Posts By Abbie Stutzer
Paul Trudeau, owner of Southside Aquaponic Farm (SAF), founded his small, farming operation in Sacramento, Calif., in 2009. Although Trudeau’s aquaponic farm began as a hobby, the farm has since grown into a business endeavor and now serves Mulvaney’s Building & Loan, a Sacramento, Calif., restaurant.
The Learning Process
In the beginning, Trudeau scoured the Internet to find information and resources on how to start a small-scale aquaponic farm on his own. He found a lot of information and became involved with other people in the Sacramento area who worked with aquaponics. The learning process also included a lot of help from aquaponics organizations.
Hydroponics, and other sustainable gardening and growing practices, are gradually becoming more widely used in Nevada not only as a result of the arid climate and challenging soil conditions in the area, but also to increase local food production. And the Desert Research Institute (DRI), which is part of the Nevada System of Higher Education and conducts various research projects concerning environmental science every year, wants to ensure that young people on board with the developing industry there.
In fact, there are many hydro-centric businesses emerging in the area, said Amelia Gulling of DRI, who is the administrator for the institute’s GreenPower Program. “And there are going to be some international businesses hopefully coming specifically to Las Vegas to do larger scale hydro-farming,” Gulling said.
Luke Ebner and Angela Stanbery were fine art majors who also had an eye (and a few green thumbs) for organic gardening. Ebner started working at Permaganic Co.’s Eco Garden, a community garden, educational program and non-profit in Cincinnati, Ohio, part-time in 2003. Stanbery joined him in 2004.
While Ebner had previous experience working at various organic farms and Stanbery worked as a ‘horticulture helper’ with the Cincinnati Park Board, the couple never dreamed they’d take over and transform Eco Garden into a non-profit, educational organization.
Not many restaurateurs would commit to building their own aquaponics system in the basement of their restaurant. But Anton Kotar, owner of Anton’s Taproom in Kansas City, Mo., had experience raising tropical fish and tending plants in his home so he knew he could make the sustainable, aquaponic-restaurant concept work.
Anton’s Taproom opened in October 2012, and started serving food on November 1. And Kotar worked on the space, renovating the historic building and constructing fish tanks, 14 months before opening. Since opening, the restaurant has seen a lot of success, and the restaurant’s aquaponic and vertical farm system are running swimmingly.
Jeff and Laura Hamons manage Synergistic Acres, a sustainable livestock farm in Parker, Kan. Neither Jeff nor Laura grew up on a farm, but the couple decided to go into farming because they believe everyone in the Kansas City-area should have access to healthy, humanely-raised meat.
Synergistic Acres has been operating for a year and the family’s farming lifestyle has synched with their personal belief system. “We had not even considered living on a farm two years ago,” Jeff Hamons said. “We have tried to get a fast start without growing too fast too soon. We had a great first year and connected with a lot of families searching for the same food we raise.”
Last year, the farm raised around 500 broilers, 75 turkeys, breeding sows, a boar, four grower pigs, 18 cattle, and a flock of 70 layers. The Hamons keep livestock in a natural setting. The farm’s animals live their lives outside on pasture.
Charles Nichols and Samir Ibrahim think solar energy is the key to helping small-scale farmers succeed. Together, Nichols and Ibrahim co-founded SunCulture and created the AgroSolar Irrigation Kit to help Kenyan farmers farm more sustainably.
The Irrigation Kit that they developed uses solar water pumping technology and high-efficiency drip irrigation. Because the pump is solar it works well in Kenya’s climate, especially the country’s drier regions, noted Ibrahim.
In many urban areas across the nation, access to fresh, locally grown and produced food is difficult to come by, and South Florida is no exception. Seeing an opportunity to address challenges to local food availability in this area, The Urban Farmer, a Pompano Beach, Fla.-based organization that grows and sources locally grown food, was launched to meet the demands of South Florida residents for locally and sustainably grown food. While The Urban Farmer is still in startup mode, it’s garnering support and keeping afloat because of its founders’ love of educating – and feeding – Floridians awesome, local produce.
I recently got in touch with Stephen Hill, a principal at The Urban Farmer, to find out how and why the organization was founded, how Urban Farmer serves Florida and what the organization has planned for the 2013 season.
Farmscape, a company that installs and maintains urban gardens throughout Los Angeles, CA, decided to take two spectacular things – fresh produce and a dinosaur – and create an app out of them. The app, Agrisaurus, is designed to take the guesswork out of small-scale gardening and farming, and help farmers plan and plot produce sites.
On March 12, Agrisaurus became available for anyone to download. I recently got in touch with Rachel Bailin of Farmscape and Agrisaurus, and found out why Farmscape’s founders thought the app would help gardeners, and how the app works.
Brooke Salvaggio, founder and owner along with husband, Daniel Heryer, of Kansas City, Mo-based Urbavore Urban Farm, started farming in Kansas City when she was 24 years old. She grew up in suburbia, surrounded by fertilized lawns, SUVs and plastic bags. “I was a bit jaded as a teenager,” Salvaggio said.
When she turned 18 years old, Salvaggio started traveling. “I was looking for answers and thought I might find them in older parts of the world,” she said. “I experienced simple living off the land and I was hooked.”
Just a couple of bad seeds
When Salvaggio returned to Kansas City, she started to grow gourmet, market crops on a 1/4-acre and founded BADSEED, a “green” event-space in downtown KC. She sold the produce she grew at farmers’ markets. In 2009, Heryer, co-owner, joined Salvaggio and began working at the farm.
A simple passion for great tasting food and sustainability fueled the founding of Amelia’s Farm, a hydroponic farm based in Bells, Texas. Amelia Von Kennel, co-founder and executive vice president, and Ben Von Kennel, co-founder and chief executive officer, established the Farm in October 2011. The couple sold their house in Dallas, Texas, and moved their family ranch to Bells, Texas. Since the move, the Von Kennel’s focus has concerned strengthening the Amelia’s Farm brand, and building a 6,000 square-foot, commercial, hydroponic greenhouse. The Farm grows pesticide-free, non-GMO produce all year round.
I recently had a conversation with Amelia Von Kennel. She discussed how the couple started farming, why she and Ben value healthy food and how the Farm stays sustainable.
Try to imagine how a normal, modern-day, high school science classroom looks. If your mind fills with images of beakers, microscopes and memories of dreaded, early-morning labs, then the classrooms of Kevin Savage, a high school environmental science teacher at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy, Cincinnati, OH, may surprise you. While teaching at the private school, Savage filled his classes with unique tools including aquariums, fish and plants that he uses to teach his students.
Savage, who originally worked in environmental consulting, began teaching chemistry at the school three years ago. Savage now teaches an environmental science AP class and a senior elective that focus on sustainable and urban agriculture, and aquaponics.
Since 2005, Cultivate Kansas City (Kansas City, Kan.), formally known as the Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture, has helped farmers manage urban farms. The organization started small and has steadily grown over the past eight years. Cultivate KC now manages two farms, and helps support multiple urban farmers and gardeners.
I recently spoke with Ami Freeberg, community outreach coordinator at Cultivate Kansas City, about the organization. Freeberg discussed how Cultivate KC has evolved and how the organization continues to help urban farmers thrive.