Posts By Abbie Stutzer
Bluebonnet Hydroponic Farms has been in business since 2000, when Emile Olivier and his wife moved to the U.S. from Canada. Emile wanted to capitalize on his family’s small-scale backyard gardening hobby, so the couple started the farm with cash infusions from previous endeavors and with a small inheritance.
Soon, the project became a family affair when Catherine Anderson, Emile’s daughter, and David Anderson, Catherine’s husband, began to work on the farm.
The family decided to utilize hydroponics as the technology would allow them to obtain higher yields on a smaller spatial footprint than conventional agriculture. David’s father-in-law also perceived that there was a demand and niche market for hydroponic produce.
Since the launch of Green Bridge Growers almost 15 months ago in South Bend Indiana, the organization has focused on growing produce sustainably with aquaponic methods while recruiting young adults with autism to work at the farm.
Jan Pilarski, co-founder and CEO at Green Bridge Growers, started the organization with the aid of her son, Chris Tidmarsh, who has autism.
“My son Chris and I share an interest in growing food sustainably, but came to that independently and by different paths,” Pilarski said. “In the workshops and conferences we participated in three years ago related to food justice and sustainable farming, we were exposed to aquaponics. That model of sustainable, year-round growing appealed to us both.”
Urban Oaks Organic Farm resides in North Oak, a low-income area in New Britain, Conn. Urban Oaks was started to help improve the food-insecure neighborhood. “In our neighborhood, which used to be infested with crime and drugs and violence, it’s much less,” Elizabeth Aaronsohn, an active volunteer at Urban Oaks Organic Farm and Farm board member, said.
Mike Kandefer and Tony Norris (deceased, 2007) were originally herb farmers in Bolton, Conn., but when the city of New Britain, Conn., asked Kandefer and Norris to takeover an old, abandoned 3-1/2-acre flower farm (now known as Urban Oaks), the duo jumped at the chance. “The city put in $100,000. Lots of volunteers helped clean up the space. That was 15 years ago,” said Aaronsohn.
Matt Russell, one of Coyote Run Farm’s owners, grew up on a farm in Iowa. And before Russell went to college, he swore he would never do two things: Become a farmer, and live in a small community. Well, a few years out of college was all it took to change Russell’s mind. He moved back to Iowa with Patrick Standley, the Farm’s other owner, and founded the 110-acre Coyote Run Farm in Lacona, IA, in January of 2005. “I wanted to set roots in Iowa,” Russell said. “When we felt like we had enough money to buy a farm, we started looking in the fall of 2004.” The farmers found land through a real estate agent within six weeks of starting their search.
When Russell finally did decide to go into farming, he wanted to make certain his farm business model would mitigate risk. “I wanted to figure out a way to increase the net as a percentage growth. Instead of growing bigger, I wanted to have lower growth and lower input.”
Project Sweetie Pie, a grassroots gardening organization in Minneapolis, Minn., has a simple objective: Grow luscious gardens in the city’s vacant lots to cultivate a strong community. Michael Chaney, Project Sweetie Pie organizer and community leader, and other community members (specifically members of Afro-Eco, a Minneapolis group that promotes social, economic, cultural, and ecologically sound cooperation) formed the organization to cultivate garden plots on unused lots scattered throughout North Minneapolis. Chaney said the organization supports the plots to help promote the growth of community agricultural businesses and a food corridor containing livable wage jobs.