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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture

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Posts By Trish Popovitch

Solutions Farms Combats Family Homelessness with Aquaponics Training in Vista, CA

October 6, 2015 |
Photo courtesy of Solutions for Change.

Photo courtesy of Solutions for Change.

In addressing homelessness with an aquaponics training program, Solutions Farms provides an opportunity for families to regain not only their financial footing and place in the community, but also their security and happiness. Solution Farms is a program that was created by Solutions for Change, a Vista, California-based nonprofit established in 1999 to address local family homelessness in innovative ways.

Kevin Gorham is the aquaponics specialist at Solution Farms. He came to the initiative with little experience, but plenty of enthusiasm.

“I heard about this place being built, so I drove over here and introduced myself. I just kept bothering them and telling them I’d like a job here. Once the system was up and going, they hired me to stay on and help manage and run it,” says Gorham. “I learned a lot more through my hands-on experience working here over the last three years.” Read More

From Orchids to Organic Hydroponic Produce – A Q&A with Sundial Farms’ Tarek Hijazi

October 4, 2015 |
HIjazi at work with his dog. Courtesy of Sundial Farms

Hijazi at work with his dog. Courtesy of Sundial Farms

California water regulations prompted San Diego-based Sundial Farms to switch from growing orchids to producing organic hydroponic produce in 2012. The farm is also pioneering the use of liquid organics fertilizers. Seedstock last wrote about them here in December 2013.

Seedstock caught up with Tarek Hijazi, manager of finance and hydroponic systems for Sundial Farms, to get his take on the challenge of growing produce amid California’s drought.  Hijazi will be a panel speaker at the 4th Annual Seedstock Sustainable Agriculture Conference on November 3-4 in San Diego. HIs panel will discuss indoor growing and the pursuit of market demand. Read More

Fish Atop a City Rooftop in Brooklyn Power Farming Startup

September 29, 2015 |
 VertiCulture’s Founders left to right: Miles Crettien, Ryan Morningstar, Jacob Hill, Peter Spartos. Courtesy of Ryan Morningstar.

VertiCulture’s Founders left to right: Miles Crettien, Ryan Morningstar, Jacob Hill, Peter Spartos. Courtesy of Ryan Morningstar.

On top of a former Pfizer building in Downtown Brooklyn fish and produce grow together in a symbiotic system. The rooftop venture VertiCulture Farms, established in 2012, is an indoor aquaponic farm that offers fresh produce and fish to the surrounding area through several sales channels. The founders hope their rooftop farm model will illustrate the potential of aquaponics in cities.

“We’d heard about hydroponics and aquaponics before, and thought we’d give it a shot,” says Ryan Morningstar, one of the cofounders of the startup based in Brooklyn, New York.  “We set up a small installation on the rooftop of the Metropolitan Exchange Building in downtown Brooklyn with recycled materials. We put a system together, got some tilapia and we saw that it worked.” Read More

Q&A: Seedstock Panelist Amy McCann on the Future of Food Hubs

September 27, 2015 |

Amy McCann is the director and co-founder of the food hub technology firm Local Food Marketplace. The company provides food hubs with systems management and technology. Their goal is to help food hub clients maximize efficiency and deliver a … Read More

Pioneering San Diego Business Builds Urban Edible Landscapes

September 22, 2015 |
Corporate Garden in San Diego. Courtesy of Urban Plantations

Corporate Garden in San Diego. Courtesy of Urban Plantations

Established in 2008, Urban Plantations was one of the nation’s first edible landscaping companies. Offering year-round organic gardening and landscaping services to corporate, residential and assisted-living clients, this small company of 11 continues to grow while providing jobs and quality organic food to residents in the San Diego area.

“We were one of the first of our kind. When we started the business, there was no model for us to pull from. We were, I feel, like true entrepreneurs. We weren’t starting a dry cleaning business or something like that. We had to figure out how to market a business that didn’t really exist,” says Karen Contreras, founder, president and CEO of the company. Read More

Q&A: Daron Joffe, Director of Agricultural Innovation and Development for the Leichtag Foundation

September 14, 2015 |
Daron Joffe. Credit: Joshua Sherman

Daron Joffe. Credit: Joshua Sherman

This November’s Seedstock Conference keynote speaker is Daron Joffe.  As director of Agricultural Innovation and Development for the Leichtag Foundation in Encinitas, CA,  founder of Farmer D Organics and author of “Citizen Farmers,” he has lots to say about innovation in the community and local food sector.

In advance of the fall conference, Seedstock spoke with Joffe about his work at the Leichtag Foundation and his plan to develop community farms.

Seedstock: What is the most important thing you want Seedstock readers to know about Daron Joffe?

Joffe: I’m involved in a community farming initiative with a focus on social justice, social entrepreneurship and education from youth to farmers, and it’s a 20-year passion. I’m humbled and inspired by the amount of positive stuff going on in the movement. I’m especially excited about the role that a new nonprofit farm I’m helping to incubate here in Encinitas, CA has to play in the movement as a new thought partner and innovator in this broader context of community farming. What I’ve discovered is the power of farming to build community. Read More

Urban Agriculture Ordinances Continue to Grow in Cities Across the Country

September 7, 2015 |
Urban far. Credit: Trish Popovitch.

Urban farm. Credit: Trish Popovitch.

More and more cities across the country are adopting urban agriculture ordinances to regulate and provide predictability and direction for urban growers.  The move towards adopting local regulations for urban agriculture has not been uniform. Some cities face challenges passing and adopting ordinances while other find widespread support from citizens and state legislators and a smooth path to implementation.

Santa Fe city officials say an urban agriculture ordinance is in the works, but the slow grinding of the city government wheel was too little too late for Gaia Gardens,  the Santa Fe urban farm of Poki Piottin and Dominique Pozo that ceased operations in August in response to trouble with city inspectors, according to a report in the Albuquerque Journal. The pair had advocated for change through battles over water, zoning and calls by neighbors for their farm stand to be closed. Exhausted and disillusioned, the farmers stop fighting and closed their farm. Read More

Urban Farming and the Law: A Q&A with Great Lakes Environmental Law Center’s Nick Leonard

August 17, 2015 |
Picture of Nick Leonard provided by Nick Leonard

Picture of Nick Leonard provided by Nick Leonard

Nick Leonard is an environmental law attorney currently serving a fellowship at the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center. Operating in Detroit since 2008, Leonard is an expert on the legalities of urban farming in Detroit and the surrounding region. Working pro bono, Leonard provides legal advice to individuals, organizations and businesses involved in urban agriculture. Leonard addresses some of the legal questions of urban farmers in Detroit and other cities.

What is the most frequent legal question you hear when it comes to urban farms?

Many of Detroit’s farmers and gardeners have been operating on their current site pursuant to a real property license agreement with the City of Detroit. [This is a common arrangement in cities]. Unfortunately, real property license agreements provide very little security for the license holder as they can essentially be terminated at any time. Many urban farmers and gardeners are very interested in how they can legally obtain a secure interest in their farm property and what they must do to comply with all continuing real property obligations, like maintaining the property in accordance with local property maintenance laws. Read More