Posts By Jenny Sechler
The Colorado state legislature has taken the first step towards passing a bill supporting statewide farm-to-school programs. House Bill 15-1088 seeks to build the capacity of farmers by helping them overcome economic hurdles and connect with school districts interested in serving fresh, local products to their students. The bill was introduced by Representative Faith Winter and passed the House Education committee last month.
House Bill 15-1088 is the result of years of research and work with public school districts across the state of Colorado. As a response to an increasing interest in farm-to-school programs, the state legislature created the Colorado Farm to School Task Force in 2010. According to Jeremy West, the nutrition director of the Greeley Evans school district, the goal of the task force was “to develop a framework, share best practices and identify and address some of the big struggles and roadblocks.”
A company in California is using technology to engage people in local agriculture and support the local farming economy. Ag Link, based in the San Joaquin Valley, has created a website and smartphone app, Ag Link Connect, for consumers looking for local food and farms, as well as fun local activities and agriculture related events. By partnering with other agencies, Ag Link hopes to create a statewide network that will increase the reach of local agriculture organizations.
Ag Link Connect was created by Rob and Jana Nairn, native Californians who grew up on farms and have degrees in agricultural marketing. Their business started as an e-commerce platform to connect schools to local farms in support of farm-to-school programs in California.
“As we were developing a business model of connecting growers to schools, we came across a lot of growers whose products didn’t fit into this market but were interested in what we were doing,” Jana explains. “We started looking for opportunities to fit their needs.”
Pablo Alvarez and Craig Petten are Toronto natives with a combined 40 years of experience in the food industry. By starting a new aquaponic farm in their home city, the co-founders hope to both increase Toronto’s food stability and increase people’s connection with their food.
Alvarez and Petten first discovered aquaponics during their time at Humber College, where they majored in Sustainable Energy and Building Technology. After 20 years working in the hospitality industry in Toronto, the pair founded Aqua Greens. As Petten explains, their work in hospitality allowed them to see first hand the lack of connection between food and its source.
A new venture in Maine seeks to provide financing to local farmers and other food producers through the establishment of a credit union focused on Maine’s local food economy. The Maine Harvest Credit Project is the brainchild of Sam May and Scott Budde, Mainers with backgrounds in finance and the local food movement. Eventually, May and Budde hope to establish a sustainable financial institution offering loans for land and equipment to farmers and emerging food businesses.
Two recent developments in Michigan have caught the attention of local and sustainable food activists across the country. On December 14, 2014, Michigan’s governor, Rick Snyder, abolished the Michigan Food Policy Council (MFPC), absorbing the work of the Council into a new subcommittee within the Michigan Department of Agricultural and Rural Development.
The same week, the Center for Regional Food Systems (CRFS) at Michigan State University issued a Request for Proposals to coordinate a new network of local food councils across the state.