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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture

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Posts By Trish Popovitch

Students Develop Commercial Hive Sensor, Allow Keepers to Bee Informed of Bee Health

July 23, 2014 |
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Photo courtesy of Jonathan Engelsma

When academic theory meets real world application, the possibilities are endless. Just ask Jonathan Engelsma, professor of computer science at Grand Valley State University in Michigan.

Engelsma, with fellow faculty John Ferris and Anne Marie Fauvel, aided students in the creation of a digital beehive scale and software application. The SolutionBee application, about to hit the apiary supply market, provides beekeepers with an opportunity to help scientists research the serious issue of bee health. Read More

Alabama Food Bank Focuses on Growing the Local Food System to Alleviate Hunger

July 12, 2014 |
Photo courtesy of the Food Bank of North Alabama

Photo courtesy of the Food Bank of North Alabama

“Our challenge is not only feeding people who are hungry today, but how do we work proactively to address the causes of hunger and poverty?,” asks Kathryn Strickland,  Executive Director of the Food Bank of North Alabama. “That’s why we’re interested in supporting economic development within in our local food system; to help create meaningful jobs and healthy food access to really get at the root cause of the hunger and poverty,” says Kathryn Strickland.

What started as a single volunteer sitting behind a desk in a local senior center in 1984 has blossomed into an organization that helps feed 100,000 people over an 8,000 square mile service area in Northern Alabama, with the help of 200 partnering agencies. As Strickland explains, the food bank doesn’t only want to reduce hunger; it wants to give local residents, farmers and stakeholders the tools to connect the dots of a local food system. Read More

Urban Ag Curriculum for High School Students is Growing Gardeners in Portland, Oregon

July 2, 2014 |
Students work the land in the Madison High School community garden. Image courtesy of Madison High School.

Students work the land in the Madison High School community garden. Image courtesy of Madison High School.

From seed propagation to food justice, Susan Weincke has all the bases covered in her urban agriculture curriculum. Teaching at North Madison High School in Portland, Weincke blends practical experience with plant science to bring sustainable agriculture to a new generation of urban dwellers.

After working on educational and commercial farms and owning her own landscaping business, Susan Weincke became the Garden Coordinator at Madison High School in 2010. Through the government’s Career and Technical Education program, Weincke became a co-teacher at the school, assisting in science education. Today, having completed her Master’s in Education, Weincke is the agriculture teacher for Madison, using a school garden and outdoor classroom to bring her lessons on sustainability to students in grades 9 through 12. Read More

Atlanta Startup Brings Hyperlocal Hydroponics Across the Globe

July 1, 2014 |
Matt Liotta- Founder Liotta stands in front of the custom built hydroponics systems featuring a proprietary LED light feature. All images courtesy of PodPonics.

Matt Liotta- Founder Liotta stands in front of the custom built hydroponics systems featuring a proprietary LED light feature. All images courtesy of PodPonics.

“The reality is that there is just less water available for agriculture than there’s ever been. As you look to the future, the amount of food production that’s needed and the amount of water we’ll have to do it, is going to require that we grow the food with less water than we do today.”–Matt Liotta, PodPonics

Selling their tubs of mixed greens wholesale to major retailers such as Krogers, Whole Foods and The Fresh Market, PodPonics has become a name to know in the world of commercial-scale hydroponic produce. Read More

Wyoming Nonprofit Provides ‘Food for Thought’ to Localize the Equality State

June 30, 2014 |
Still in its infancy, Seeds of Change community garden provides local fresh food for the food dessert of Mills, Wy. Photo by Trish Popovich.

Still in its infancy, Seeds of Change community garden provides local fresh food for the food dessert of Mills, Wy. Photo by Trish Popovich.

The ‘grow local buy local’ movement has finally arrived in Wyoming, but informing Wyomingites about food justice, food deserts and the importance of locally produced organic food sources can be a challenge. Luckily, Jamie Purcell, Executive Director of the startup Wyoming Food for Thought Project, a 501 (c)3 founded in 2012, is facing the challenge head on and so far, it’s working.

After discovering a lifelong dream of becoming an architect didn’t live up to the reality, Purcell spent time in several nonprofits beginning with a year in the AmeriCorps program, living in poverty while assisting in summer programs for low income children.

“When you don’t work in poverty programs, it’s easy to assume everyone lives like you do,” says Purcell. “But the truth is, for a lot of people in our community, they live in poverty.” Read More

Bee Advocates Help Bring Pro-Pollinator Policy to Minnesota

June 23, 2014 |
Beez Kneez Founders Kristy Allen and Erin Rupp. Photo courtesy of Erin Rupp

Beez Kneez Founders Kristy Allen and Erin Rupp. Photo courtesy of Erin Rupp

“So bees are dying. It’s hard to be a beekeeper. It’s hard to be a bee. But it’s also really wonderful work.”—Erin Rupp, Beez Kneez, LLC.

Beez Kneez, LLC of Minneapolis was founded in 2010 by Kristy Allen to provide a city outlet for her aunt and uncle’s locally produced honey. In 2011, co-owner and educator Erin Rupp joined the fun and this bee friendly team of two not only provide honey processing space for local beekeepers, bike raw honey to their customers and educate folks on all things bee related. They’ve also managed to make some pro-pollinator policy changes at the legislative level.

Read More

‘Pop-Up Victory Gardens’ Honor History While Greening Blight in the Windy City

June 13, 2014 |
Peterson Grow to Give beds: Five percent of food produced on each of the community gardens is given to area organizations for distribution. Images courtesy of Peterson Garden Project

Peterson Grow to Give beds: Five percent of food produced on each of the community gardens is given to area organizations for distribution.
Images courtesy of Peterson Garden Project

The “We Can Do It!” spirit is alive and well in North Chicago due to one former corporate executive turned gardener extraordinaire.

“I developed this condition called lot lust. I see empty lots and I lust to put gardens there,” says LaManda Joy, volunteer Executive Director of the nonprofit, Peterson Garden Project.

When LaManda Joy moved home to increase her food growing space, she found herself passing the same empty lot day after day.  During a trip to a neighborhood butcher shop, she noticed a framed photograph on the shop wall depicting a World War II victory garden. It was the empty lot of her commute, on the corner of Peterson and Campbell. Joy was inspired to turn that empty lot into a pop-up victory garden, the first of many for the Peterson Garden Project that began in 2010. Read More

Nebraska Nonprofit Brings Bounty to Blight in Urban Omaha

June 5, 2014 |
Photo courtesy of City Sprouts

Photo courtesy of City Sprouts

A passionate leader can make all the difference to a nonprofit organization focused on promoting sustainability. Roxanne Williams, Executive Director of City Sprouts, bubbles over with excitement about the great things happening in her North Omaha neighborhood.

“It’s like all the things I’ve done all my life just all came together in this one perfect opportunity. I get to work with students, I get to grow things and help people have access to fresh fruits and vegetables,” says Williams. Read More