Posts By Melonie Magruder
When you think of New York City, you think of an urban cement jungle of taxis and crowded people – antithetical to a peaceful world of green gardens and fresh produce. Not Zach Pickens. When he followed his wife, a theatre producer, to the Big Apple from his Ohio roots, he figured it was just the time to start his rooftop garden business: Rooftop Ready Seeds.
Pickens, a political science major, wasn’t exactly trained for urban farming. When he saw an empty rooftop on his apartment building in Brooklyn, he relied on memories of his grandparents’ backyard gardens to guide his effort to ‘green’ the asphalt plot.
Eventually, he was hired as the farm manager for Riverpark Farm, supplier for Riverpark restaurant, and one of the largest urban farming models in New York City (they launched their rooftop farm on the site of a stalled construction site).
Roots of Change (ROC) is a California-based nonprofit developing a collaborative network of stakeholders – the public sector, nonprofits, funding sources, entrepreneurs, farmers, ranchers and concerned individuals – dedicated to seeing California with a sustainable, healthy, safe and profitable food system by the year 2030.
Tall order. But in the years since the organization’s launch in 2000, ROC has seen concrete changes come to the California food system – how we grow, transport and consume the food that nourishes a state and a nation.
Farmers Web is an 18-month-old start-up that aims to link local farms with local buyers through a wholesale “management tool,” and vibrant online marketplace that allows you to “shop and sell local online, anytime.”
The brainchild of co-founder and CEO, Jennifer Goggin, Farmers Web was born in downtown Manhattan from decidedly non-bucolic roots.
“I went into finance after college (Columbia University – political science), but my heart just wasn’t in it,” Goggin said. “So we decided that promoting small agriculture was something we could grab hold of.”
Farming in Southern California has advantages not available to growers in other parts of the country. The extended growing season, accommodating microclimates and fertile soil can encourage novice farmers to try something they might not normally take on. In the case of All Good Things Organic Seeds, newbie farmers Justin Huhn and Quin Shakra were inspired to go beyond organic farming of their 1.3-acre plot to establishing a seed sourcing company that aims to expand the available varietals of certified organic seeds on offer to backyard growers and small-scale commercial farmers.
Harvest Power is about dirt. It’s also about soil regeneration and managing the modern day intersection of waste, agriculture and energy, so that ongoing human consumption can be used as the engine to drive ongoing renewable energy.
In three and a half years, CEO Paul Sellew has created a company that diverts more than two million tons of organic waste material from landfills and turns it into some 29 million bags of soil, mulch and fertilizer products while producing 65,000 megawatt hours of heat and power-generating energy to run its facilities.
Harvest Power operates in 30 sites across the U.S. and Canada, using strategic partnerships with municipalities, haulers and state-of-the-art anaerobic digesters to create high value compost that is in turn used to create more high nutrition food that can be later be recycled into the system starting the whole process over again.