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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture

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Posts By Abbie Stutzer

Economic Sustainability of Large-scale Aquaponics Subject of University Research

February 8, 2016 |
Maize High School in suburban Wichita, Kansas features an extensive hydroponics program. (photo courtesy of Jay Super/Maize High School)

Maize High School in suburban Wichita, Kansas features an extensive hydroponics program. (Photo courtesy of Jay Super/Maize High School)

Two years ago Claude Galipeault approached Georgia’s Armstrong State University Biology Department head Matthew Draud with a novel research idea: testing the economic sustainability of aquaponics.

Draud’s curiosity was piqued and he decided to visit Galipeault to check out his aquaponic system, which he had constructed in his basement.

“I quickly identified with his mission – it was focused on inventing technologies to make aquaponic systems more economically sustainable,” Draud says. “Since that meeting, I brought the idea of a collaboration to university officials, who were supportive assuming I could find the funding. I discovered that The Forum Group Charitable Foundation had funds dedicated to research into the profitability of aquaponics systems and eventually secured a $100,000 donation to support our project.” Read More

Navajo Nation Hikes Tax Rate on Junk Food and Incentivizes Healthy Eating

February 3, 2016 |
Since 2012 the Diné Community Advocacy Alliance has worked to help people within the Navajo Nation stay healthy throughout their lives. But in 2014, the DCAA took their advocacy a step further by enacting a two percent tax on unhealthy foods. Image courtesy of Diné Community Advocacy Alliance.

In 2014, the Diné Community Advocacy Alliance enacted a two percent tax on unhealthy foods. Image courtesy of Diné Community Advocacy Alliance.

Since March 2012, the Diné Community Advocacy Alliance has worked to help people within the Navajo Nation stay healthy throughout their lives. But in 2014, the DCAA took their advocacy a step further by enacting a two percent tax on unhealthy foods and a five percent tax break on healthy foods

“As a response to the diabetes epidemic, the dominant culture of unhealthy foods in our stores, and our Navajo Nation being a 99 percent food desert, we decided to address unhealthy foods in our community,” says Denisa Livingston, DCAA community health advocate. “The tax helps bring awareness to the epidemic and could draw more focus on reducing the prevalence of obesity and diabetes, and eventually, impact these incidences.” Read More

Hydroponic Farm in Alaska Combats Weather and Produce Shortfall by Growing Indoors, and Upward

January 28, 2016 |
Hydroponic organic lettuce from Alaska Natural Organics (ANO) Vertical Farm. Photo Courtesy of ANO.

Hydroponic organic lettuce from Alaska Natural Organics (ANO) Vertical Farm. Photo Courtesy of ANO.

The idea for Anchorage, Alaska-based hydroponic vertical farm Alaska Natural Organics was conceived when Jason Smith was working as a surveyor in the Frontier state. Smith and his wife had recently become interested in becoming healthier due to family health issues. 

“We just became a little bit more aware of what we were putting in our bodies; reading more about it. And in this process we started trying to eat healthier,” he says. The couple tried to buy organic produce of all types whenever possible.

In doing so, Smith became very aware of the high price of produce in Alaska, and the unfortunate reality that the quality of fresh produce in the state is often poor. Read More

Women in Food: Kim Doughty on Leaving the Lab to Pursue Her Urban Farming Dream

January 21, 2016 |
Kim Doughty. Courtesy Kim Doughty.

Kim Doughty. Courtesy Kim Doughty.

Kim Doughty is an urban farmer and member of the Arkansas GardenCorps. But she came to farming in a roundabout way.

While Doughty grew up in a family that valued gardening, she only became interested in the local food movement later in life after getting exposure to a farmers’ market that was located near her home.

Seedstock recently interviewed Doughty to learn more about what motivated her to join the local food movement, promote nutrition education to fight childhood obesity and pursue her urban farming dream. Read More

Common Good City Farm Brings D.C. Community Together

January 6, 2016 |
Photo courtesy of Common Good Farm.

Photo courtesy of Common Good Farm.

From 1998 to 2006, Common Good City Farm was known as Shaw EcoVillage, a nonprofit that trained youth to become leaders of sustainable change in Washington D.C.’s urban neighborhoods. 

Through SEV’s EcoDesign Corps program, more than 500 youth got the opportunity to work on community-based projects focused on creating sustainable economic, environmental, and social change in D.C. 

“The EcoDesign Corps program included building and sustaining an urban food garden in D.C.’s Shaw neighborhood,” Rachael Callahan, executive director of Common Good City Farm, says. “Sadly, SEV closed in early 2007.”

Luckily, SEV has had a successful rebirth, thanks to nonprofit Bread for the City. Read More

Women in Food: Shakara Tyler on Racism in the Food System

January 4, 2016 |
Image courtesy of Shakara Tyler

Image courtesy of Shakara Tyler

While Shakara Tyler didn’t grow up on a farm, the doctoral student learned to love the land and developed an interest in food justice in her home city of Philadelphia.

Tyler completed her master’s in the Department of Community Sustainability (CSUS) at Michigan State University in August 2013. Her master’s thesis concerned Michigan black farm owners’ perceptions of USDA loan programs. Now, she’s working pursuing a Ph.D. at MSU and doing research on farmers in underserved communities.

Seedstock gave her a call to find out more about what she’s doing. Read More

Massachusetts Teenager Hooked on Local Ag After Completing ‘30 Day Challenge’ to Survive on Local Farm’s Produce

December 3, 2015 |
Noah’s peanut butter and jelly “sandwich.” Courtesy Noah Kopf.

Noah’s peanut butter and jelly “sandwich.” Courtesy Noah Kopf.

Sixteen-year-old Noah Kopf recently embarked on a challenge to eat only foods he produced or grew on his own for 30 days. The name of the challenge was appropriately called “Homegrown 30: A Month of Backyard Eating.” Kopf was successful – and while he says he found the challenge trying at times, he learned a lot during his journey.

Kopf first became interested in local agriculture about five years ago. “My family got a CSA at a local community farm and part of the requirement for the CSA is a certain amount of working volunteer hours,” he says. “My mom would bring me over after middle school and I helped weed the beds and pick stuff. I really enjoyed the work. I thought it was really cool that people were growing so much food right around us.” Read More

Survey Shows New Hampshire Residents Want More Local Produce

November 10, 2015 |
Photo by Jay & Melissa Malouin (via Flickr)

Photo by Jay & Melissa Malouin (via Flickr)

A survey out of the University on New Hampshire has uncovered a few surprising bits of information about the value consumers place on local produce.

The survey questioned 200 people and was conducted by John Halstead, professor of environmental and resource economics, and university students.

“There’s a lot of momentum toward producing more of our food locally and a lot of statements being made about how we should buy X percent of our food locally, and how if we just did this we’d produce all these jobs,” Halstead says. “I felt like there hasn’t been a lot of real economic research done that talks about why, for example, don’t we do this now if it’s such a great idea? Why is nobody doing it, and if it is such a great idea, what’s keeping it from taking hold?” Read More