Posts By Missy Smith
Sitting peacefully across the street from a busy auto body shop and tucked behind fencing within the Allison Hill neighborhood of Harrisburg is the Pennsylvania state capitol’s only operating urban farm. The customary city noise becomes a distant memory as a symphony of tree-perched birds welcomes you through the farm’s gates and onto the lush, green organic vegetable farm.
Farm Manager Kirsten Reinford lovingly calls Joshua Farm an oasis amid a lively, sometimes troublesome section of the city. She started the urban farm in 2006, as a program of The Joshua Group, a nonprofit organization that works with at-risk youth. Through the mentoring group, Joshua Farm brings fresh, organic food and positive energy to a neighborhood with the highest poverty, unemployment, violent crime and school dropout rates in Harrisburg.
Simply put, Joel Martin loves his job. He and his wife Martha run a sustainable hatchery on their New Holland, Pa., family farm, where Martin says through his work, he has the privilege of witnessing the wonder of life.
JM Hatchery breeds domestic poultry for sale to customers in their local area, as well as to many people throughout the United States. After purchasing their Lancaster County property in 1984, Martin began raising Guinea Fowls for the Big Apple’s live poultry markets, where dealers would sell his Guineas to market-goers. In 1996, when Gingrich’s Animal Supply in Fredericksburg, Pa. approached Martin asking him if he would like to hatch Silkie chickens, he dove into the awe-inspiring world of hatching baby birds.
The world’s over-fished oceans have reached maximum sustainable yield at about 90 million metric tons per year, and many fish species like tuna are facing extinction. Not only is seafood over-fished, but it is oftentimes imported and obtained through unsustainable fishing and economic practices.
Bill Spencer, president and CEO of Hawaii Oceanic Technology, Inc., recognized this problem and a number of others with the commercial fishing industry. “The United States imports 85 percent of the seafood is consumes, half of which is farmed, resulting in a $12 billion trade deficit, the second largest natural resource trade deficit behind foreign oil,” he relays. “The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization has declared that we need to double farmed-seafood output within 30 years to meet demand.”
As a response to these statistics, Spencer and oceanographer Paul Troy set out to make the commercial fishing industry more sustainable, forming Hawaii Oceanic Technology in 2006.
First Time Farmers in Hopewell, NJ Embrace Unique Business Model, Hope to Grow Sustainable Farm MovementFebruary 25, 2013 | Missy Smith
Like many people jumping aboard the local food revolution, Robin and Jon McConaughy’s sustainable farming journey all started with an article that took a peek behind the conventional farming curtain. Ten years ago, as Robin McConaughy was flipping through the New York Times’ Sunday newspaper, she came across Michael Pollan’s article “Power Steer”, which chronicled the life of a conventionally raised cow from birth to dinner table.
“It disgusted me. It was such an eye opener,” reflects McConaughy, who says that neither she nor her husband have farming backgrounds. “I actually thought people farmed on green fields. I never [considered] what the meat from the supermarket actually was.” Already having a desire to own some land where their now 10- and 12-year-old boys could grow up forming a first-hand understanding of nature, McConaughy and her husband Jon found Pollan’s belly-turning piece to be the final push in a healthy, sustainable direction.
In 2003, the McConaughys purchased their 60-acre farm in Hopewell Township, N.J., and got to work raising some animals for their family’s consumption.
Several years ago, George Vidal and Emilio Perito responded to a personal calling to simultaneously conduct business and to do their part in preserving our natural resources. Realizing that water depletion and eroding topsoil were becoming major problems, the two set out to start a company that would address these environmental concerns by creating products designed to increase sustainability in farming.
“In the United States, topsoil is vanishing at a rate of 10 times faster than it can be formed,” explains Vidal. “Our current agricultural practices have already stripped our topsoil of many nutrients and minerals, which have a direct effect on our produce and grain that is fed to livestock, which leads to fewer nutrients to our bodies.”
Two young mechanical engineers, Brian Falther, 24, a 2010 graduate of Kettering University (Flint, Mich.) and Austin Lawrence, 21, a senior at Kettering University, have teamed up to bring small aquaponic grow systems into people’s homes, with each system being connected to an online farm community. Their concept is at once a virtual world with online interaction and connectivity and an authentic reality where real, clean, healthy food grows in a large collection of personal micro-aquaponic systems in homes throughout the world. They call their idea Future Tech Farm.
“The way we have been describing our home grow system is as a ‘node’ of the farm. The sum of all the nodes equals the farm. In essence, the Future Tech Farm is a singular decentralized and distributed farm—what we are calling a farming platform with a physical and virtual representation,” says Falther.
