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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture

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Only Three Weeks to Go Until ‘Grow Local OC: Future of Urban Food Systems Conference’

October 20, 2016 |

grow local oc conference future of urban food systems orange countyThe Grow Local OC: Future of Urban Food Systems Conference presented by Seedstock in partnership with the OC Food Access Coalition is only THREE WEEKS away. Slated for Nov. 10 – 11, 2016, at California State University, Fullerton (Hosted by U-ACRE), the conference will explore the community and economic development potential of fostering local food systems in cities.

Below is a summary of the conference details:

Day 1 – Conference Day 

Day 1 (Nov. 10) of the conference, attendees will convene at the Portola Pavilion at California State University, Fullerton in Orange County, CA for a series of panels and keynotes that will address such topic areas as: Read More

USDA Announces Streamlined Guaranteed Loans for Smaller Scale Farms and Urban Producers

October 20, 2016 |

post_usdalogoPress Release – WASHINGTON, Oct. 20, 2016 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced the availability of a streamlined version of USDA guaranteed loans, which are tailored for smaller scale farms and urban producers. The program, called EZ Guarantee Loans, uses a simplified application process to help beginning, small, underserved and family farmers and ranchers apply for loans of up to $100,000 from USDA-approved lenders to purchase farmland or finance agricultural operations.

“Over the past seven years, we have been transforming our loan programs at USDA so that they can be attainable and useful to all kinds and sizes of producers,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “These EZ Guarantee Loans will help beginning and underserved farmers obtain the capital they need to get their operations off the ground, and they can also be helpful to those who have been farming for some time but need extra help to expand or modernize their operations. USDA’s Farm Service Agency has offices in nearly every county in the country, and we encourage all farmers, including those in urban areas, to stop in and inquire about this program.” Read More

A Big City Chef Returns Home to Plant Urban Farming Roots

October 20, 2016 |
Nolan Schmidt, of Tower Urban Family Farm, left life as a big city chef to return home to Fresno to start an urban farm. Photo courtesy of Tower Urban Family Farm.

Nolan Schmidt, of Tower Urban Family Farm, left life as a big city chef to return home to Fresno to start an urban farm. Photo courtesy of Tower Urban Family Farm.

Nolan Schmidt of Tower Urban Family Farm (TUFF) in Fresno, recalls a particularly eye-opening incident at one of his urban garden sites, when a group of children from a local school stopped by to sample some of their produce. “One of the kids tried a kiwi and you just saw his eyes light up like he had just discovered something he never knew was possible.” Nolan learned that none of these children had ever seen a kiwi. The irony was not lost on him. Not far from where these children lived, kiwis are farmed commercially on a large scale. “So maybe two miles from their home is a kiwi farm, but yet they’ve never seen a kiwi.” And just like much of the produce grown in this fertile area, it ends up being shipped elsewhere, served up in big city restaurants and markets around the world, while neighborhoods of Fresno are plagued with food deserts.

It was an unusual path that led Nolan to urban farming, for he is actually a chef by trade. At 17 he pursued the culinary arts, working in many restaurants in Fresno, until he realized that to progress he would have to move to a big city. He ended up working at a three star restaurant in New York. “It’s kind of funny that I had to cook in New York to realize I wanted to be a farmer in Fresno,” he says. It was there that he realized that Fresno and the Central Valley grow some of the best produce in the world, “And it’s then shipped around the world for all these chefs to define themselves.” Read More

Born of Triumph and Tragedy, Social Justice Org Fosters Health Equity and Well-being of Communities of Color

October 19, 2016 |
Dr. D'Artagnan Scorza speaking to volunteers at one of the Social Justic LI's gardens

Dr. D’Artagnan Scorza speaking to volunteers at one of the Social Justic Learning Institute’s gardens. Photo courtesy of Social Justice Learning Institute.

Though D’Artagnan Scorza grew up economically disadvantaged amidst a food desert in South Los Angeles, his family created an oasis of fresh fruits and vegetables that left him wanting for nothing at home.

“My grandmother grew corn and bell peppers, and grafted trees, though I didn’t know what that was until I got older and began to understand the relationship between food and the land.”

Scorza’s family not only grew their own food, but also cooked it.

“The history in my family is connected to food. My grandmother held food culture high in our family and it has always had a strong place,” he says. “My aunts, uncles, nieces all cook. I cook.” Read More

Qualify for a Chance to Win a Garden Tower Vertical Growing System

October 19, 2016 |
A Garden Tower 2. Photo courtesy of Garden Tower Project.

The Garden Tower, a soil-based vertical container garden system allows urban gardeners to grow 50 plants in just four square feet of space. Photo courtesy of Garden Tower Project.

Seedstock Grow Local OC Conference “Barn Sponsor” Garden Tower Project wants to help you jumpstart your urban farming efforts.

To do so, the company is offering anyone who purchases a ticket to the upcoming Grow Local OC: Future of Urban Food Systems conference the chance to qualify to win a Garden Tower. Three winners among those purchasing tickets for the upcoming conference will be chosen at random and announced at the conference on Thursday, November 10. Winners will be able to choose to have the Garden Tower delivered to their residence, or to donate it to a local organization of their choosing.

