Local food growers, consumers and entrepreneurs in the Lansing, Michigan area have had good cause to celebrate as of late. Last September, Allen Neighborhood Center, a community development agency that doubles as Mid-Michigan’s nonprofit food hub, opened the doors of a warehouse they’d spent months renovating.
Located directly behind their community center on the city’s northeast side, that building, the Allen Market Place, now serves as an incubator kitchen and indoor market. It’s also linked to an online market called the Exchange, that connects regional farmers and food producers with commercial and institutional buyers in a 75-mile range of Lansing.
Cedar Point Church in Maryville, Tennessee started growing its hydroponic garden for two reasons: to develop a program offering a sustainable and healthy food source to its church family, and to build a sense of partnership between church members and the community.
While the garden is still in its early stages (it was started about three months ago), Kurt Steinbach, the church’s lead pastor is enthusiastic about the growing produce. Currently, Harvest Farms Co-op, the name of the church’s hydroponic gardening operation, grows several varieties of tomato, bell pepper, hot banana peppers, Anaheim peppers, green leaf lettuce varieties, eggplant, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, and green beans. In late June, the co-op was preparing for its first harvest.
Many of Detroit’s urban agriculture ventures have a down-on-the-farm feel to them, but not the CDC Farm & Fishery. If anything, with its tubes and tanks, the business seems downright futuristic. You see, the Farm & Fishery is among the first aquaponic operations to set up in Detroit following the passage of an urban agriculture ordinance last year.
Aquaponic is a term that describes enterprises where aquatic creatures are raised and their wastewater is recirculated to help grow plants that in turn filter it for reuse. Located in a two-level building in the North Central Woodward area of the city, the grow station is now raising tilapia fish and cultivating herbs and microgreens to sell to area businesses.
One of the most tech-savvy areas of the sustainable agriculture revolution is indoor agriculture – growing in warehouses, containers and greenhouses using hydroponic, aquaponic and aeroponic systems. The industry has seen a wave of new technology commercialized of late, here’s some of the coolest:
The cynical view of the LED lighting that many indoor farms use to encourage plant growth is that it’s too expensive to buy and run, and too tricky to adjust the lighting to your plants’ needs. Yet, LED prices are forecast to halve by 2020, according to market research firm Lux Research, and tech geeks are now making lights cheaper and easier to run.
Edward Silva is a student at the University of California, Davis studying international agriculture, and is a founder of Henlight.
Recently, I experienced something that does not seem to happen often: over 120 youth from more than 20 countries around the world actually came to a consensus that entrepreneurship is the most overarching issue affecting youth globally. More specifically, entrepreneurship as it relates to food and agriculture. This overwhelming validation for agripreneurs is the result of a larger global experiment called the Y20 and signals a hopeful future for food and agricultural entrepreneurs globally.
Urban gardening is a long-time tradition in the city of Baltimore, Maryland, according to the new City Farms Coordinator Harold McCray.
“Its original purpose was in response to urban hunger and malnutrition—that was its root,” McCray says.
The idea to include community gardens within Baltimore’s parks developed later, according to McCray. Former Mayor William Donald Schaefer suggested a garden network, beginning as a horticulture division of Recreation and Parks which became City Farms. In 1978, the first City Farms garden, located in Clifton Park, took root.
“Our challenge is not only feeding people who are hungry today, but how do we work proactively to address the causes of hunger and poverty?,” asks Kathryn Strickland, Executive Director of the Food Bank of North Alabama. “That’s why we’re interested in supporting economic development within in our local food system; to help create meaningful jobs and healthy food access to really get at the root cause of the hunger and poverty,” says Kathryn Strickland.
What started as a single volunteer sitting behind a desk in a local senior center in 1984 has blossomed into an organization that helps feed 100,000 people over an 8,000 square mile service area in Northern Alabama, with the help of 200 partnering agencies. As Strickland explains, the food bank doesn’t only want to reduce hunger; it wants to give local residents, farmers and stakeholders the tools to connect the dots of a local food system.
Finding a place to prepare one’s product is a challenge faced by many food startups. In the Motor City, A nonprofit program called Detroit Kitchen Connect is solving that problem by linking up local food businesses with underutilized neighborhood kitchen spaces.
“Folks who are interested in food entrepreneurship, novices opening their small food businesses, they need placement spaces where they can create product in a commercially-licensed facility,” Director Devita Davison tells Seedstock.
“So Detroit Kitchen Connect answers that demand for these small micro-processing facilities for entrepreneurs to grow, to scale and start to make it as a food business.”
Audra Mulkern, a mother and events planner who lives in rural Washington state, didn’t set out to be a photographer. Her interest in food and farming, however, has taken her down a path that’s brought her work to publications like Saveur Magazine and Modern Farmer.
Currently she’s profiling the lives and impact of women farmers with an online social documentary effort called the Female Farmer Project. Launched last year, it features pictures and stories of women who farm and work with artisanal foods, which Mulkern shares through her website and social media.
Just how did Mulkern get started photographing female farmers? Quite by accident, it turns out.
“Four years ago, I took a summer off from my own garden and decided I was going to get everything I needed from the farmers’ market,” she says. “Over the course of the summer, I had been taking photographs with my phone of the vegetables and started to realize I was documenting the entire season of the market.”
States throughout America are embracing urban farming and gardening more and more every day, setting up shop in new cities and spreading the love of fresh greens to people across the state. One that has recently emerged into the urban community gardening scene is Nebraska.
Sarah Browning, extension educator of horticulture at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, says Nebraska has successful community gardens in many communities, both large and small.
“Here in Lincoln, there are several community garden areas managed by Community Crops,” Browning says. “These gardens are open to anyone in Lincoln to rent for a season. There are also several private community gardens, managed by church or neighborhood groups, that are open to use by their members.”