When Gina Cavaliero and Tonya Penick watched their contracting firm collapse, they had a personal and professional epiphany that would change the course of their lives and work. “It was just awful. We were laying off a lot of people. I was spending sleepless nights trying to find a recession-proof business,” says Cavaliero. In 2008, as their business was failing, the two business partners were introduced to aquaponics by Morning Star Fisherman, a non-profit organization with a mission to use aquaponics as a means to relieve world hunger. “We were amazed and enthralled by it,” she says.
At the same time, the healthy food movement was gaining more momentum, and the business partners were eager to jump on board. “It all culminated at the same time,” she explains.
Org Seeks to Expand Urban Edge Agriculture by Setting Up AgParks and Training New Sustainable FarmersDecember 26, 2012 | Missy Smith
One of the things preventing new and established farmers from growing food is the difficulty accessing farmland. Land is pricey, and farmland in particular is dwindling. Another obstacle farmers face is the lack of inexpensive education and training.
Sustainable Agriculture Education (SAGE) of Berkeley, Calif., is very much aware of these needs, and has implemented projects to help support new and seasoned farmers access land and education. SAGE, founded in 2001, also aims to improve food access for local communities, conserve natural resources and contribute to economic growth.
D.C. Startup Makes Urban Composting as Easy as Taking Out the Trash; Lush Soil Benefits Urban Farm ProjectsDecember 20, 2012 | Missy Smith
Tis the season for turkey, ham, stuffing, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, hors d’oeuvres, a lot of desserts and cookies! In keeping with seasonal tradition, Americans are preparing to ‘wow’ their guests with all sorts of tasty delights. While food spreads at holiday parties can be very impressive, they can also be quite wasteful. How many of us have chucked a bunch of leftover goodies, because they sat out all day or because they didn’t get eaten?
Almost thirty years ago, Larry Klco and his wife Tina started Rainbow Farms, a family owned and operated business located in Madison, Ohio. To stay afloat while the couple started their farming business, Klco worked another job to pay the bills and to help the farm progress financially. Then, eleven years ago, when the company he managed closed it doors, Klco took the leap to become a full-time farmer.
In the early days of the farm, the Rainbow Farms grew pick-your-own strawberries, cantaloupes, watermelon, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, broccoli, cauliflower and pumpkins that they sold wholesale and at the lone farmers market in their area at the time, Willoughby Outdoor Farm Market.
Big City Farms, of Baltimore, Maryland, has high ambitions for urban agriculture. About three years ago, Ted Rouse, Alex Persful, Brian LeGetter and Tom Handwerker formed the for-profit urban farming company to create more jobs and more accessible entry points into the sustainable agriculture industry by developing a network of local, sustainable farms that provides healthy food to Baltimore’s local community. All were in agreement that the two major factors preventing people from getting into agriculture are lack of available land and money to finance new operations. So, they started Big City Farms two years ago to remove these barriers for those interested in agriculture, healthy food and community building.
Overseeing a collection of hoop-house farms, Big City Farms grows healthy food for Baltimore’s inner city on urban land that is vacant or deteriorated, giving new life to underutilized spaces.
Two Childhood Friends Launch Hydroponic Farm to Meet Year-round Demand for Local Food in New EnglandDecember 17, 2012 | Missy Smith
In 1996, longtime friends from junior high school, Phil Todaro and Jeff Barton, took a road trip that altered the course of their careers. After Todaro read a Wall Street Journal article about a man who left a corporate job to start a hydroponic tomato farm in Vermont, the two friends went to visit him and became inspired. They believed there was a place in their local community for a farm that would provide pesticide-free produce year-round, so they set out to launch their own hydroponic farm. So, after studying under modern hydroponics pioneer Merle Jensen at the University of Arizona in 1996, the two friends and their families established Water Fresh Farm in 1997.
Today, Water Fresh Farm runs a hydroponic farm operation and marketplace in Hopkinton, Maine. Over the years, the two friends left the corporate world in pursuit of their farming dreams, with Jeff coming on full-time when the Water Fresh Farm Marketplace opened in 2011.
Fifteen years ago, before the modern urban agriculture movement really got going, Mary Seton Corboy and Tom Sereduk found themselves in the Kensington area of Philadelphia, starting a farm in the abandoned lot of a former galvanized steel plant. When they began looking for a property for their farm in 1997, they soon realized that what was mostly available was rundown industrial space. They ran with it.
When they first discovered the property, it was abandoned space; now it is the site of Greensgrow Farms, an initiative of the Greensgrow Philadelphia Project, which helps to develop green businesses, while filling abandoned spaces and revitalizing its neighborhood. “We are structured as a non-profit organization. Greensgrow Farms is our major project, and here we run a nursery, farm stand and CSA throughout the year. Our non-profit arm looks at ways to bring fresh produce into underserved neighborhoods, with the hope of eventually creating small businesses,” says Mary Seton Corboy, founder and Chief Farm Hand at Greensgrow Farms.