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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture

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Q&A: Iowa Land Trust Looks to Support New Farmers

July 29, 2015 |
Sustainable Iowa Land Trust (SILT)

Sustainable Iowa Land Trust (SILT)

The Sustainable Iowa Land Trust (SILT), which launched this past January, is off to a strong start with the contribution of 53 acres of prime farmland near Omaha. The organization’s mission is to support sustainable farming through land conservation.

To find out more about the organization and its plans, Seedstock spoke with Suzan Erem,  SILT’s president.

Seedstock: When and how was SILT founded? Read More

Michigan Good Food Fund Looks to Fund Local Across the Food Chain

July 27, 2015 |

by Traci Knight

Image courtesy of Michigan Good Food Fund

Image courtesy of Michigan Good Food Fund

Access to fresh, healthy food as an economic development driver is becoming part of the picture in Michigan with the launch of Michigan Good Food Fund in June.

This statewide loan and grant fund will provide financing and business assistance to benefit communities with good food and economic opportunity, by offering funding from a broad sector of stakeholders, nonprofits, and philanthropist groups. The coalition is looking to support businesses to aggregate and distribute fresh produce in underserved communities while simultaneously building local economies. Read More

4th Annual Seedstock Conference to Explore Innovations Driving Growth of Local Food Systems

July 27, 2015 |

The 4th Annual Seedstock Sustainable Agriculture Conference: Innovation and the Rise of Local Food, which will take place this fall at UC San Diego, will explore solutions and methodologies that small farmers and entrepreneurs are embracing to grow more sustainably, improve access to fresh and healthy local food and manage resources more efficiently against the dueling backdrop of a lingering drought and burgeoning local food marketplace.

Slated for Tuesday, November 3 (Urban/Hydroponic Farm Field Trip) and Wednesday (Conference Day at UC San Diego), November 4, 2015, the event will explore, among other topics, how small farmers are embracing technology to grow food more sustainably, new business creation, water management, urban farming, food access and more.

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With Roots in Soilless Growing and Desire to Promote Health, Couple Sets Sights on Aquaponics Operation

July 24, 2015 |
Ruth and Noah Smucker are seen next to a small aquaponics system inside their home in Goshen, Indiana. They plan to install a larger enclosed aquaponics system in their yard, with their eyes on even further expansion. (photo courtesy of Noah and Ruth Smucker)

Ruth and Noah Smucker are seen next to a small aquaponics system inside their home in Goshen, Indiana. They plan to install a larger enclosed aquaponics system in their yard, with their eyes on even further expansion. (Photo courtesy of Noah and Ruth Smucker)

An aquaponics operation is coming to Goshen, Indiana, a town in the northern part of the state already rich with farms and a culture of local food.

Given the name High Water Mark by its founders, husband and wife Noah and Ruth Smucker, the aquaponics farm will be a source of organic produce.

Aquaponics combines hydroponics with the raising of fish, so plants and fish sustain each other.

Currently, the Smuckers have a small aquaponics system upstairs in their house, but what they plan to do is tear down their garage and build a 700-square-foot greenhouse in its place. They hope to have this completed later this year. Read More

Strolling of the Heifers’ 2015 Locavore Index: Building a Local Food System on a Tradition of Self-Reliance in Montana

July 22, 2015 |

by Rose Egelhoff

The Western Montana Growers’ Cooperative truck makes deliveries across western Montana. Credit: Laurie Childes.

The Western Montana Growers’ Cooperative truck makes deliveries across western Montana. Credit: Laurie Childes.

This piece is part of a series exploring the top 10 states in the Strolling of the Heifers 2015 Locavore Index.

In the 2015 Locavore Index, Montana clocked in at 7th in the country, on the strength of its many farmers’ markets, CSAs, food hubs and direct sales. Montana has ranked in the top 10 on the Strolling of the Heifers Locavore Index for four consecutive years, as long as Strolling of the Heifers has been compiling the index.

