of The Urban Agriculture Network, Inc. (TUAN). Begun in 1992 in Washington, D.C., TUAN is a non-profit urban agriculture information and consulting organization. Jac has visited over 30 countries in his advocacy of urban agriculture programs and policies. He is the principal author (with Joe Nasr and Annu Ratta) of Urban Agriculture: Food, Jobs and Sustainable Cities, the best-selling book published in 1996 by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and launched that year at the World Urban Forum in Istanbul. This seminal book was the result of a 20-nation survey of urban agriculture undertaken by Jac beginning in 1991 under the auspices of UNDP and the World Bank.

In 2009, Jac stepped down as President of TUAN and encouraged its merger with MetroAg – Alliance for Urban Agriculture. The combined organizations have advocacy, information and educational programs based in part on TUAN's database of contacts and the world's most extensive library of urban agriculture.

Jac was born in London, England, on November 4, 1929, of Dutch parents; he came to the U.S. in 1932 settling with his family in rural Rhode Island. His passage was on an ocean freighter named, appropriately enough, American Farmer. Jac and his family later lived in the Midwest with most of the time being spent in Illinois. Thereafter, the family settled in the Boston, Massachusetts, and Manchester, New Hampshire, areas where his father continued his career as an economics professor.

By the age of twenty, Jac had worked in five major branches of agriculture and received a junior college degree in ornamental horticulture. After a short and successful career as a landscape designer, he was accepted by the Harvard Graduate School of Design and graduated in 1961 with a Masters in City and Regional Planning. He served as the president of the Harvard Organization of Student Planners. Jac's first urban agriculture planning paper was his thesis - the "Bergen-Rockland-Orange Sector Plan" - which integrated agriculture into the northward expansion of the New York Metropolitan area.

From 1963 to 1967, Jac worked for the Northeast Illinois Planning Commission on the Chicago Three-State Regional Plan. As Project Director, he led the team in designing a “hub and spoke” plan (development corridors separated by green productive wedges) that promoted agriculture in the green spaces in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. The Chicago Regional Plan was named the #1 regional plan in the U.S. by a national review committee.

During the next twenty years, Jac consulted in half a dozen countries in South Asia, East Africa and the Middle East. From 1967 to 1970, as the senior Ford Foundation planning advisor to the Calcutta Metropolitan Planning Organization, Jac generated an urban agriculture plan for the new port of Haldia and established a self-help urban agriculture project for East Pakistani refugees.

For the next two years, in Karachi, Pakistan, he led a consultant team for the United Nations to develop the Karachi 2000 Metropolitan Plan. Following the Pakistan civil war, Jac served as the Country Director for the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in the emerging country of Bangladesh from 1972 to 1975. Refugee colony urban agriculture was supported as well as aquaculture, poultry, vegetables and silk production (by women).

From 1975 to 1978, Jac was the leader of the United Nations' Suez Canal Planning project (at that time the largest planning project ever undertaken by the U.N.); this project featured a new, more productive type of agriculture for all three Suez Canal cities.

From 1978 to 1980, Jac was the chief technical advisor for the Tanzania Rufiji River Basin project for the Government of Norway. The project included coastal fisheries, small-scale irrigation and women's market gardening.

In 1980 Jac returned to Egypt to manage a renewal plan for an industrial suburb of Cairo and to finalize a long-term development plan for the Sinai Peninsula, both for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Urban agriculture was an important element in the plan for the mostly desert Sinai.

After three years as a Washington-based international consultant, Jac was hired in 1984 by the Government of Japan as the technical director for the tri-part Central Iraq, Metropolitan and Baghdad Renewal planning project (the largest Japan had funded up to that time). While serving in that position until 1989, the award-winning plan was adopted by the National Government. The survival of Baghdad's population during the United Nations' blockade in the 1990s and the protracted war in the 21st century was due in part to urban agriculture, a component of the city and regional plans.

Jac has made major contributions to urban agriculture plans in cities as diverse as Abidjan, Asmara, Baltimore, Bogota, Calcutta, Chicago, Dakar, Dar es Salaam, Dhaka, Jakarta, Kampala, Karachi, Philadelphia, Port au Prince, Port Said, Vancouver, and Washington, D.C. Some of his most satisfying urban agriculture efforts have been in refugee camps in Bangladesh, India, the Ivory Coast, and Tanzania.

Jac is a frequent speaker and presenter on urban agriculture at major conferences and workshops around the world including the United Nations 'World Forums'. He has frequently lectured at major universities in Europe and North America. His “on the ground” experience includes poultry, dairy, small livestock, orchard, berries, ornamental horticulture, vegetable production on rooftops, community gardens, refugee camps, truck gardens and street-side maple syrup production. He has published since 1980 in journals, magazines and on websites. He has collaborated on several books often contributing a chapter or a foreword and has been interviewed frequently on radio and TV, often in conjunction with a conference presentation.

Over the decades, his focus has expanded from food security for the urban poor to sustainable urbanization and reducing the contribution of cities to climate change and global warming. He has been active in the promotion of urban agriculture in the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area with the Chesapeake and Potomac Regional Alliance (CAPRA) and local community gardening organizations. He is also one of the founders of the International Network of Resource Centres for Urban Agriculture and Food Security (RUAF).

On a more personal note, wherever he has worked or resided, Jac has been a faithful member of the Hash House Harriers, the worldwide running club that celebrates each successful finish with a beer at a local pub or outdoor site. He has run with “harriers” in Canada, Egypt, Japan, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Mexico, Philippines, Senegal, Tanzania, Thailand, and of course the U.S. - wherever his travels have taken him.

Jac met the love of his life, Elise Fiber Smith, at a New Year’s Eve party in 1983. Elise is a world-renowned leader in the field of women in international development. She managed Winrock Intenational's Women's Global Leadership Initiative, beginning in Africa and extending to Russia. Previously she was the Executive Director of the (women's) Overseas Education Fund. She is the co-founder and first Chairman of the Board of Women Thrive Worldwide, which is a major American organization advocating to Congress on issues related to women in developing countries.

April 2009

Interviews with Jac
Urban Agriculture
Sustainable Development
Climate Change Management
Jac's Archive
21st Century Agriculture
Online Book