Posts By Charli Engelhorn
In 1960, Jim and Virginia Johnston bought an alfalfa hay farm in Gilbert, Arizona and built a home on it to raise their three sons. As Jim approached retirement in the 1990s, he and his family realized that the farmland on which their house sat would likely be sold to developers.
A visionary solution from one of their sons led to an agreement to preserve a portion of the agricultural land while at the same time creating a partnership with a developer to build new homes on the property. The result was the creation of Agritopia, a 160 acre masterplan community of 452 single-family homes that surround an 11-acre USDA certified organic farm. In 2015, the family formed the Johnston Family Foundation for Urban Agriculture, to oversee the 11 acre organic farm in perpetuity.
From Supermarket Rooftops to a Storied Ball Park, an Urban Farming Co. Increases Access to Local FoodSeptember 12, 2017 | Charli Engelhorn
Since its inception in 2008, Green City Growers (GCG), a Certified B Corporation that installs and maintains vegetable gardens and farms within the greater Boston area, has assisted in the production of more than 175,000 pounds of organic produce, donated more than 12,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables, and engaged more than 7,500 people through their efforts.
“The mission is to grow food in unused spaces and provide people access to fresh produce,” says Jessie Banhazl, CEO and co-founder of GCG. “Having that mission as the core of our trajectory has led us into so many different spaces, which has been really fun and interesting and made us realize that there are so many possibilities for this kind of work.”
For Profit Hydroponic Farm in Chicago Seeks to Increase Employment Opportunities in Underserved CommunitySeptember 7, 2017 | Charli Engelhorn
“Education is the most important thing,” says Darius Jones, general manager, vice president, and part of owner of Garfield Produce, an urban hydroponic farm located in Garfield Park, a west-side community in Chicago. “We’re trying to create an environment that inspires people to grow and feel valued.”
Since its inception in 2013, Garfield Produce has been working to improve economic growth and employment opportunities for Garfield Park community members. The for-profit business was born from a collaboration between a successful retired couple, Mark and Judy Thomas, and an engineering major from DePaul University, Steve Lu.
Through missionary work with the Breakthrough Urban Ministries, Mark and Judy saw that their misconceptions about poverty—that it is the result of laziness and not taking advantage of the same opportunities afforded to others—were inaccurate, according to Jones. What the Thomas’ discovered was that people did want to work, but there were no opportunities available and a number of systemic obstacles in place that hindered people’s ability to work.
The collision of technology and agriculture might be just what the world needs to respond to an impending food crisis if global food production does not double by 2050, according to Robert Tse, State Broadband Coordinator and Chief Strategy Officer for Agriculture Technology and Innovation for USDA CA Rural Development.
According to Tse, the world’s population will grow by approximately 2 billion people by the half-century mark, and the current rate of increase in food production globally is less than half of what is needed every year to account for it.
“The application or development of technology applied to agriculture is critical,” says Tse. “There are only two ways to increase food production: increase acreage or increase yield. There is no more exploitable land for farming around the world, so one of the ways we’re going to reach the percentage increase we need is through ag technology that enables us to increase production across the board and reduce waste.”
Atop a Parking Garage in a Staten Island Residential Development, an Urban Farm Builds Community and ThrivesAugust 14, 2017 | Charli Engelhorn
Sometimes, the best laid plans do not always work out, and for Zaro Bates, co-founder and proprietor of Empress Green Inc., this small deviation from her plan would come to encapsulate her life in every facet.
Empress Green Inc. is an urban farming business specializing in organic food production, education, and consulting. Bates and her husband, Asher Landes, started the company in 2016, shortly after moving into the residential development Urby, a 500+ apartment complex that sits on the north shore of Staten Island, New York. The couple built and now maintain a 4,500-square-foot urban farm on top of one of the complex’s parking garages between two of the main buildings.
“During a 3-year development consultancy, we evolved several green roof and urban farm concepts that would be attractive shared amenities for the residents,” Bates says. “We decided on an intensive green roof urban market garden with a Farmer-in-Residence to manage the farm and run workshops and events for the community.”