Posts By Anne Craig
Amy Hepworth’s life’s passion is feeding people. Back in 1982, Cornell University degree in pomology fresh in hand, she took the reins of Hepworth Farms, a nearly 200-year-old apple farm in New York’s Hudson Valley, and changed everything. Crop diversification was only part of a larger transition to sustainability.
Some said it was economic suicide, others heroism. There were some lean years, but steadfast believers – among them the buyers of Brooklyn’s Park Slope Food Co-op – hung in there and so did the seventh-generation farmer. And just this month, the Cornell Alliance for Science has named Hepworth its Farmer of the Year.
Urban agriculture is the essence of thinking globally and acting locally, and ag advocates in Milan, Italy have found a way to blend those two aspects into municipal policy with worldwide implications.
The Milan Urban Food Policy Pact, initiated in 2014, is a five-year plan intended to coordinate policies dealing with food supply and sustainability from varied perspectives: community, welfare, education, environment, well-being and international relations, and to support city governments in making change.
The city of Milan began the four-stage process to develop the pact by assessing strengths and weaknesses. It then began developing objectives in partnership with the public, continuing onward to seeking buy-in from major institutions. Lastly, it is working on developing pilot projects. The goal is to target world hunger by establishing local supply chains right where people live.
Institutional food systems are typically a tough nut for food activists to crack, relying as they do on economies of scale and mass logistics. But the growing movement toward real, sustainable eating has a natural ally in hungry, well-informed college students – and ever since 2008, the Real Food Challenge organization has helped them speak with one voice for change.
The challenge “leverages the power of youth and universities to create a healthy, fair and green food system,” according to the organization’s mission statement.
To that end, the Real Food Generation organization – founded by Ghanian-born Harvard Kennedy School grad Anim Steel – provides coordination, support and tools to campus organizations that are working toward change.
Urban farmers and gardeners now have a brand new way to measure their results and gather hard data thanks to the Farming Concrete Data Collection Tool Kit.
The project originated in New York City in 2009 as a collaborative venture between nonprofits Added Value Farms and the Design Trust for Public Space. The data collection tools are intended to help individual farmers quantify what they are doing in ways that will help them both improve and promote their farms.
For urban farmers, clever space utilization is key, especially in a major city like Washington D.C., where planners estimate there will be a need for 200 million square feet of new housing by 2040. Using rooftops can change the game and offer major ecological benefits along with fresh local food. Rooftop Roots is a team of D.C. locals who have been working for five years to scale up rooftop growing in their city and supply local food banks with the harvest. Seedstock spoke to executive director Thomas Schneider about how it’s done.
Seedstock: I understand that Rooftop Roots was born in a conversation between you and Christian Patrizia, your marketing director whilst hanging out on a roof. How long between that conversation and the first seed getting planted? What were some of the first steps?
Thomas Schneider: Gosh, the idea came up on July 3, 2010. I started thinking about it more and more, trying to figure out how to make it work, and asking random people I met what they thought about the idea. That fall, we came up with the name and the concept, and that winter we started reaching out to folks in the non-profit arena to figure out where to get started.