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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture

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Posts By Missy Smith

Indiana Software Company Employs Mapping Technology to Help Rowcroppers with Sustainability

February 19, 2014 |
Daryl Starr (right) shares Optimizer with local farmers. Photo courtesy of Advanced Ag Solutions

Daryl Starr shares Optimizer with local farmers. Photo courtesy of Advanced Ag Solutions

In a world where it seems technology and the natural world are at odds, Lafayette, Indiana’s Advanced Ag Solutions is finding common ground by coupling technology and agriculture in its mission to make farming more efficient for the modern farmer.

Founded in 2006 by Daryl Starr, the agronomy software company helps farmers to build viable businesses with data and integrated crop management tools, with a simple mission to equip farmers to feed the world.

“Our primary services revolve around soil, seed and weather data management and the resulting recommendations,” he says. “We do everything from pull GPS soil samples to aggregate weather data for each field to help refine crop scouting observations.” Read More

Pioneering Brooklyn Farm Expands, Continues to Lead the Way in Urban Agriculture

January 16, 2014 |
Gotham Greens worker harvests greens from the company’s Brooklyn greenhouse. Photo Credit: Gotham Greens/Mark Weinberg

Gotham Greens worker harvests lettuces from the company’s Brooklyn greenhouse.
Photo Credit: Gotham Greens/Mark Weinberg

Since 2008, Brooklyn’s Gotham Greens has been working hard to make a difference in the lives of New Yorkers.

As an urban farming pioneer, the for-profit company has established two large commercial farms in the city to meet the demand for fresh, wholesome, local produce. In the process, it has served as a pioneer in the rapidly evolving world of urban agriculture.

“Inspired by innovation and technology, we are driven by a sense of duty to address ecological issues facing our agricultural system,” explains Viraj Puri, co-founder and CEO of Gotham Greens. “The objective is to provide city residents with fresh, local produce, year-round.”

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Report Promotes Better Conservation Tools for Supporting Young Farmers’ Access to Farmland

November 21, 2013 |
National Young Farmers Coalition

National Young Farmers Coalition

Last month, the National Young Farmers Coalition released Conservation 2.0: How Land Trusts Can Save America’s Working Farms. The report finds that a primary threat to new farmers is acquisition of protected farmland by non-farmers who allow it to go fallow. To gather research for the study, the NYFC interviewed 200 U.S. land trust leaders. One-quarter of those surveyed said they have witnessed a decline in production at conserved farms resulting from non-farmers purchasing land at prices with which farmers cannot compete.

Founded by three farmers in New York’s Hudson Valley who struggled to find reasonably priced land, NYFC is an organization dedicated to supporting new farmers through education, networking, and advocacy. Read More

New Farmer Residency Program Seeks to Address Land Access Challenge

November 18, 2013 |
maplebayfarm_post

Image Credit: ISLAND

Access to land is one of the most formidable obstacles facing young people who want to start a farm, according to a 2012 study by the National Young Farmer’s Coalition. The study notes that the price of farmland doubled between 2000 and 2010 in the United States.

A nonprofit organization in Bellaire, Michigan, the Institute for Sustainable Living, Art & Natural Design, or ISLAND, is working to address this problem with a new farmer residency program that will launch in spring 2014. The program operates in partnership with the Grand Traverse Land Conservancy, a local land trust that owns the 11-acre property the residents will farm. Read More

Finding our Farm

September 16, 2013 |
Photo Credit: Missy Smith.

The farmhouse in Elliottsburg, PA. Photo Credit: Missy Smith.

Moved to answer a calling to help turn around our broken food system and reverse environmental damages, Missy Smith, Brett Ziegler and their children are embarking on a sustainable farming mission in Central Pennsylvania. Follow them as they start Barefoot Hill Farm, a journey that will begin with renovating an old farmhouse and revitalizing previously vacant farmland and will continue with growing and raising organic food, reaching out to their local communities to spread the healthy eating gospel and acting as good stewards to beautiful farmland. Missy will document the ups, the downs, the triumphs and the setbacks that come with starting a modern organic sustainable farm.

Funny enough, when we first realized our strong desire to get back to the land, the first thing we did was connect with technology. Our farm journey began with a lot of internet researching: What it takes to run a farm. What we needed to get started. How we can secure farming land.

Much of our research kept coming up with the same two answers: land and money—two resources that we had in quite a limited supply. At that point, we were living in Bucks County, Pa., an area that is historically rich in agriculture, but had been developed in lightening speed over the almost thirty years we lived there. Each time I entered my hometown of Quakertown on visits home from Millersville University, I noticed that more and more land was being gobbled up in the name of housing developments, retail stores and restaurants. Read More

Farm Kid Turned Anthropologist Returns to a Life in Sustainable Agriculture

July 29, 2013 |
Photo Credit: Missy Smith.

Photo Credit: Everblossom Farm.

As a fourth generation farmer, Elaine Lemmon has a fond relationship with dirt. But growing up, she didn’t plan on becoming a farmer later in her life. When the real world called, she answered, studying anthropology and archeology at Penn State University. But, her studies would later steer her back to farming. “I soon got disenchanted with how science-for-profit really wasn’t good science,” says Lemmon. “The part of archeology I really loved was working outside and working in the soil.”

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From the Ground Up, a First-time Farmer Charts Her Course

July 24, 2013 |
Missy Smith and Brett Ziegler. Photo Credit: Missy Smith.

Missy Smith and Brett Ziegler. Photo Credit: Missy Smith.

Moved to answer a calling to help turn around our broken food system and reverse environmental damages, Missy Smith, Brett Ziegler and their children are embarking on a sustainable farming mission in Central Pennsylvania. Follow them as they start Barefoot Hill Farm, a journey that will begin with renovating an old farmhouse and revitalizing previously vacant farmland and will continue with growing and raising organic food, reaching out to their local communities to spread the healthy eating gospel and acting as good stewards to beautiful farmland. Missy will document the ups, the downs, the triumphs and the setbacks that come with starting a modern organic sustainable farm.

Several years ago, my fiancé Brett and I were up to our eyeballs in news articles and literature about how the food we were putting into our bodies was destroying our health. This drive to learn more about the journey our food was taking from farm to supermarket happened to ramp up around the time that we were getting weary from the daily grind. Read More

Mechanical Engineer Breaks Away to Simpler Living, Starts ‘Beyond Organic’ Farm

July 16, 2013 |

missy breakaway farmsAbout ten years ago, a former country boy was sitting in his office at a successful engineering firm in Bethlehem, Pa., wondering what he was doing with his life. As he gazed out the window at a nearby farm, Nate Thomas became nostalgic for his childhood days on his parents’ Lancaster County farm, where he helped to raise animals and enjoyed nature and adventures through a young boy’s eyes.

During his seven years working in the real world, he became increasingly unsatisfied with his professional life. “Even though financially it was a very good decision, my soul wasn’t satisfied,” says Thomas, who broke away from the real world to run a farm on land adjacent to his parents’ farm to fulfill a desire to live sustainably and self sufficiently. The deliberately named Breakaway Farms represents Thomas’ resolute drive for personal freedom, self-sufficiency and a life more in line with what he experienced growing up. Read More