Posts By Susan Botich
Urban gardening is a long-time tradition in the city of Baltimore, Maryland, according to the new City Farms Coordinator Harold McCray.
“Its original purpose was in response to urban hunger and malnutrition—that was its root,” McCray says.
The idea to include community gardens within Baltimore’s parks developed later, according to McCray. Former Mayor William Donald Schaefer suggested a garden network, beginning as a horticulture division of Recreation and Parks which became City Farms. In 1978, the first City Farms garden, located in Clifton Park, took root.
Rich Pirog is senior associate director at Michigan State University’s Center for Regional Food Systems. His work includes developing a statewide food hub network and providing oversight to new CRFS work groups and communities. Subjects covered in his recent writings include economic impact of local foods, food hubs, and building food value chains to address social, health and economic challenges in the food system.
Seedstock had the opportunity to speak with Pirog about MSU’s CRFS program and his latest publication, The Local Food Movement: Setting the Stage for Good Food.
The documentary film Growing Cities, released in the fall of 2013, is a film exploring the stories behind the people who are build urban farms across America.
The film has been shown at multiple festivals and screenings across the country, over the past year, and now the filmmakers are running a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for post-production to allow the film to run on PBS.
The campaign has currently raised approximately $12,000 of its $30,000 goal with only nine days to go (as of June 30th).
Seedstock recently had the opportunity to speak with the film’s director, Dan Susman, on the making of the film.
Mushrooms have become one of the county’s fastest growing agricultural industries, according to the company’s Sustainability Coordinator Kevin Foley. By utilizing the latest technology from Holland and holding fast to the company vision of minimizing its environmental footprint, Premier Mushrooms, located in Colusa County, California, has grown from 16 growing beds to 64 with a production output growth from 70 to 300 thousand pounds a week. This has all happened in just over seven years.
“Our vision was to take technology from around the world—Europe, mostly—and optimize it in the U.S.,” Foley says. “That was always the initial game plan. We focus on keeping that vision.”
About a year ago, Gabe Blanchet and Jamie Byron, both students at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, started kicking around the idea that people could feed themselves in a healthy and sustainable way by growing their own food in their homes. They envisioned this method as a kind of home “grove” that would work for urban environments and also for those who live where winters inhibit growing food outdoors year-round.
That idea developed into co-founding a company called Grove Labs. Blanchet and Byron are now CEO and CTO, respectively.
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.”