Posts By Susan Botich
Why would an established affordable housing lending institution decide to change its name?
“Lowcountry Housing Trust has been the South Carolina leader in affordable housing lending,” says Anna Hamilton, strategic initiatives director for the organization. “As we worked under our previous name of Lowcountry Housing Trust, we thought that we’d really love to see a grocery store here or a daycare there. To realize our vision of a sustainable community, we added community business loans and healthy foods retail loans. We believe our new name, South Carolina Community Loan Fund says what we really do because our mission had evolved to more than just affordable housing.”
Cherry Capital Foods opened business in 2007 with a single man selling local produce out of his van. The following year, John Hoagland bought the business and took it to the next level.
“As a distributor, Cherry Capital Foods picks up and delivers to schools, restaurants and other institutions,” says Evan Smith, chief of operations and spokesperson for Cherry Capital Foods. “We’re part of the value chain that connects local to local. A value chain is like a supply chain but it’s more transparent and collaborative so that everyone along the chain is valued. In a value chain, everyone earns a living and it is benefiting everyone along the way.”
When Don Webber got a phone call from an organic farmer-friend asking for help selling produce, his mental gears started to turn.
“I have a background in sales and marketing,” says Webber. “I was very intrigued from the financial aspect and the social aspect. After researching local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) business models, I decided we’d do things a little differently: reach out to a market segment that had not been involved in CSA—the regular old Joe.”
Dan Horan had a notion back in 1989 that started with a college essay and turned into a business plan: enlist the cooperative efforts of various small farms in the region to supply supermarkets with locally produced foods. The idea of bringing the farmers’ market to the local supermarket was planted, he says.
“Fast-forward to 2010,” says Horan. “I sold the company I was involved with and hired my first employee.”
The name for Horan’s new venture, Five Acre Farms, came from the principle of small, local agriculture serving its local communities, according to Horan.
“Our focus was on the mainstream customer,” says Horan, “improving their access to local food where most of the shopping is happening—in the supermarkets. Less than 10 percent of people can support the farmers’ market. We wanted to be in the mainstream shopping centers.”
Nic and Jen Welty wanted to see more locally grown, nutritious foods offered to the students at their daughter’s school in Leelanau County, Michigan. Having previously worked as Farm Manager at Black Star Farms in nearby Suttons Bay, Nic Welty was poised to start his own venture. So, in 2008, the couple started their own company, 9 Bean Rows, and built a Community Supported Agriculture program with a focus on supplying local food to area schools. Soon, the couple snared a contract to supply the Leelanau County Public School System year-round with fresh salad greens.
In 2008, Greenbank Farm established its Organic Farm School to teach sustainable agricultural methods to students from all walks of life. The farm, located on Greenbank, Washington’s Whidbey Island, teaches agriculture methods and emphasizes how to manage a farm as a viable business.
Farm manager and instructor Jessica Babcock says the Farm School’s emphasis on business management is what sets it apart from other organic agricultural training programs.
“Each student leaves the program with an extensive business plan they have written that they can use to start their own sustainable farm business,” says Babcock.
Sierra Valley Farms has found that by being open to new ideas, keeping farming practices simple and diversifying its products, farming sustainably can be successful and rewarding, according to owner Gary Romano.
“I’m a third generation farmer,” Romano says. “My family were flower growers in the Bay Area. My mom’s side of the family were cattle ranchers in the Sierra. When I was a kid growing up, I was raised on the flower farm. We did it the old-fashioned way—allowing cover crops to grow, hand weeding—the natural way. I took that model to use here and it works.”
In 1990, Romano bought the last 65 acres of his family’s ranch, located in the high Sierra of Plumas County, California and decided to turn it into a farm. It was a three-year process for Sierra Valley Farms to become Certified Organic, the only organic farm within 100 miles, according to Romano.
Urban Farm Collective Converts Vacant City Lots into Edible Gardens, Exchanges Food for Hours WorkedMarch 7, 2013 | Susan Botich
It all started with a simple idea: bring neighbors together to transform vacant city lots into neighborhood food gardens. Why? To improve the quality of food available to the community. From that little seed, the Urban Farm Collective (UFC) has grown into multiple working gardens throughout the Portland, Oregon area.
“In the seed stages, it was very much just a handful of friends,” says Urban Farm Collective Director Janette Kaden. “We had yards and we thought we’d share them and turn them into gardens.”
But it took some creative thinking to cultivate that seed idea into the strong community network it has grown to be.
“In 2009, we started with one garden,” Kaden says. “About a dozen people came to the table to talk about this idea of transforming vacant lots into gardens. But, out of that, only one or two people would show up at the garden to work.”