Posts By AJ Hughes
A commercial aquaponics operation that opened last October in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood is among the latest additions to a thriving urban agriculture tapestry in the Windy City.
Metropolitan Farms, operated by founder and CEO Benjamin Kant and his business partner, Eugene Shockey Funke, produces kale, lettuce, herbs and tilapia.
“I’ve always been interested in gardening and fish,” says Kant. “I saw aquaponics as a good way to urban farm.”
When one thinks of the James Beard Awards that are yearly dispensed to the most distinguished and culinarily imaginative chefs and restaurants in the United States, food access and equity is not the first thing that comes to mind. But Katherine Miller, director of food policy advocacy for the James Beard Foundation, is working hard to alter this perception by aligning award winning chefs, many of whom wield significant power in the food policy arena, to make the high quality, local and healthy food more accessible to all.
“From a policy standpoint chefs and restaurant owners are major employers, so they have clout with congress and state legislators,” she says. “They’re a relevant force on the policy front—I want to see more chefs get involved.”
The Grove, a diversified and certified-organic family farm in Riverside, CA used to grow only citrus fruit and avocados. But in order to survive a changing market, it has diversified to include a wide array of organic produce.
Hassan Ghamlouch and his wife, Deborah, have operated The Grove for more than 13 years. Their sons Zachary and Jacob are also key contributors to the operation.
The farm has been in the family for four generations, dating back to the late nineteenth century when it primarily produced navel oranges. When Deborah’s parents wanted to sell the farm in the early 2000s, she and Hassan decided to purchase it and take over. They based their decision partly on the fact that The Grove’s orange trees are part of the original rootstock planted well over 100 years ago.
But Hassan and Deborah knew that if they wanted to keep the farm in their family, drastic changes were inevitable and necessary.
While citrus groves no longer dot the landscape, trees in backyards across Orange County, CA still yield an abundance of produce that sadly often goes to waste. But thanks to the efforts of the Harvest Club of Orange County, a volunteer-based organization that gleans fruit from neighborhood trees, much of this excess backyard bounty now goes to help feed the hungry.
The gleaning operation started informally in Huntington Beach.
“In 2009 a couple of friends had fruit trees they could not finish,” says Lindsey Harrison, coordinator of volunteers for the Harvest Club. “Others helped pick trees and donated extra fruit to the food bank.”
More and more neighbors got on board and as word spread, the organization began to grow and solidify. In 2011 the Harvest Club became a project of the Orange County Food Access Coalition (OCFAC). By this time Harvest Club’s coverage area had already expanded beyond its Huntington Beach roots, but the new association with OCFAC served to further boost its countywide presence.
Despite Current Dysfunction in the Food System, Renowned Agroecology Expert Holds Out Hope for FutureMay 10, 2016 | AJ Hughes
What is the state of the nation’s food system? Is it fundamentally broken and beyond repair? Does it need to be changed, and if so, how? What is it doing right?
To address these questions, we reached out to Stephen R. Gliessman, an internationally recognized leader in the field of agroecology, and the Alfred E. Heller Professor of Agroecology in UC Santa Cruz’s Environmental Studies Department, where he has taught since 1981. He was the founding director of the UCSC Agroecology Program (now the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems) and is the author of the renowned and pioneering textbook Agroecology: The Ecology of Sustainable Food Systems. In 2008, Gliessman became the chief editor of the internationally known Journal of Sustainable Agriculture.
Here is what we learned:
What is the state of the food system?
The current state of the food system is unhealthy. There is too much emphasis put on the business of growing food rather than long-term stewardship, care for the earth, and the people who grow food. That, I think, is a more important part of what’s going on. It’s amazing what the current food system is able to produce in terms of calories, but it’s also amazing in terms of what it doesn’t produce in terms of healthy nutritious food.