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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture

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Ten U.S. Food Hubs Making the Local Connection

October 1, 2014 |
Puget Sound Food Hub 3—Workers load up a truck last winter at Bow Hill Blueberries, one of three Puget Sound Food Hub aggregation and distribution partners.  photo courtesy of Harley Soltes

Puget Sound Food Hub 3—Workers load up a truck last winter at Bow Hill Blueberries, one of three Puget Sound Food Hub aggregation and distribution partners. photo courtesy of Harley Soltes

A college in central Pennsylvania wants to buy food from local farmers to feed its students, but how? A big box retail store and a hospital in Louisiana would like to sell and serve local foods, but again, how? Rather than having to resort to purchasing food through a large wholesaler, which often means food being shipped from thousands of miles away, local and regional food hubs enable local growers and buyers to connect, keeping dollars in the community and improving health and nutrition. The following are 10 food hubs across the United States that are making it easier to serve up local food.  Read More

Cityblooms’ Automated Hydroponic Micro-farm Grows Nutritious Produce on Plantronics Company Campus

September 30, 2014 |

CITYBLOOMS conference seedstockSANTA CRUZ, Calif., Sept. 30, 2014 /PRNewswire/ – Plantronics Inc. (NYSE: PLT) is pioneering the use of on-site food production to boost employee nutrition as part of the company’s global commitment to sustainability.  Through a joint project with Santa Cruz-based Cityblooms, a prototype computer-automated farm has been installed at the Plantronics headquarters and is being powered by the company’s existing solar energy system.

The hydroponic micro-farm produces bi-weekly harvests of premium leafy greens and vegetables for the on-site cafe operated by Bon Appetit Management Company, a national leader in socially and environmentally responsible food service. “By locating these micro-farms close to the point of consumption, we measure farm-to-fork distances in yards, rather than miles,” said Nick Halmos, Cityblooms founder. “We eliminate the financial and environmental costs associated with food waste and food transportation.” Read More

How Do We Reshape Our American Food System? A Q&A With Union of Concerned Scientists’ Ricardo Salvador

September 30, 2014 |
Ricardo Salvador was the first professor to teach a course in sustainable agriculture at a land grant university. Now, he is the director of the Food & Environment Program for the Union of Concerned Scientists. (photo courtesy of Sarah Goldberg/Union of Concerned Scientists)

Ricardo Salvador was the first professor to teach a course in sustainable agriculture at a land grant university. Now, he is the director of the Food & Environment Program for the Union of Concerned Scientists. (photo courtesy of Sarah Goldberg/Union of Concerned Scientists)

Ricardo Salvador is the director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Food & Environment Program. He believes agricultural systems must change for the health of the Earth and its inhabitants, and was the first professor to teach about sustainable agriculture at a land grant university at Iowa State. 

Seedstock had the opportunity to speak with Salvador about the future of agriculture, the role of land-grant universities, and the developing science of “agro-ecology”. 

Seedstock: For years, our nation’s land-grant universities have focused on crop yields and profitability. How do leading agricultural research universities need to shift their energies to adapt to a rapidly evolving agricultural industry? Read More

USDA Awards Over $52 Million in Grants to Grow Organic and Local Food Economies

September 29, 2014 |

post_usdalogoNews Release – DOSWELL, Va., Sept. 29, 2014 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the award of over $52 million in support of the growing organic industry and local and regional food systems through five U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant programs. The Secretary made the announcement during an event with Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe and local farmers at the Virginia State Fair.

“Local and regional food systems are one of the pillars of our efforts to revitalize rural economies,” said Secretary Vilsack. “Consumers are increasingly demanding more local and organic options. Investing in local and regional food systems supports the livelihoods of farmers and ranchers, especially smaller operations, while strengthening economies in communities across the country. Today’s announcements also improve access to fresh, healthy food for millions of Americans.” Read More

Character Over Credit: Kiva Zip Creates New Model for Small-scale Ag Loans

September 29, 2014 |
Robert from City Bees in San Francisco, California is currently paying back his Kiva Zip loan of $5,000 to support his small beekeeping business Photo courtesy of: Kiva Zip

Robert from City Bees in San Francisco, California is currently paying back his Kiva Zip loan of $5,000 to support his small beekeeping business Photo courtesy of: Kiva Zip

Traditional banking systems are notoriously reticent to provide start-up capital, especially to farming ventures. Tightening regulations lending, institution consolidation and less USDA capital available overall in recent in years have conspired to make the situation even more difficult.

As  a result, small farm entrepreneurs across the globe are turning to non-traditional funding sources to jump-start and support their initiatives. One of these, Kiva Zip, a branch of the global lending organization Kiva, focuses on funding small business owners, including small farmers, in the U.S. and Kenya.

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Sustainable Ag News: Seedstock’s Weekly Roundup

September 26, 2014 |

seedstockFood hub could bring fresh produce, jobs to west Louisville

A new partnership is shedding light on the dire need for local food in three west Louisville communities and a vacant 24-acre site could be the key to linking supply and demand.

Source: WLKY

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Tech Tools for Food Hubs: Oregon Firm Builds Sustainability Through Software

September 25, 2014 |
Photo courtesy of Local Food Marketplace

Photo courtesy of Local Food Marketplace

Local Food Marketplace provides a software platform for food hubs that allows them to reach customers, aggregate production and compete with traditional distribution. 

“We help food hubs all the way from the planning process and working with their producers to figuring out what their availability will be on a weekly basis,” says Amy McCann, who co-founded the business in 2009. “We also help with writing sales sheets, creating invoices for customers and managing the distribution to the food hub’s customers.“

McCann says her personal experience working in the food hub environment helps her offer more than just tech support to her customers.  Read More

Why You Should Worry: Five Unhappy Truths about the U.S. Food System

September 24, 2014 |
Photo by David Sands

Michigan Urban Farming Initiative Photo by David Sands

While Seedstock regularly profiles those who are taking a sustainable and local approach to creating a new food economy, the fact remains that industrial farming and distribution methods still reign supreme in America. So we are taking a step back to remind ourselves why their work is so important.

The convergence of processed foods, chemically intensive farming and a gas-guzzling supply chain have created a food system in the United States that would have seemed fantastical—and quite possibly nightmarish—to folks who lived in this country just a century ago.

Here are five worrisome facts about the U.S. food system to keep in mind the next time you go grocery shopping.

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Missouri Program Brings Fresh Food to Regional Pantries, One Seed Pack at a Time

September 23, 2014 |
Photo by Kyle Spradley

Photo by Kyle Spradley

Grow Well Missouri has taken a simple concept – distributing seeds to people who visit a local food pantry – and started a mini-fresh food revolution. 

The program originated from the Interdisciplinary Center for Food Security at the University of Missouri, Bill McKelvey, Grow Well Missouri project coordinator, says. The program had its “soft opening” after a research group surveyed food pantry clients and discovered some interesting data.  Read More

California’s Largest Urban Farming Venture Finds Opportunity in Demand for Local Food

September 22, 2014 |
Photo courtesy of Farmscape Gardens

Photo courtesy of Farmscape Gardens

Farmscape Gardens is California’s largest urban farming company, bringing edible gardens to residential and commercial customers alike. The sustainability focused company has reach over 300 clients since its inception in 2009. A recent expansion into the Bay area reflects the growth of the local food market and the success of the Farmscape business model. 

“We have a lot of two-income households with kids for whom it’s really important to have access to fresh food in their lifestyle and access to a dynamic landscape, because vegetable gardens change every day, but they don’t have the time to do that. We step in and fill that void,” says Dan Allen CEO of Farmscape Gardens.  Read More