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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture
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Posts By AJ Hughes

Report: Driven by Growth in Local Food Markets, Food Hubs Thrive

June 27, 2016 |
Food hubs are hubbubs of activity, with containers of produce arriving and departing constantly. Photo courtesy of Rich Pirog/MSU Center for Regional Food Systems)

Food hubs are hubbubs of activity, with containers of produce arriving and departing constantly.
Photo courtesy of Rich Pirog/MSU Center for Regional Food Systems)

Food hubs are financially viable forces for good in their communities providing locally grown to institutions, wholesale buyers, grocery stores, restaurants and other retail outlets. They also offer much needed infrastructure, aggregation, and marketing to enable small and mid-sized farms to achieve and maintain economic sustainability.

These conclusions were among the results of the 2015 National Food Hub Survey of more than 150 food hubs across the U.S. The report was released on May 12 by the Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems. Seedstock recently spoke with the center’s director, Rich Pirog, to learn more about the report’s findings and the future of food hubs. Read More

Employing Marketing and Urban Farming Acumen, Upstart Aquaponics Farm Finds Footing in Windy City

June 2, 2016 |
An aquaponics greenhouse is the centerpiece of Metropolitan Farms in Chicago, Illinois. (photo credit: Jeff Schear)

An aquaponics greenhouse is the centerpiece of Metropolitan Farms in Chicago, Illinois. (photo credit: Jeff Schear)

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.” Read More

Women in Food: James Beard Foundation’s Katherine Miller Aligns Chefs to Fight for Food Equity

May 31, 2016 |
Katherine Miller is director of food policy advocacy for the James Beard Foundation. (Photo by Robert X. Fogarty courtesy of Maggie Beaudouin/Rosen Group)

Katherine Miller is director of food policy advocacy for the James Beard Foundation. (Photo by Robert X. Fogarty courtesy of Maggie Beaudouin/Rosen Group)

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.” Read More

Diversification, Organic Growing, and Savvy Enable Family to Save Farm and Prosper

May 26, 2016 |
the grove farm riverside california local food organic ghamlouch-min

Hassan and Deborah Ghamlouch, along with their two sons, Zachary and Jacob, run The Grove, an organic family farm in Riverside, CA. (photo courtesy Hassan Ghamlouch/The Grove)

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. Read More

Harvest Club Looks to Backyard Groves to Feed the Hungry

May 25, 2016 |
Harvest Club volunteers pose next to freshly­ picked oranges from backyard trees. The oranges’ next destination is various food banks throughout Orange County. (photo courtesy Lindsey Harrison/The Harvest Club)

Harvest Club volunteers pose next to freshly­ picked oranges from backyard trees. The oranges’ next destination is various food banks throughout Orange County. (photo courtesy Lindsey Harrison/Harvest Club of Orange County)

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. Read More