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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture

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Posts By Noelle Swan

Sweet Water Foundation Focuses on Getting Aquaponics Systems into Schools

May 2, 2014 |
Photo courtesy of the Sweet Water Foundation

Photo courtesy of the Sweet Water Foundation

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. Read More

Detroit Public Schools to Convert 27-acre Shuttered High School Campus into Urban Farm

April 24, 2014 |
Urban Detroit's former Kettering High School. Image courtesy of Betti Wiggins

School gardens at Detroit public schools provide nutrition for students. Image courtesy of Betti Wiggins

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.” Read More

Chicago Startup Offers Healthy, Organic Foods in Vending Machines

April 4, 2014 |
Photo courtesy of Farmer's Fridge

Photo courtesy of Farmer’s Fridge

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. Read More

Restructured Policies and Community Partnerships Support Urban Agriculture Within Austin City Limits

March 24, 2014 |

Austinites build an artist-designed community garden. Photo courtesy of Austin Art in Public Places

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.

Read More

Charleston Food Hub Helps Farmers Make Local Connections

March 21, 2014 |

downloadFifteen 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. Read More

California Real Estate Company Creates Organic Farmland With Unique Business Model

March 12, 2014 |

postFarmland-logo-largeCraig Wichner and Jason Bradford thought they wanted to be farmers.

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. Read More

Farm Bill a ‘Mixed Bag’ for Sustainable Ag

February 3, 2014 |

post_usdalogoAfter 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. Read More

Outgrowth of People’s Food System, Veritable Vegetable Broadens Horizons for Organic Farmers

August 27, 2013 |
Photo credit: Veritable Vegetable

Photo credit: Veritable Vegetable

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. Read More