Posts By Trish Popovitch
“We worked in California, Arizona and Vermont for a while so you know there was a thriving local food movement there. So when we came to North Dakota we saw that there wasn’t really. There really wasn’t any professional level CSA and there’s a 100,000 people in this community so we thought ‘well geez there’s got to be room for us to create a business like this.’” –Brian McGinness, Riverbound Farm
Bounded by the historic Missouri River, the North Dakota based Riverbound Farm is home to Brian and Angie McGinness and their children. A farm located in the river bottom comprised of 10-acres of grow space, cottonwood forest, pasture land and wetlands, is a less than typical location for growing certified organic vegetables and creating a community supported agriculture system (CSA). Turns out it’s also a lesson for farmers across the nation. If you grow it, they will come.
“We believe the next wars are going to be over food and water. So who better to train than our military in water conservation and food production?” – Karen Archipley
Returning military often find themselves struggling to return to normality after serving overseas. Colin Archipley, co-owner of Archi’s Acres in Escondido, CA knows exactly how they feel. He served three tours of duty during the Iraq War that began in 2003. Between his second and third deployment, Colin, along with his wife Karen, bought an inefficiently run avocado farm. Besides starting their own very successful living basil hydroponics farm on the site, the empathetic couple created an incubator for transitioning veterans. What they created became known as the Veterans Sustainable Agriculture Training or VSAT program, a way to help veterans train for self-employment in the peaceful profession of hydroponic farming.
“We wanted something that was sustainable, but was a really good deal for the customer. We call it bioponic. That means we use all organic practices. We have a definite crop production and we are always sold out.” - Karen Archipley
While deployed in Iraq, Colin Archipley used his down time to work on the avocado farm he and his wife Karen bought back in 2006. “His whole mission was to save our farm,” remembers Karen. The farm was purchased between Colin’s second and third assignment in Iraq. When he wasn’t out battling the tension in Haditha, Colin was on the phone figuring out how to make his farm successful. The desire to make a positive lasting difference in the world was hampered by outrageous San Diego water rates. They had to find a way to reduce their $845 water bill and make their farm efficient and sustainable. A switch to bio hydroponic agriculture, a change of main product and the luck of partnering with some big names in the world of organic food and Archi’s Acres was well on its way.
As a culture we have become so disconnected from our food. The sustainable agriculture movement is making strides to rectify the matter, but there is so much work still to be done. For those living in the inner cities, access to organic local food is even more difficult with few neighborhood outlets for healthy produce. That’s why the work of urban farmer, Chanowk Yisrael and the Yisrael Family Farm is one step closer to local access of fresh fruits, vegetables and honey for the folks of the Oak Park community in Sacramento.
The Yisrael family farm began in 2007 when Yisrael started to look at the economic fear that was mounting across the globe. “I’m sitting in my cubicle… and at that point there was a lot of fear mongering going on. You know: ‘everything is going to crash,’ ‘it’s the Great Depression Part 2,’ ‘we only have 60 days left,’ ‘run for the hills,’ that type of stuff,” remembers Yisrael.
Currently, the world’s food system is in a state of flux. Small growers across the globe attempt to impact their local communities by producing organic food that challenges traditional food production. The students of Stanford University’s FEED (Food Education Entrepreneurship Design) Collaborative intend to impact the food system in another way: human centered design.
Matthew Rothe of Stanford’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design explains the FEED Collaborative’s approach to fixing the global food system. “We believe that human centered design is a powerful process for uncovering the unmet needs of people and for unlocking the creative problem solving potential of its practitioners. Coupled with the domain knowledge of our collaborators and opportunities for social entrepreneurship, we believe human centered design is the most compelling opportunity we have for driving the level of innovation needed to transform our food system.”
“Farming requires you to work and think in long time lines. You start looking at farm management as a generational timeline. So if it would take me 20 to 30 years to really understand all the wisdom that my father had and then also to realize that in order for our daughter to understand the dynamics and really learn the lay of the land will take her 20 years to 30 years.” –David Mas Masumoto Masumoto Family Farm
As more and more folks turn to small farms as a lifestyle choice they often don’t think about the bigger picture. It’s a wonderful notion to help preserve America’s farmland now, but what about the future? Who will take over the farm when you pass away or retire? Farm succession planning is a really important part of modern farming and something every grower needs to think about and deal with no matter their acreage or what crops they grow. America’s farms must become multi-generational to survive. Are you prepared?
Every small grower likes to find ways to reduce costs and cut out the middle man but Adam Navidi of Future Foods Farms and Green to Go has turned organic growing and serving his clientele into a planet friendly fine art. He grows a wide range of organic produce through the aquaponic systems on his farm. The produce is then sold at his restaurant. The restaurant scraps in turn are used to feed the fish on his farm. This sustainable circuit of good is developed from a combination of creative thinking, hard work and a passion for good food.
