Posts By Trish Popovitch
Against a backdrop of rising land prices, traditional farmers in Utah struggle to survive. However, a mix of resourcefulness and necessity is driving farmers to develop creative solutions in urban environs. Salt Lake City-based Green Urban Lunch Box (GULB) is one such endeavor that is utilizing innovative growing models to ensure urban farming fills the gap traditional farming cannot afford to maintain.
“We don’t want to do what other people are doing. If we cannot do it significantly better and significantly cheaper than another nonprofit is doing it then we shouldn’t do it, because we are just going to be competing with them for funds,” says founder Shawn Peterson.
A fifth generation Utah farmer and an experienced business entrepreneur, Peterson founded the Green Urban Lunch Box six years ago in the heart of Salt Lake City after watching the movie, Truck Farm (from the maker of King Corn) on using farm trucks in the urban setting.
The story in Salt Lake County, Utah is pretty typical of a post 2008 American community. Vacant lots, underutilized land and an ever-growing local populace who would rather have locally grown produce than chemically-saturated, origin-iffy imports. The difference in Salt Lake County, however, is that rather than a nonprofit or private company, the government is facilitating the local food and urban farming movement.
“The urban farming program is the brainchild of Councilman Jim Bradley,” says Supreet Gill, Program Manager for Salt Lake County Urban Farming. “He initially became interested in the program after reading an article by Michael Pollan on [the] benefits of eating healthy food. Since that time, the urban farming program staff has created and managed various projects aimed at promoting cultivation and consumption of local, fresh and healthy food.”
Salt Lake County Urban Farming is a mediator, a go between if you will, that facilitates the relationship between the producer and the consumer with nothing to gain monetarily (budgets are beyond tight).
When it comes to Controlled Environment Agriculture [CEA], Valerie Loew wants the U.S. to catch up with Europe and China before it’s too late.
“The rest of the world is so far ahead of us, because they are so limited with their own resources,” says Loew, who is professor and horticulture department head at Fullerton College in Southern California. “They are taking advantage of this technology way before us because we have sunshine and we have water; but we really don’t. Between Europe and China, the amount of greenhouses they have is just off the charts. We need to start catching up.”
By focusing on building a quality product, encouraging community and supporting their farmer customers, Laramie, Wyoming-based Bright Agrotech looks to have a bright and busy future ahead of it.
The company has continued to grow since Seedstock first profiled them here in 2012, something CEO and founder Dr. Nate Storey attributes to the broad appeal of the company’s mission.
“No matter if you’re like the uber liberal kind of person on the left side of things, or a super conservative person on the right side of things, everyone can get on board with the idea that local production is better,” says Storey. “Everyone can get on board with the idea that when we spend money in our communities, that money stays in our communities.”
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.”