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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture

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Posts By Jan Fletcher

Part II: Larry Jacobs of Del Cabo Discusses Lessons Learned in Sustainable Farming

May 2, 2013 |
Larry Jacobs, founder of the Del Cabo Cooperative.

Larry Jacobs, founder of the Del Cabo Cooperative.

In Part II of a two-part interview with Seedstock.com, Larry Jacobs, NRDC’s 2013 Growing Green Award winner, offers his insights in what can be gained by working in tandem with nature.

What larger lesson have you gleaned from your work?

The lesson is what’s out there in nature -  how does nature do it? What can we learn from that? How can we take those ideas and either manipulate them and use them in our farming systems to accomplish the same kind of things that we’ve done as we’ve short circuited [the process] with off-the-shelf chemicals? If we do it by using systems that nature has evolved, we bypass the danger zone of creating things that nature hasn’t learned how to deal with. And we’re using materials and ideas that already exist on the planet. There’s microbes that already exist and know how to metabolize the stuff. The planet knows how to deal with these things as part of the system. Read More

Part I: Farming Change Agent Larry Jacobs Shares Vision on Sustainable and Organic Ag

May 1, 2013 |
Larry Jacobs, founder of the Del Cabo Cooperative.

Larry Jacobs, founder of the Del Cabo Cooperative.

Larry Jacobs, a visionary from California, pioneered a new form of agriculture three decades ago that demonstrated to skeptics food could be cultivated profitably without the use of farming chemicals and pesticides. He went on to found the Del Cabo Cooperative in Mexico, which continues to assist indigenous farmers in growing and selling their produce at a price that creates a sustainable livelihood for their families.

In part one of a two-part interview with Seedstock.com, Larry Jacobs, NRDC’s 2013 Growing Green Award winner, explains why he chose in 1980 to make the switch to organic farming. This occurred at a time when U.S. farmers who experimented with organic farming methods were not even on the radar screen, and were often considered residents of “Kookville,” Jacobs says. Read More

Large Family Run Wheat Farm in Montana Sustains Multi-generational Family

April 15, 2013 |
Mattson Farms

Photo Credit: Mattson Family Farms

Say the word ‘sustainable’ and prepare to pull out a dictionary as people have varying opinions on what that term actually means. Add farming to the mix and efforts to parse out sustainable farming from unsustainable farming run into a thicket of differing opinions.

Yet, there’s one definition of sustainable farming that typically doesn’t make the news headlines, especially those containing the word ‘green:’ A family-run farm that sustains a multi-generational family.

Mattson Family Farms is a no-till commercially viable farm that has beaten the odds for a century. “My grandfather immigrated here from Denmark in 1911 to homestead,” says Carl Mattson. The farm is located a little over 100 miles east of the Rocky Mountains on Highway 2 on a plateau about 3,200 feet above sea level. Read More

Facilitating Food Alliances, Ag Innovations Network Aims to Boost Local Food Production and Health of Citizens

April 15, 2013 |

Is healthy, locally produced food on the endangered ‘agri-list?’ Some think so and are taking a round-table approach to ensure local fare stays on the menu and local farmers keep their hands in the soil. Cultivating those grassroots is what this movement is all about, as volunteers address systemic issues in food production with a focus on local, sustainable cultivation.

The Sonoma County Food System Alliance created a forum to bring public-health advocates, farmers and ranchers together in a round-table work group. The goal according to the group’s website is fostering an awareness that cultivation of healthy food in a community is an ecosystem, with each part essential to supporting the whole.

The Sonoma County Health Department partnered with Ag Innovations Network (AIN), the Redwood Empire Food Bank and the Ag Commissioner’s Office to convene the Alliance in 2007, according to the group’s website. Read More

Small Scale Farm Op Only Miles from Las Vegas Strip Shows Promise of Desert Agriculture

March 4, 2013 |

Growing organic food in the desert is no easy task. But Marilyn Yamamoto, who cultivates several acres of land a short drive from the famed Los Vegas Strip, has transformed her acreage into a test garden to help gardeners in the area determine the most efficient plants to grow on their properties so as to provide quality healthy food for their families.

Yamamoto says the small-scale growing operation known as Cowboy Trail Farm, which she operates as nonprofit under the name ‘Organic Edibles LV, inc’, is a labor of love.

Yamamoto, a Master Gardener, says she first began to experiment with desert cultivation techniques a few years ago, when her organization received a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She used the funds to acquire two hoop houses. Read More

Self-fertilizing Garden Tower Rises to Encourage Home Gardening and Fight Hunger

February 26, 2013 |

Photo Credit: The Garden Tower Project.

Colin Cudmore, the inventor of the Garden Tower, a garden container with perforated tubing technology that facilitates the movement of worms and nightcrawlers within it, says he does not consider himself a gardener. Yet, Cudmore, and his two business partners, Tom Tlusty and Joel B. Grant, are preparing for full-scale production of a new gardening container concept that includes the worms, in a self-contained mini-ecological system.

Cudmore germinated the idea one weekend, as he volunteered to man a booth for a local farmer’s market in Bloomington, Ind. He noticed a couple of Amish farmers, who were selling seedlings and starter plants, but had few customers, despite the bustling crowd in the marketplace. Read More

Fish and Greens Grow Together on Rooftop Farm in Winter Gardens, Fla.

January 30, 2013 |

Photo Credit: Green Sky Growers.

Traveling from farm to market has never been a shorter trip than it is for the produce grown by Green Sky Growers, a rooftop aquaponic farm, in Winter Gardens, Fla. The farm’s main client is a restaurateur housed in the same building. Delivering fresh produce is a mere one-minute commute in an elevator.

The unique aquaponic operation arose through the personal vision of Bert Roper, an aquaculture expert from Winter Gardens, Fla., whose ancestors settled the area more than a century ago. Although Roper passed away in late 2012, his legacy lives on. It’s visible in the lush, edible greenery that draws nutrients from a rooftop pond atop a multi-rise, 3,000 sq. ft. warehouse. Read More

To Reduce Dependence on California-grown Produce, Washington State Couple Focuses on Hydroponics

January 15, 2013 |

Stewart and Cheryl Fry, Owners of C&S Hydro-Huts. Photo Credit: C&S Hydro-Huts.

Stewart and Cheryl Fry, owners of C&S Hydro-Huts, have a vision. The two hydroponic farmers, from Otis Orchards, Wash., want to reduce those truckloads of California-grown lettuce, peppers and tomatoes bound for the east side of the state. Both are long-time residents of Otis Orchards, a tiny rural community located a few miles west of the Idaho state line.

Their efforts are bearing fruit, as the couple have already succeeded in replacing 1,500 heads of California-grown lettuce a week with locally grown, greenhouse-produced butter-head lettuce.  Wholesalers distribute the company’s hydroponic produce to an assortment of local restaurants and produce markets. Read More