Posts By Noelle Swan
Jesse Blom, James Godsil, and Emmanuel Pratt have some lofty goals. Together with the Sweet Water Foundation, the trio hopes to convert urban blight into fertile 21st century neighborhoods, inspire disengaged teenagers that have tuned out at school, and bridge communities together—and they’re doing it all through aquaponics.
The Sweet Water Foundation grew out of Will Allen’s Growing Power Project. The former professional basketball player-turned-urban farmer is considered a pioneer in urban agriculture. For 20 years, Allen has helped to turn food deserts into farms in Milwaukee and Chicago. James Godsil had served on the Growing Power board for 5 years, used Milwaukee Renaissance wiki power to promote Allen and Growing Power across the nation and beyond when along came Emmanuel Pratt and Jesse Blom with an idea for a nonprofit foundation that would bring aquaponics into communities and schools.
The tale of the crash of the Detroit auto industry and subsequent decimation of the local job market, mass exodus of residents, eventual city bankruptcy has become a great American tragedy. But amongst the ruins of a once thriving metropolis, residents are sowing seeds of hope in the schools and the community.
Since 2010, Detroit Public School officials have been forced to shutter more than 70 schools due to budget cuts and dwindling enrollment. Some have been sold in the struggle to balance the collapsing city budget. But one former school is getting a new life as an urban farm with the help of the Michigan State University Extension and one very dedicated “lunch lady.”
As a traveling salesman, Luke Saunders knew first hand just how hard it can be to find fresh food on the go.
“I was the person who would pick up prepared food for the road because I knew that when I got there, there wouldn’t be good options,” he says. “If I ever got to a place and I had forgotten to plan ahead, the options were limited for healthy food.”
His solution? Farmer’s Fridge: vending machines stocked with fresh, healthy salads and snacks.
Restructured Policies and Community Partnerships Support Urban Agriculture Within Austin City LimitsMarch 24, 2014 | Noelle Swan
With a ten-month growing season and a sizeable locavore-hipster population, Austin, Texas seems like the perfect location for a thriving urban agriculture scene. But like many major cities, Austin’s zoning laws and city ordinances posed numerous barriers to those wishing to grow their own food within city limits. Over the past five years, the city has taken apart those laws and restructured them to support a new food movement.
Fifteen years ago, many of South Carolina’s rural lands were turning over to developed land a rapid rate. So in 2008, the South Carolina Conservation League, a 25-year-old advocacy organization, began to look into finding ways to help farmers become successful as a means of slowing that land development.
Around that time, a donor bought an old warehouse in Charleston that had been abandoned for two years and donated it to the League. After a lengthy planning phase and some extensive renovations, the League launched a new program, Grow Food Carolina. The program moved into the warehouse and began helping farmers expand their markets in 2011.
In 2009, the pair took a road trip from Northern California to Oregon with a couple of friends eager to scout out land for their new farm. It quickly became clear, however, that the kind of farming they were interested in, where livestock and crops utilized the same land, was more than a little beyond their reach.
“We realized that if we were going to be driving the tractors and managing the livestock ourselves, we would need $10 million worth of farmland and that didn’t fit in our credit limits,” Wichner says.
That’s when they realized they would need a different kind of business model.
After a year of fierce debate, House and Senate agricultural leaders released a finalized Farm Bill, known as The Agricultural Act of 2014 last week. The bill has been making its way through congress and President Obama is expected to sign it into law on Wednesday.
“Today’s bipartisan agreement puts us on the verge of enacting a five-year Farm Bill that saves taxpayers billions, eliminates unnecessary subsidies, creates a more effective farm safety-net and helps farmers and businesses create jobs,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D.) of Michigan, Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee said in a release on Jan. 27.
With roots in San Francisco’s storied People’s Food System, Veritable Vegetable has helped organic growers distribute their produce for nearly 40 years. While farmer’s markets and food co-ops are recent phenomena in some parts of the country, northern Californians started seeking an alternative to supermarkets and agricultural food giants in the 1970s. The People’s Food System was a network of collectives in the San Francisco Bay Area that sought to connect local food producers to neighborhood co-ops and community markets. In 1974, some members established the Veritable Vegetable Collective, which focused solely on produce distribution. Over the years, Veritable Vegetable has evolved from a worker-run collective into a for-profit company that serves growers and markets in parts of California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, and Hawaii.