Posts By AJ Hughes
Home to the University of Kansas and the City of Lawrence, Douglas County, Kansas is in the midst of developing a thriving local food and urban agriculture movement.
In 2010, the county formed a Food Policy Council to identify opportunities, challenges and benefits for a sustainable local food system.
Eileen Horn, sustainability coordinator for Douglas County and the City of Lawrence, serves on the Council with 24 others, including farmers, representatives from food retail establishments, Kansas State University Extension, Lawrence Public Schools, the Downtown Lawrence Farmers’ Market and the Douglas County Health Department.
East Baltimore, home to numerous once-beautiful but now decaying buildings, will soon experience revitalization if plans underway for a new food and agriculture project―the Baltimore Food Hub―take shape, thanks to American Communities Trust and a coalition of other partners.
The Food Hub will be the first of its kind in Baltimore and will sit on a 3.5-acre tract which includes the historic Eastern Pumping Station.
According to Greg Heller, interim president and CEO of American Communities Trust, the Food Hub should be up and running by the end of 2015. It will be home to an urban farm, farm stand and garden center, all of which will be open to the public. Spike Gjerde, a Baltimore-based award-winning chef, will have a production kitchen at the facility, which will utilize locally-grown produce and provide jobs.
California’s San Luis Obispo County has a plethora of microclimates that enable farmers to produce a great variety of crops. Promoting a local food culture that takes advantage of that diversity and abundance is the mission of Central Coast Grown, a San Luis Obispo-based non-profit organization that strives to build awareness, production and consumption of locally grown food by conserving farmland and supporting young farmers and urban farming.
According to the organization’s executive director Jenna Smith, Central Coast Grown works to conserve land currently in agricultural production, as well as to educate the public about food and its origins.
“We want the sustainable agriculture movement to grow in San Luis Obispo County,” Smith says. “Agriculture is the top industry in the county. We want to promote local food literacy among the community.”
Although Cleveland, Ohio is known as a rust belt city, it’s also located in the prime agricultural lands of eastern Ohio.
Now, through policy initiatives and partnerships, Cleveland is tapping into its geographical bounty.
During the Great Recession, foreclosures impacted already struggling neighborhoods in the city, and food deserts increased after grocery stores left these areas.
But on the flip side, more land became available for green space.
An Urban Agriculture and Green Space Zoning Ordinance had been adopted by the city in 2005, but at first, the city was primarily focused on parks and recreation facilities. The agriculture aspect of the ordinance began to gain traction in 2007 as the city began to allow farming uses through zoning. In 2009, zoning rules were further modified to allow most city residents to keep chickens, ducks and rabbits, as well as beehives. Now, people in the city may also raise goats, pigs and sheep.
Chicagoan Arash Amini believes in environmental and agricultural sustainability, civic responsibility and economic development. Through aquaponics, he has brought all three of these components together.
In college at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where Amini earned a physics degree in 2010, he became enthralled with environmental science and environmental engineering. After graduating, he and some friends started a next-generation agriculture company, 312 Aquaponics. But his vision kept evolving, and in 2013 he founded FarmTower Co. in order to deliver affordable aquaponics systems to the public.