“As a chef that owns a catering company and a restaurant, I wanted to be able to provide my clients with the best produce possible. For a chef there is no better way for being in tune with your food than to grow it yourself,” explains Navidi. Future Foods Farms, the largest aquaponic farm in Southern California, sits on 25 acres of open country and began in earnest back in 2008. Comprised of ten large greenhouses, Future Foods Farms is home to a varied assortment of fruit and vegetables not to mention hundreds of tilapia fish. Vegetarian fish fed on California organic brown rice no less.
“This bill supports research, marketing, creating infrastructure, access to healthy food, and education – all necessary for the success of agriculture…. Local and regional agriculture will be the major driver for the farm economy of the future. This bill is important to the future of farming in our country and the health and well-being of America.” – David Bauermeister, Northwest Agriculture Business Center
One of the main issues small growers face is a lack of established infrastructure that promotes sustainable food choices. As the number of farmer’s markets in the nation climbs past the 8,000 mark and as the USDA reports almost $5 billion in annual revenue from local farmers, the federal government is entertaining an addition to the Farm Bill to help alleviate some of the problems facing independent producers. HR 1414 aka the Local farms, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013 hopes to improve opportunities through assistance grants, training, marketing assistance and technology allowing small growers to keep up with increasing demand.
A nationwide initiative to encourage hospitals to provide patients and employees with healthier food choices may benefit independent growers. The Healthy Food in Health Care (HFHC) program encourages hospitals across the country to pledge to a more sustainable food program in their facilities with a focus on buying local and encouraging preventative healthcare.
The Healthy Food in Health Care (HFHC) program is the brainchild of the folks at Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) and is just one of their many initiatives to encourage hospitals to use their purchasing power to promote preventative healthcare through healthy food. HCWH began in 1996 in response to the discovery that the burning of medical waste was one of the largest sources of the carcinogen dioxin on the planet. HCWH is comprised of 28 separate organizations in 52 countries. The group is a privately funded 501 c3 with several green program successes already under their belt.
“The year is heavy with produce. And men are proud, for of their knowledge they can make the year heavy. They have transformed the world with their knowledge.” - John Steinbeck, Grapes of Wrath
Like all of us, writer and grower David Mas Masumoto is a product of his culture and his regional circumstances not to mention the owner of the famous Masumoto Family Farm peach orchards in the arid Central Valley of California. His love of the land punctuates his narrative as he shares his wisdom of organic farming, family ties and the story that is sustainable agriculture.
The Masumoto family has farmed peaches, on an 80-acre patch of land south of Fresno, since 1948. After finishing college, Mas Masumoto returned to his family farm and a few years later bought 40 acres of land from his father. In the mid-1980s he made the decision to farm organically.
The demand for local food continues to grow, often faster than small growers and infrastructure can keep up. That’s why the work of the Northwest Agriculture Business Center (NABC) is vital in connecting small farmers to big business in Northwest Washington State.
Founded in 2006, NABC is the brainchild of a group of farmers and politicians who noticed a gap in the small business assistance market. Independent growers running small farms are first and foremost farmers. Brand development, marketing, establishing a customer base and utilizing accounting technology are often unfamiliar and time consuming aspects of the small farm business. NABC provides assistance in these and other areas helping to keep small farms viable.
“Our idea is that sustainable is renewable and so we’re in the solar business because basically the ranch is a big solar panel that we use to harvest sunshine and turn into grass that we turn into beef. We also want to make farming attractive to the next generation because if the next generation isn’t attracted to it then it isn’t sustainable.”-Keith Lankister, Bar Double L Beef
Wendi Lankister met her husband Keith while studying ranch management in college. Keith Lankister was studying to be a farrier. The couple found they shared a desire to start their own sustainable cattle ranch. After twelve years of working on ranches around the west gaining valuable insight into the processes of raising livestock, the Lankisters settled just outside Glenrock, Wyoming with their three daughters. Today, the Bar Double L Beef ranch is a profitable adventure in homeschooling, healthy living and grass fed certified organic cattle.
Most folks, farmers or otherwise, had their first introduction to vapor farms in the hit movie series “Star Wars.” Vapor farming is no longer a thing of science fiction. In fact, its an emerging industry that could change the way the world views water. We interviewed three of the top rated atmospheric water generation (AWG) system producers in the industry to better understand not only the technology, but its potential for sustainable agriculture. Atmospheric Water Systems, Inc. (AWS), EcoloBlue, Inc. and Island Sky Corporation happily explained their systems and the potential of AWG for modern farming.
Atmospheric water is exactly what it sounds like: water from the earth’s atmosphere. Everything contains water and everything has a dew point, the point at which vapor in the air condenses into liquid form.