A Firm Believer in the Three P’s of Sustainable Growing, Craig McNamara Talks Walnuts, Water and WasteMarch 14, 2013 | Trish Popovitch
When it comes to sustainable agriculture, Craig McNamara, owner of Sierra Orchards, president of the California State Board of Food and Agriculture and son of former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, believes firmly in the three P’s of sustainable growing: planet, people and profit. Living in the organic walnut orchard that comprises the bulk of his farming business you could argue he’s living in and up to his principles.
McNamara began his career as a farmer in his late 20s. He began as a truck farmer, but soon found traditional produce was not right for him. “The marketing challenges of a truck farmer were very difficult. Being a small produce grower farming, harvesting, packaging and shipping my own product into the wholesale market was extremely challenging. I said ‘there’s got to be a better way.’ I’ve got to find a crop that has fewer harvests per year, is less perishable and a crop that I just have more control over and for me that was walnuts.” Sierra Orchards was founded in 1980.
A simple passion for great tasting food and sustainability fueled the founding of Amelia’s Farm, a hydroponic farm based in Bells, Texas. Amelia Von Kennel, co-founder and executive vice president, and Ben Von Kennel, co-founder and chief executive officer, established the Farm in October 2011. The couple sold their house in Dallas, Texas, and moved their family ranch to Bells, Texas. Since the move, the Von Kennel’s focus has concerned strengthening the Amelia’s Farm brand, and building a 6,000 square-foot, commercial, hydroponic greenhouse. The Farm grows pesticide-free, non-GMO produce all year round.
I recently had a conversation with Amelia Von Kennel. She discussed how the couple started farming, why she and Ben value healthy food and how the Farm stays sustainable.
Reno, NV Startup Sees Opportunity in High Tech, Inexpensive Irrigation Control Systems for Small FarmersJanuary 31, 2013 | Nicola Kerslake
When Reno, NV based sustainable agriculture enthusiast Eric Jennings noticed one morning that, yet again, his irrigation system had watered his sidewalk more than his backyard farm, he decided that it was time to put his engineering skills to good use. “Water is expensive and scarce in this area, and wasting it just bugged me so much that I started tinkering around in the garage” Jennings noted. Most of the commercially available water irrigation control systems were either prohibitively expensive or excessively complex; “there was just nothing around designed for the small farmer” he concluded.
Around six months’ later, he’d created Pinoccio; a small, cheap microcontroller with an embedded WiFi unit that could be combined with a soil moisture sensor to control irrigation remotely.
News Release – The Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) has released a new report entitled Conservation Practices in Outdoor Hog Production Systems: Findings and Recommendations from the Center for Environmental Farming Systems.
The report, written by N.C. State University animal science Research Associate Silvana Pietrosemoli, explains strategies for reducing the environmental impacts of outdoor hog production systems, which can pose environmental risks if not properly managed.
News Release – A 12-year study published in the July-September 2012 issue of the University of California’s California Agriculture journal demonstrates that cotton grown in rotation with tomatoes — using lower-impact conservation tillage — can achieve yields similar to standard cultivation methods and at lower cost.
Conservation tillage seeks to reduce the number of times that tractors cross the field, in order to protect the soil from erosion and compaction, and save time, fuel and labor costs. Cotton crops are planted directly into stubble from the previous crop in the rotation.
The following is a post by Mary Lissone, a veteran gardener and one of the first to be recruited by longtime friend Karen George to help set up the Westchester Urban Farm (WUF) in Los Angeles, CA. Lissone provides advice, content and design for the project, communicating the WUF story in multiple formats to get people excited.
As with all journeys, a reason for taking the first step is always needed. None could have been more earnestly felt than one mother’s wish to help rehabilitate the reputation of her son’s local high school.
Much was already in progress – in 2011 it became a magnet school, Westchester Enriched Sciences Magnet (WESM), specializing in Aviation & Aerospace, Environmental & Natural Science and Health & Sports Medicine; but it was receiving little attention as most of the community had already “decided” on its image and nothing short of an ET landing and benediction would change it. Even the impressive solar panel project in the parking lot (highly visible) didn’t seem to elicit any response.
It’s a statement that many of us have overheard or mumbled to ourselves; “Sure I’d like to buy organic and eat more healthfully- if I could afford to.” Some, like this writer, have rejoiced at a weighty organic heirloom tomato only to abandon it at the checkout counter when its price comes in at $4.00. By association organic = precious = expensive. Or does it?
Most of us are not economists, but we are aware that two variables dictate the value or price of any given commodity: supply and demand. The question then is how does the supply and demand of organic food measure up? The answer comes from trips to the store or farm and conversations with people who consider this question every day.
News Release – WASHINGTON, May 25, 2012 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture will accept 3.9 million acres offered under the 43rd Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) general sign-up. During the extended five-week signup, the Department received nearly 48,000 offers on more than 4.5 million acres of land, demonstrating the CRP’s continuing leadership as one of our nation’s most successful voluntary efforts to conserve land and improve our soil, water, air and wildlife habitat resources.
Over the next 40 years, world population is expected to swell to 9 billion people. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization predicts that in that time global food production will need to increase by 70 percent in order to prevent massive famine. Simultaneously, producers must learn to cope with changes in climate, intensification of floods and droughts, depletion of resources, and dramatic political shifts. Meeting the coming demand for food will mean addressing these large challenges head on.
Check out this very cool Seametrics infographic that provides interesting facts about the tremendous amount of water used globally for agriculture while emphasizing the great importance of conserving the world’s water supply to feed the 9 billion population expected in 2050.
Farm Bill Presents Opportunity to Implement Sustainable Agriculture Policies, says Union of Concerned ScientistsMarch 8, 2012 | seedstock
News Release – WASHINGTON (March 7, 2012) — When Congress reauthorizes the Farm Bill this year, it should replace existing policies that subsidize junk food and encourage harmful farming practices with policies that prioritize healthy foods and farms, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).
U.S. agricultural policies are aimed, in large part, at providing assistance for corn and soybean crops, offering large subsidies for the key ingredients in processed foods. In addition to giving an unfair advantage to unhealthy foods – making them cheaper – it incentivizes farming methods that release millions of tons of toxic chemicals into our air, water and soil.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison is busy when it comes to helping mold the future of sustainable agriculture. Officials at the university’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences say thinking about how farming can be done in a more environmentally and socially sustainable is just part of the natural flow of what the college does.
“Nobody talks about crop or animal production without thinking about sustainability and without incorporating it into their research,” said Bill Tracy, UW-Madison’s agronomy department chair and professor who recently stepped down from his post as the college’s interim dean.
Jim Howell thinks cattle get a bad rap. They have been charged with decimating grasslands, polluting the atmosphere with emissions, and competing with humans for food crops. That does not have to be the case, says the CEO of Grasslands, L.L.C., the for-profit arm of the Savory Institute that purchases ranches and grasslands in hopes of restoring them through holistic management practices.
Howell believes that holistic management of pasture grazing cattle could restore the grasslands of the northern plains and similar landscapes all over the globe and provide tremendous potential for sequestering carbon and mitigating climate change.