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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture
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Posts By Laura Hurst

Women in Food: Karen Washington Forges Path for Black Farmers

April 11, 2016 |
Photo courtesy of Karen Washington

Photo courtesy of Karen Washington

Faced with an empty lot in the Bronx, NY, Karen Washington decided to start growing.

“I had no knowledge. I took some seeds and put them in the ground. I knew that they needed water and sun I just did it.”

That was in the 1980s. Since then, Washington has become a practiced urban and rural farmer and community activist. However, she warns, “When someone says they’re an expert in farming and gardening, they’re not. Because it’s mother nature… and you’re always learning.”

Washington points to elders as an important source of learning. By picking the brains of those who had farmed and gardened before her, she was able to make her first forays in the soil.

Then in 2008, Washington attended a six-month program with The Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Read More

Women in Food: Farmer-Turned-State Rep. Chellie Pingree Advocates for Local Farmers and Responsible Food Policy

March 29, 2016 |
Chellie Pingree. Courtesy Chellie Pingree.

Chellie Pingree. Courtesy Chellie Pingree.

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree has represented Maine’s First District in the United States Congress since 2008. But before her time as a legislator in Washington, D.C., she worked as a farmer and small business owner on the island of North Haven off the coast of Maine.

Pingree originally hails from Minnesota but arrived in Maine as a teenager. Inspired by the likes of Helen and Scott Nearing, she has made the state home ever since. She graduated from College of the Atlantic and over the years, in addition to running an organic farm, started two businesses: North Island Yarn in 1981 and Nebo Lodge in 2006. Read More

Small Farmers at the Forefront of Riverside’s Urban Agriculture

January 25, 2016 |
Urban Farmer Scott Berndt of Fox Farm with his produce. Photo courtesy of Scott Berndt.

Urban Farmer Scott Berndt of Fox Farm with his produce. Photo courtesy of Scott Berndt.

Scott Berndt first moved to California to start a career in hotel and restaurant management. But having spent his childhood on a farm in South Dakota and hailing from a multi-generation family of farmers, he soon embarked on a side project: growing tomatoes.

In the early days of Fox Farm, Scott Berndt packed 300 tomato plants into his backyard in Riverside, CA, seeding them and then selling the young plants at an annual plant sale.

In 2014, Berndt’s real estate agent visited his home and asked about the crop of plants in the backyard. When Berndt told her what he was doing, and that he wished for more space, she offered the two and a half acres behind her home as a growing plot, so long as he did not use chemicals or toxins. Since Berndt was already using organic methods, and continued doing so with the flowers he cultivated on her land, it was a perfect fit. A year later, he converted an unused horse corral as additional growing space for vegetables, and Fox Farm was born. Read More

Vermont’s Intervale Center’s Food Rescue Provides Fresh Produce for Methadone Clinic Patients

January 7, 2016 |
Gleaning baskets ready to be picked up by recipients. Photo credit Abby-Portman

Gleaning baskets ready to be picked up by recipients.
Photo credit Abby-Portman

The Intervale Center of Vermont, founded in 1988, has a long history of addressing food issues in the Burlington community. So when the University of Vermont Medical Center reached out to the Intervale Center to create a pilot program to provide farm fresh food acquired through food waste recovery to patients in its methadone clinic, the partnership was a natural one.

Treating those overcoming addiction requires a holistic approach, much like remediating food systems, says Travis Marcotte, Executive Director of the Intervale Center. As former users tackle the road to recovery, they might not have the resources to access healthy food. The clinic wanted to change this. Because many patients do better in treatment when provided with healthier food choices, the Intervale Center began delivering a weekly batch of fresh produce to the clinic’s waiting room, along with recipes and suggestions on how to prepare the vegetables. Read More

Aquaponics Startup Revolutionizes Farming in Pittsburgh’s Backyards and Around the World

November 18, 2015 |
Photo courtesy of Colleen Beck.

Photo courtesy of Colleen Beck.

Through her work in international development, Colleen Beck witnessed how people utilize water to grow food around the globe in Kenya, China and Thailand.

Returning to Pennsylvania, she was asked to research an aquaponics system for the faith-based NGO,  MTEC International, which does international mission work. After creating two custom systems, she decided to launch Seed Aquaponics LLC in December 2014 and take the business global, seeing aquaponic farming as an “obvious solution” to managing water use in agriculture.

Beck says that she was drawn to aquaponic farming because of the efficiency of the practice. Food can be grown twice as fast as conventional methods, using 90 percent less water. By nature, aquaponic farming is also organic. Any chemicals in the water would kill the fish, not to mention the systems eliminate the risk of water contamination from sewage, floods or runoff. Read More