The Garden Tower, a soil-based vertical container garden system allows urban gardeners to grow 50 plants in just four square feet of space. The tower, which utilizes perforated tubing technology to facilitate the movement of worms and nightcrawlers within it, also enables gardeners to seamlessly compost kitchen scraps into organic fertilizer that helps power the system. It can be placed on a porch, an apartment balcony, or a rooftop, and easily rotates for plant access and sunlight. Read More

A Hydroponic Twist on the Family Farm

October 18, 2016 |
David Quick,

David Quick, head farmer at Quickley Produce Farm, which is run by four generations of family members. Photo credit: Alisa Welch.

Quickley Produce Farm represents a modern take on the family farm. It’s not a farm that has been passed down from one generation to the next, but rather a newly formed high-tech hydroponic farming operation run by four generations of family members.

Located in Galena, Missouri in the heart of the Ozarks, the farm, which officially took root in 2011, is run by David and Terry Quick. The couple’s daughter, Alisa Welch, and son-in-law, Russ Welch, play a pivotal role in day-to-day operations, and their three children — Dusty, Dawson and Bristol – lend a hand. Terry’s mom, Pauline Hedrick, also pitches in to make the farm a true family affair.

The family’s lineage points to a strong background in farming and gardening, but more recent generations had been working in a different trade: construction. That all changed in 2008 when the economy began to slow. Read More

Community College Hort Professor Prepares Students to Work in Indoor Greenhouses of the Future

October 17, 2016 |
Students in Professor Valerie Loew's Horticulture class at Fullerton College in Orange County, CA. Photo courtesy of Fullerton College.

Students in Professor Valerie Loew’s Horticulture class at Fullerton College in Orange County, CA. Photo courtesy of Fullerton College.

When it comes to Controlled Environment Agriculture [CEA], Valerie Loew wants the U.S. to catch up with Europe and China before it’s too late.

“The rest of the world is so far ahead of us, because they are so limited with their own resources,” says Loew, who is professor and horticulture department head at Fullerton College in Southern California. “They are taking advantage of this technology way before us because we have sunshine and we have water; but we really don’t. Between Europe and China, the amount of greenhouses they have is just off the charts. We need to start catching up.” Read More

South Carolina Teen Grows National Garden Organization to Feed Families in Need

October 13, 2016 |
Katie Stagliano is the founder of Katie's Krops, a nonprofit that . Photo courtesy of Katie's Krops.

Katie Stagliano is the founder of Katie’s Krops, a nonprofit that has helped kids across the country jumpstart 100 gardens in 33 states to help feed families in need. Photo courtesy of Katie’s Krops.

Katie Stagliano’s first cabbage fed more than 275 people. As an ambitious third grader in 2008, she nurtured a cabbage seedling in her backyard until it weighed about 40 pounds. Unsure what to do with her harvest, she approached the soup kitchen at Tri County Family Ministries in North Charleston, South Carolina. They turned her cabbage into soup, and Stagliano saw an opportunity to help feed families in need through gardening.

To grow food for those in need, Katie and her family started Katie’s Krops, a nonprofit that helps kids across the country start their own gardens. Since its founding, Katie’s Krops has helped jumpstart 100 gardens in 33 states.

Now, at 17 years old and getting ready for college, Stagliano is the youngest member of the Clinton Global Initiative and this June was recognized as a University of California Global Food Initiative “30 Under 30” recipient, an award given to young people who are addressing problems in the food system in creative ways. Read More

LA Green Grounds Digs in to Build Urban Farms and Strengthen Community

October 12, 2016 |
L.A. Green Grounds "Dig-in". Photo courtesy of L.A. Green Grounds.

LA Green Grounds “Dig-in” in South Los Angeles. Photo courtesy of LA Green Grounds.

In Los Angeles, CA, community members involved in the urban farming and food justice movements are keenly aware of the food insecurity that is so prevalent in its South Los Angeles neighborhoods. It was this insufficient access to healthy, nutritious food that spurred Florence Nishida to co-found LA Green Grounds, a volunteer organization that works with residents of South L.A. to convert their front lawns and parkways into edible landscapes and urban farms.

“If you have a garden in the front yard it leads to conversation, and that’s the most important thing,” says Nishida. “The minute you start growing squash, tomatoes, or something people have never seen before, they start asking questions, and that starts the conversation. Those conversations lead to a sense of community.”

Making vegetables a visible part of the community is what has guided LA Green Grounds ever since its founding in 2010. Read More

Impact Investment Firm Takes on Local Food Production to Increase Food Security in Hawaiian Islands

October 11, 2016 |

The Hawaiian Islands possess ideal climatic conditions to support year-round agriculture from consistently temperate weather to ample rainfall and abundant sunlight. Despite these favorable conditions, the islands rely on imports from the mainland and elsewhere for nearly 90 percent of the food that residents consume.

Last month, at the ICUN World Conservation Conference in Honolulu, Governor David Ige announced his pledge to double local food production by the year 2030. To help insure the success of this pledge, the Ulupono Initiative, a Hawaii-focused impact investing firm, has stepped into the fray to provide financial and advisory support to for-profit, non-profit and social ventures seeking to increase food security and production on the islands.

“We are pleased to hear about the governor’s announcement, and want to make it happen through investment means,” says Murray Clay, Managing Partner at Ulupono Initiative. “We are an impact investing firm, with one of the key areas of focus being local food production.” Read More