Posts By Vanessa Caceres
Whether it’s an affluent person who can afford to spend money on gourmet produce, or a person of limited means who wants to eat better, both are united in their quest for healthier food. That’s part of the driving force behind the Urban Oasis Project, which Art Friedrich founded in 2009 to make healthy, local food more accessible in Miami, FL.
Although Miami is a big city located in the agriculture-rich state of Florida, Friedrich found when he moved there that the sustainable food scene—one that would also help those who are lower income—was small. “It’s more based on image here, not reality and a nitty-gritty work ethic,” he says. This contrasted with Friedrich’s experience of living in New England and St. Louis, where sustainable farming is more common.
It’s one thing to manage a farm and all the challenges that it brings.
It’s another business challenge altogether to focus heavily on community involvement for your farm with special events, collaborations with area partners, farm tours, and brand promotion.
Yet Geraldson Community Farm, a certified organic farm in Bradenton, Florida has risen to both tasks with some adjustments along the way, says farm manager Christa Leonard.
The land itself where Geraldson is located has been agriculture-focused for decades, and the original owners sold the land to Manatee County with the caveat that it had to be used for agriculture. An arrangement was made with Florida West Coast Resource Conservation & Development, which funded the farm originally when it began in 2007. Leonard, a former behavioral therapist, got started with the farm as a volunteer and loved it so much, she stayed on.
Urban farming plays a vital role in community development—it provides access to healthy, local food and creates a bond between the farmer and local residents.
Yet sometimes, that bond can be taken away.
That’s what happened to Patchwork City Farms in Atlanta when the farm, which was situated on land belonging to the Atlanta school district, lost its lease, says Jamila Norman, an environmental engineer turned farmer, who started the urban agriculture venture with her business partner Cecilia Gatungo.
Their interest in farming began in 2010, when they helped a local church that was growing food onsite to distribute produce to local markets. Norman and her partner Gatungo had no background in farming, except that they had grandparents and great grandparents who were farmers.
Rod Palmer of Owls Hollow Farm in Gadsen, Alabama, wants people to think a little more about what they’re eating.
If they continue to eat the same processed foods that have led to an epidemic of diabetes and obesity, then they shouldn’t be surprised if their health isn’t improving.
If they continue to buy expensive produce grown outside the U.S. at the supermarket, then they won’t be able to stretch their dollars that much.
Owls Hollow gives both residents and employees at local companies in nearby Birmingham a way to eat healthier while saving money.
Palmer comes from a background in home building, and he never focused on farming as a career. When growing up, everyone around him, including his family, lived on a small farm. It never seemed like something unique.
The crew behind Ground Floor Farm never expected to return home to Stuart, Florida, and start an urban farm and community space. And yet, that’s how life happened—and they fully believe that others should consider pursuing the same idea in their communities.
The idea behind Ground Floor Farm was conceived about three years ago by Jackie Vitale, Mike Meier, and Micah Hartman. The three founders came from various career and college backgrounds, and none had set out to work in farming. For example, Vitale had studied and worked in theater, and Meier said his attraction to farming was more from a political and environmental angle than a focused interest in agriculture.
Yet when returning home one winter about three years ago, they broached the idea of starting a farm. “We started to talk about what our town needs,” Meier says. “We thought about a community space, food, fun, and art.” After finding a spot in downtown Stuart, they officially opened in March 2015.