Posts By Susan Botich
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.”
Hydroponics, the practice of growing crops in nutrient-rich water as opposed to soil, in concert with aquaculture, the farming of aquatic organisms such as fish, crustaceans, molluscs, etc., creates a sustainable, symbiotic farming system called aquaponic farming. Aquaponic farming is not a new form of farming, but other than many of the readers of this website few people know about it. Three men, Gabriel Michels, Timothy Kirk and Nicholas Fox, who partnered to create Grass Roots Aquaponic Farms LLC, located in Oregon City, Oregon, hope to change that. The idea was planted years ago.
“Actually, I was inspired back in high school,” says Michels. “That was about 10 years ago. Nic and I were in the same class and our school got a grant to have a complete aquaponic setup. It was great! We grew all kinds of vegetables.”
When Bill and Karla Chambers founded Stahlbush Island Farms in 1985, their goal was to not only grow certified organic produce but also to integrate sustainability into all aspects of their operation. In 1997, Stahlbush Island Farms was certified sustainable by Food Alliance (FA).
“Sustainability is a journey, not an end point,” says Stahlbush Island Farms marketing executive Emily J. Hall. “It’s about having an ongoing philosophy regarding how you operate as a company, and making the right choices every day.”
Shopping at Farmers Markets or participating in the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) system of picking up weekly produce boxes from a local farm are both great ways to enjoy locally grown produce. But once the growing season is over, generally, so are the Farmers Markets and the CSAs. So, how can people buy local produce and other farm products year-round? From out of this dilemma, the seed for a new business idea was planted.
In 2009, Andrew Adams saw the need in his Bend, OR community to get local, organic foods during the “off season.” So, he decided to fill that niche. He believed that if he created a link between local farms and local folks, people could be supplied with a year-round bounty of fresh, organic foods. Out of this idea, grew Agricultural Connections (AC).