Agriculture is the largest industry in Montana, a state with more resident cattle than people. Five percent of the $3 billion that Montanans spend on food every year goes to local (in-state) food. Read More

Sustainable Agriculture Standard Refined from Outside Input, Seeks Testers

July 20, 2015 |
These solar panels in an Oregon vineyard are just one example of many aspects of sustainability. The Leonardo Academy is working hard on a National Sustainable Agriculture Standard, meant to serve as a reliable measuring stick for sustainability. (Wikimedia Commons photo)

These solar panels in an Oregon vineyard are just one example of many aspects of sustainability. The Leonardo Academy is working hard on a National Sustainable Agriculture Standard, meant to serve as a reliable measuring stick for sustainability. (Wikimedia Commons photo)

More and more companies are proclaiming sustainability, which is becoming all the rage. But how is sustainability defined and measured? How to differentiate between organizations practicing sustainability or just giving it lip service?

Meeting this need is Leonardo Academy’s Sustainable Standards Program.

Leonardo Academy, a Madison, Wisconsin-based nonprofit that develops and maintains a variety of sustainability standards, is close to unveiling an updated National Sustainable Agriculture Standard, dubbed LEO-4000.

A second public comment period for the Standard concluded on May 18. Significant changes were made to the Standard after the first public comment period ended in 2014, including ways to address the needs of small farms. Read More

Mahindra USA Boosts Michigan’s Urban Farm Space

July 17, 2015 |
Photo courtesy of Mahindra.

Photo courtesy of Mahindra.

Mahindra USA, a Houston, Tx.-based farming equipment manufacturer, shifted its focus towards sustainable agriculture, in 2010. And now the firm is looking to boost small urban farms with a recent investment of $100,000 in Detroit’s urban farmers.

Through its Detroit-based North American Technical Center, Mahindra awarded money and equipment grants to five Detroit nonprofits. The recipients include two community gardening programs, the Neighbors Building Brightmoor’s Farmway group and the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network’s D-Town Farm. The city of Detroit received a Mahindra utility vehicle. The tractor company has made similar awards to other metropolitan areas and their urban farmers in the past.

“As part of the urban ag initiative program it’s a natural fit,” says Martin Cisneros, Marketing Communications Manager at Mahindra USA remarking on the Detroit investment.  “I think it’s a movement we’re generally seeing across the industry; a more sustainable agriculture. Seems like the ecotype farming initiatives, the co-ops, is what you see a lot more of.” Read More

National Young Farmers Coalition Report Features Case Studies on Drought-Resilient Farming in the Arid West

July 15, 2015 |

Cover pageby Rose Egelhoff

The National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC) partnered with the Family Farms Alliance to create Innovations in Agricultural Stewardship: Stories of Conservation and Drought Resilience in the Arid West, a report featuring five case studies, with analysis of the balance of water usage around the year at three operations.

Released in May, the report is “an effort to elevate the voices of farmers and ranchers,” says Kate Greenburg, Western Organizer at the NYFC and co-author of Innovations in Agricultural Stewardship. The report also aims to show “the nuances of western water and how we really need policy that is nuanced and involves farmers and ranchers in shaping it.” Both the NYFC and the Family Farms Alliance are advocacy groups for independent farmers and ranchers.

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Five Reasons Alaskans Are Winning the Sustainable Food Race

July 13, 2015 |
A high tunnel in Alaska’s Matanuska-Susitna Valley  USDA/Creative Commons

A high tunnel in Alaska’s Matanuska-Susitna Valley USDA/Creative Commons

The Lower 48 have come far in the battle for local food, but Alaska has much to share when it comes to creating sustainable economies. Despite dramatic seasonal changes, infrastructure gaps and transportation challenges, sustainability has always been a way of life in many of Alaska’s small communities.

Here are the top five ways Alaskans are role-modeling sustainable food economies.

Marine Life Conservation Programming. Abundant marine life has sustained Alaska’s native population for centuries. Increased commercial fishing in the Bering Sea and ocean acidification has created numerous issues for local Alaskans and their small fishing communities. With a growing fish to school program, community supported fisheries and the advocacy work of the Alaska Marine Conservation Council (AMCC), protecting the natural resources of America’s final frontier has never looked brighter. Actively engaged in reducing bycatch and advocating for a reduction in exports, the AMCC is the small fisherman’s champion ensuring Alaskan fish is always available for Alaskan natives.
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Sustainable Ag + Food News: Seedstock’s Weekly Roundup

July 9, 2015 |

seedstock1 ISU program increases local food usage in Iowa schools | Ames Tribune

Excerpt: A recent program funded through the Leopold Center at Iowa State University proved successful in increased local food use at four northeast Iowa school districts. Read More