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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture

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New Chicago Compost Ordinance Eases Restrictions for Urban Farmers and Gardeners

October 5, 2015 |
The Ground Rules, a Chicago farming project of Social Ecologies, is one of many urban farms and community gardens in the city that will benefit from Chicago’s new compost ordinance. (photo courtesy of Nance Klehm)

The Ground Rules, a Chicago farming project of Social Ecologies, is one of many urban farms and community gardens in the city that will benefit from Chicago’s new compost ordinance. (Photo courtesy of Nance Klehm)

The Windy City took another step toward sustainability on July 29, 2015 when Chicago’s City Council approved a new compost ordinance.

The new regulation will allow community gardens in Chicago to compost various types of organic waste, including food scraps such as vegetables and eggshells. Previously, only landscape waste was permitted for compost, such as grass and shrubbery clippings.

Formerly, community gardens and urban farms were only allowed to compost items that were produced on-site. Accepting donations of food scraps was not permitted, and permits were required for all compost containers measuring more than five cubic yards. Read More

Fight Drought with Compost, University of California Riverside Expert Says

May 3, 2015 |
Green waste compost piles up at a compost facility in Oxnard, north of Los Angeles. (photo courtesy of David Crohn)

Green waste compost piles up at a compost facility in Oxnard, north of Los Angeles. (photo courtesy of David Crohn)

It’s no secret that Southern California is suffering from prolonged drought, and according to a University of California, Riverside (UCR) professor and conservation specialist, compost can be used as a potent drought-fighting tool.

“Compost is a good source of organic matter, helps retain nutrients and helps conserve water,” says David Crohn. “Adding compost to sandy soil helps it to hold more water, which makes water management easier.” Read More

Minneapolis Landscape Business Works to Make City Ordinances Compost-friendly

April 16, 2014 |
Images courtesy of Giving Tree Gardens

Images courtesy of Giving Tree Gardens

With a penchant for all things rotting, Russ Henry has built a sustainable business, literally from the ground up.

Giving Tree Gardens is an organic landscaping service in Minneapolis well known for its high quality compost. Specializing in native species planting, pollinator-friendly designs and organic gardening education, Giving Tree Gardens has been building a sustainable business and a positive influence in the Twin Cities since 2005.

Russ Henry, owner of Giving Tree Gardens, spent many years in the landscaping world before starting his own company. Read More

Center for Sustainability at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo to Host Compost Training Course on March 24 – 28

March 3, 2014 |

Image Credit: Hunter Francis, Director of the Center for Sustainability, Cal Poly Agriculture, Food and Enviromental Sciences (CAFES)

The Center for Sustainability, Cal Poly Agriculture, Food and Enviromental Sciences’ (CAFES) training course is a 4-Day Professional Development Certificate Series in large-scale composting. Additionally, there will be a 1-Day Industry/Grower Compost Symposium that will take place on Friday, March 28. More details are below:

Professional Development Certificate Series (Monday -Thursday)

A four-day comprehensive training on large-scale composting. This workshop will lead participants through the entire composting process from site selection and management techniques, to compost utilization and marketing strategies. Workshop includes a combination of classroom, laboratory and hands-on exercises including recipes, troubleshooting, regulatory issues, and end product evaluation. One day will be devoted to a tour of regional composting and organics recycling facilities. An optional ‘Certificate of Technical Ability’ will be available upon completion of the course. Read More

Container Farming System Co. Aims to Take Strain off Agricultural System while Improving Yields

December 9, 2013 |

Image Credit: EarthBox

In 1994, Mickey Lynch was working on a project in Florida to turn waste products from landfills into usable materials. This project brought him into contact with many farmers, including Blake Whisenant, who had recently lost a large tomato crop due to flooding and was developing a raised system to protect the crop and offer more control over the growing environment. The pair began a collaboration that resulted in EarthBox, a container farming system that reduces waste and takes the guesswork out of farming.

Frank DiPaolo, general manager of EarthBox, credits much of the success of the product over the years to its simplicity. Water is reserved at the bottom of the container. Layered over the water is an aeration screen, which prevents root rot and mold, and over that is a peat-based growing media, which draws up the water as it is needed. The EarthBox also works with a fertilizer strip and a mulch cover, which prevents weeds and conserves water. The system requires about a third of the water and half of the fertilizer as in-ground methods, according to DiPaolo. Read More

Growing Up and Out in Salt Lake County: Bell Organic, Draper, Utah

August 26, 2013 |
Photo credit: Bell Organic

Photo credit: Bell Organic

“Climbing was great training for farming. They are both really exhausting, painful, frightening experiences that look impossible on the face of them but somehow you get it done.” David Bell, Bell Organic Farm

Located 12 miles north of Salt Lake City, Bell Organic farm of Draper, Utah is what happens when you outgrow your garden and tap an ever expanding marketplace for fresh organic produce. For David and Jill Bell it all started with a bumper crop of heirloom tomatoes.

In 1997, David Bell ran a successful rock climbing business and his wife Jill spent her days waitressing in a local restaurant. They began growing their own vegetables in the backyard, producing far more tomatoes than needed. A local restaurant owner put them in touch with his chef who immediately purchased their excess veggies. Soon after, a local market owner who imported his tomatoes from a greenhouse in Holland wanted to make a purchase. Read More

Awareness of Environmental Impact, Embrace of Sustainability, Defines 4th Generation Deardorff Family Farms

August 5, 2013 |
Photo credit: Deardorff Family Farms

Photo credit: Deardorff Family Farms

The Deardorff family has been in the produce business since 1937, helping local farmers in Venice, Hollywood, and Los Angeles distribute their produce. As the city of Los Angeles swelled in the early 1960’s, the Deardorffs followed many of their growers north to Ventura County and began to work the land themselves on their own 50-acre ranch. Since then Deardorff Family Farms has passed through four generations and grown immensely. Today, cousins Scott Deardorff, and Tom Deardorff II farm 2,000 acres of sustainably grown celery, tomatoes, greens, and mixed vegetables throughout Ventura County. They market their produce through wholesale distributors, at local markets, and directly to consumers. Read More

Organic Farm Thrives Amidst Illinois Monoculture

July 30, 2013 |

bluemoon farmVisiting Blue Moon Farm is a visual delight—an oasis of diverse organic vegetable production in a sprawling landscape otherwise filled with fields of conventionally grown corn and soybean. Long rows of kale, bok choy, and other greens dot the landscape while greenhouses filled with tomatoes and melons stand in stark contrast to the surrounding monoculture.

Jon Cherniss has been tending this land since 1997, finding ways of increasing profitability and longevity while maintaining a commitment to organic farming methods, which are often eschewed in favor of short-term gains in Central Illinois. Read More