Posts By Abbie Stutzer
In the economically depressed and food insecure City of Petersburg, VA, a former YMCA building long neglected, but not forgotten, has become a beacon of growing hope in the community. Over the past two years the building has been refurbished and transformed into a high tech indoor farm and urban agriculture research center to provide workforce development training and increase food access through the production and distribution of high quality, fresh produce to area residents.
The center known as Harding Street Urban Agriculture Center is run by Duron Chavis, a community advocate and Indoor Farm Director at Virginia State University – College of Agriculture. Seedstock recently spoke to Chavis to learn more about the origin of Harding Street Urban Agriculture Center and its indoor farm, its goal, the sustainable methods employed in the indoor farm’s operation, and more.
When 1 in 7 people are going hungry in a country that throws out half the food it produces, there isn’t a supply problem; there’s a distribution problem. This was part of the hypothesis tested in a 2011 study conducted by former University of Colorado students Caleb Phillips and Becky Higbee. By looking at data collected through a local food rescue organization, the study found that large volumes of food were going to waste in northern Colorado because there wasn’t a well-coordinated effort capable of catching that food before it became completely unusable. The research team showed that, with funding and adequate labor, organized food rescue and redistribution efforts were not only possible at small and large scales, they could also capture enough potentially wasted food in Boulder and Broomfield Counties to feed everyone in that area.
On the wings of this information, Phillips and Higbee joined with friends Nora Lecesse, Helen Katich, and Hana Dansky to form Boulder Food Rescue. The project began with the same systems-minded approach as the study. The BFR crew met with local grocery store officials, whose stores were trashing unsold food, and asked why they wouldn’t choose to donate it instead. Some blamed the rules of local food banks, which prohibited donations of produce outside of its original packaging. Many more grocery managers lamented that food gone past a supermarket’s saleable standards is too perishable to survive the extended journey from store to food bank to plate. As the study had already shown, timing was key.
Selling seafood in New England has never been a problem. But with local fish populations collapsing, and the appetite for seafood remaining the same, providing fish to sell is becoming more dire than most people may realize.
“Living in New England, we are assailed with seafood left and right—it is a humongous part of the culture up here—and a delicious one at that,” Redemption Fish Company co-founder Andy Davenport says. “With the constant pressure on the oceans and recent restrictions on fishing, such as the Cod populations in the Gulf of Maine, we figured we would help lighten the load and provide people a local option to [help] the hurting oceans and the current farmed fish option that’s from hundreds of miles away.”
To be clear, Davenport and his business partner Colin Davis aren’t your typical New England fisherman. They met as roommates in Cambridge, Massachusetts while Davenport was working in the biotech industry and Davis ran a farm-to-table grocery business. With their backgrounds, it may make sense that aquaponics was a natural outgrowth of their friendship.
Food is food because it’s meant to be eaten. But all too often, what’s intended for the table ends up in the dumpster. To address the issue, a growing movement of developers is creating easy-to-operate tech tools to help people produce volumes of food with less surplus and rescue food that would typically go to waste.
For generations, the face of farming in America has been the face of a sun-baked, hard-working man. Even with record growth in the number of female farmers, men still make up approximately 70 percent of primary and secondary farm operators, creating a collision course between entrenched gender biases and taboos and the realities of farming’s changing demographics.
Annie’s Project, founded in 2003 by University of Illinois Extension educator Ruth Hambleton, is one organization pushing to help the new generation of female farmers and ranchers over those hurdles to access the tools they need to be competent, successful growers, farm business managers, and business partners. The 18-hour curriculum combines an introduction to the five traditional risk areas of farming–farm risk management, production, marketing, legal, and financial and human resources–with lessons learned by Hambleton in more than two decades of field support.
“In my first 25 years of extension work, I listened to the many concerns and requests that farm women had,” Hambleton says.