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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture
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Posts By Jocelyn Kerr

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

Pantry on Wheels Enables Indiana Food Bank to Increase Access for Food Insecure

July 27, 2016 |
Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana Mobile Pantry Program brings pantry on wheels to seniors in Wayne County, Indiana.

Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana Mobile Pantry Program brings pantry on wheels to seniors in Wayne County, Indiana. (Photo courtesy of Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana)

On a hot summer afternoon near Indianapolis, people start lining up early when the Gleaners Mobile Pantry truck pulls into a community partner parking lot. They may stand in line up to two hours to walk through the pop-up marketplace, where they can select dry goods and meats and fresh produce, when available, from the farmers’ market-style food pantry.

Kathy Hahn Keiner, chief programs and agency relations officer at Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana, is one of the people running the Mobile Pantry program and often rides along to help set up the mobile marketplace. Gleaners has two refrigerated trucks and a fleet of smaller trucks that provide close to 300 mobile pantries a year.

“At a mobile pantry we’ll serve 150 to 200 families in a two-hour distribution. There may be three or four people to a family, so over 12 months that’s a lot of people. The most we’ve ever done at once is five on a Saturday, but that’s an awful lot,” Hahn Keiner says. Read More