Posts By Trish Popovitch
“Taro farmers are my heroes and I wanted to emulate the people I admired and respected. Farming was a big part of my life so I wanted to become a farmer,” says Adam Asquith, founder of Kealia Farm, Kauai, HI. Initially rejecting the farming tradition of his Wisconsin youth, Asquith spent a few years exploring the career market only to decide that the tradition of farming did mean a lot to him after all. So much so in fact, he moved to Hawaii and established a taro farm. For Asquith, it was more than the challenge of it; it was about retaining the tradition of taro farming in Hawaii and turning his 30 acres of irrigated green space into an example of what can be done in terms of sustainable agriculture education and farming on the “Garden Isle” of Kauai.
Located in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area, Rooftop Roots is a social enterprise taking the restrictive needs of a city littered with zoning laws and height restrictions as a challenge worth going vertical for. Designing, installing and maintaining custom gardens on rooftops, and creating community gardens across the city, Rooftop Roots is helping to build the conversation on how the nation’s capital utilizes its green spaces.
“We’re a nonprofit landscaping company but instead of mowing lawns we build gardens and maintain gardens for residential, commercial and community partners,” says Thomas Schneider, Executive Director of nonprofit Rooftop Roots.
After discovering their dream of office buildings with built up gardens on top was practically impossible to achieve with D.C.’s height restrictions, Rooftop Roots had to rethink its business plan. “We won’t only put gardens on roofs but we’ll put gardens in every nook and cranny and urban landscape we possibly can,” says Schneider.
When PhD graduate Noah Wilson-Rich looked around for a way to raise capital for bee health research, he stumbled upon the idea of starting a beehive installation company. Before long, The Best Bees Company, founded in 2010, was delivering, installing and maintaining beehives across New England before branching out into several major cities including Washington D.C., Denver, Chicago and Los Angeles. With a focus on creating a healthier bee population and preventative messages to combat multiple stress disorder, Wilson-Rich and his nationwide team of trained beekeepers are collecting regional bee data, disrupting traditional patterns of honeybee home choice and encouraging the restoration of America’s dwindling pollinator habitat.
“Everything we do is in Boston, it’s like our experimental area; then we scale that across the different sites,” says Wilson-Rich, founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Boston-based The Best Bees Company. Custom built hives, installation and monthly maintenance as well as the bees necessary to make the whole thing work runs
The American urban farm comes in many guises but come it does. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 800 million people worldwide practice urban agriculture. That accounts for between 15 to 20 percent of the world’s food supply. As urban ag continues to build momentum across all 50 states, the influence and scope of the urban farm is growing. Most of us think of less than a couple of acres when we think urban farm, yet urban farms are getting bigger. And some are getting really big.
Careful planning, adequate startup capital and experience working on a traditional rural farm are just three of the elements that veteran urban farmer, and co-founder of Vancouver’s Sole Food Street Farms, Michael Ableman feels are necessary to be successful in the new urban agriculture movement. Founded in 2008, Sole Food Street Farms would be considered by many growers as established and successful, but for Ableman there is still much work to be done both at Street Farms and in the development of the city farm movement.
“The skill level required to be a farmer is not something you get just by wearing the right clothes, having the right tools and having started last year. It takes five to ten years to develop that skill level,” says Ableman. “What we’re trying to do is demonstrate that it is in fact possible to have a credible model of agriculture in the city, so the scale and production levels, the volume we produce, the number of people we employ is significant.”