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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture
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Posts By Trish Popovitch

The Art and Angst of Water: California Farm Bureau’s Danny Merkley Insures Water Flows in Fair, Balanced Manner

August 1, 2013 |

“With water, it’s soil. Without water, it’s dirt.” -Danny Merkley, California Farm Bureau

A symphony, a balancing act and an art form. These are just a few ways Danny Merkley, Director of Water Resources for the California Farm Bureau Federation, describes managing the flow of water in the Golden State. It’s been his job since 2007, but a love of water blossomed early in this fourth generation California farmer.

“Growing up on the ranch I ran a number of irrigation systems from surface irrigation systems, row systems to sprinklers to, in a small way, some drip systems early in the 1990s. Water to me is an art form; moving water across a field, across large acreages of land, across more than just a 20 foot front yard. I’ve always been fascinated with water, but water policy I accidentally walked into when I got bit by the water bug working at the state water board in 2004,” shares Merkley. Read More

Leasing Abandoned City Lots, Six Young Farmers Cobble Together a Sustainable Urban Farming Enterprise

July 10, 2013 |

“There’s a lot of interest in urban agriculture right now, in coming outside and reconnecting with the earth and it just seems like there are a lot of people who are hungry for that.” – Emily Hanson, Stone’s Throw Urban Farm

Alex Leibman, Emily Hanson, Eric Larsen, Klaus Zimmerman-Mayo, Robin Major and John Seitz of Stone’s Throw Urban Farm are making a sustainable name for themselves by leasing empty lots throughout the inner city areas of Saint Paul and Minneapolis to grow food. The sustainable grown produce is in turn sold to the local community. It’s hard work for this six-farmer partnership, but so far the business model has borne fruit.

The founders of Stone’s Throw Urban Farm all have experience farming in the real world as well as education in sustainable agriculture. To launch Stone’s Throw they created a limited liability partnership comprised of numerous city lots that could produce a healthy sustainable diet for the local community. Read More

Polarizing Production: Ag of the Middle

June 26, 2013 |

“Over 80% of farmland in the U.S. is managed by farmers whose operations fall between small-scale direct markets and large, consolidated firms. These farmers are increasingly left out of our food system. If present trends continue, these farms, together with the social and environmental benefits they provide, will likely disappear in the next decade or two.” Fred Kirschenmann

Often we hear about small farmers and Big Agriculture but what about the growers and producers in the middle? Their operations are usually too large to sell directly to customers, but too small to have much bearing on the stock market. The ‘Ag of the Middle’ is a term used to define the farmers caught in the middle of the agricultural debate both physically and politically. Read More

Pioneer Planting with a Tailed Twist: Riverbound Farm, North Dakota

June 12, 2013 |
Photo Credit: Riverbound Farm

Photo Credit: Riverbound Farm

“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. Read More

Armed with a Trowel, VSAT Program Aids Veterans in Launching Sustainable Startups

May 30, 2013 |

“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

Archis+Acres+LogoReturning 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. Read More