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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture
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Posts By Jocelyn Kerr

Amidst Sea of Monocrop Farms, Urban Garden in Iowa Cultivates Community and Diversity of Produce

September 27, 2016 |
Dogpatch Urban Garden is a 1/4 acre urban farm located near Des Moines. Photo courtesy of Dogpatch Urban Garden.

Dogpatch Urban Garden is a 1/4 acre urban farm located near Des Moines. Photo courtesy of Dogpatch Urban Garden.

Amidst Iowa’s abundance of monocrop farms, which collectively grow more corn than any other state in the union, farmer Jenny Quiner says serendipity led her and husband Eric to bring a small quarter acre urban farm to life on the outskirts of Des Moines.

Prior to the inception of their urban agriculture endeavor, Jenny and Eric had spent some time working on a farm in Greenly, Colorado while she pursued her Master’s of Education degree. When she finished the program in 2010, they returned to their hometown of Des Moines where she’d been offered a job teaching science.

“I wanted to do homesteading and it wasn’t right with our setup. Then this plot went up for sale by owner [near their home]. My husband sells real estate and we flipped it, it became a rental for us,” Jenny said.

The property was in an unincorporated area just outside Des Moines, and it had enough land that she was able to turn a quarter acre of the property into a fledgling farm. Read More

Eight Acre Urban Farm in Baltimore Provides Foundation for Self-supporting Local Food System

September 19, 2016 |
real-food-farm-hoop-house-growing-inside-hoop-house

A hoop house that is part of the eight acre Real Food Farm urban farming operation in Baltimore. Photo courtesy of Civic Works.

To combat food access challenges and build community, eight acres in and around Baltimore’s Clifton Park have been transformed into Real Food Farm.

After two years of research and fund development, the farm harvested its first crop in 2010. Since then, the farm has produced thousands of pounds of food for distribution across Baltimore’s food deserts.

Chrissy Goldberg, Food and Farm Director for Civic Works, the nonprofit that oversees Real Food Farm, said more than 13,000 pounds of food have been distributed between January and August 2016. One of the primary methods of distribution is the Mobile Farmers Market program.

“The goal is to strengthen Baltimore communities,” Goldberg said. “We’re a little more nuanced, we believe in local and sustainable. We’re promoting a local food system that can support itself.” Read More

‘Resources are the Real Money’ at Last Organic Outpost Urban Farm

September 12, 2016 |
last-organic-outpost-houston-joe-icet-urban-farm-min

The Last Organic Outpost is a nonprofit farm and social entrepreneurship incubator, based in Houston’s 5th Ward. Photo courtesy of Last Organic Outpost.

Joe Icet has a message for humanity: the world is in sad shape, and we’re here to lift it up through sustainable agriculture. His friends have even dubbed him a “land evangelist” because of his passion in talking to students and community members about the power of positive land stewardship.

“This is the ‘Disneyland of Sustainability’, haven’t you heard?” he asks as he guides visitors around a slightly hidden farming campus in Houston’s Fifth Ward residential neighborhood.

This retired union pipe fitter has made sustainable and organic farming his life’s mission. He founded The Last Organic Outpost, a nonprofit farm and social entrepreneurship incubator, in 2004. Since then, he has built up a thriving community education program and urban farm on less than two acres of land. Read More

USDA Expands Resources for New Farmer and Rancher Program

August 15, 2016 |
Photo courtesy of USDA.

Photo courtesy of USDA.

By September 30, 2017, the USDA plans to increase investments across its New and Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program by $5.6 billion over two years. During this period, targeted outreach and technical assistance initiatives aim to increase participation in the program by 6.6 percent.

“We’ve got a big challenge in front of us—new farmers are hard to find,” said Lilia McFarland, USDA New and Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program coordinator.

Read More

Building Soil from Scratch, Two Brothers Embark on Urban Farming Odyssey

August 10, 2016 |
Finca Tres Roble / Small Places urban farm in Houston is situated on a 1.25 acre lot on the city’s East Side. The for profit urban farming venture grows organic herbs, fruits and vegetables to be sold to individuals and restaurants directly from the farm and area farmers markets. Photo courtesy of Small Places LLC.

Finca Tres Roble / Small Places urban farm in Houston is situated on a 1.25 acre lot on the city’s East Side. The for profit urban farming venture grows organic herbs, fruits and vegetables to be sold to individuals and restaurants directly from the farm and area farmers markets. Photo courtesy of Small Places LLC.

The 2008 Farm Bill opened the door for new farmers and ranchers by allocating $75 million annually to launch the USDA Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program. New farmers jumped into the program to start small, limited resource farms and ranches, and Congress increased funding to $100 million annually in the 2014 Farm Bill.

The 2014 bill also established a USDA microloan program to lend up to $50,000 to small farmers who may not qualify for traditional commercial loans.

Brothers Thomas and Daniel Garcia-Prats know a little something about starting a new farm from scratch. They founded Finca Tres Robles/Small Places, LLC, a small urban farm in east Houston, in 2014. The farm sits on an acre of land surrounded by industrial buildings and low income residential housing. Read More