Every small grower likes to find ways to reduce costs and cut out the middle man but Adam Navidi of Future Foods Farms and Green to Go has turned organic growing and serving his clientele into a planet friendly fine art. He grows a wide range of organic produce through the aquaponic systems on his farm. The produce is then sold at his restaurant. The restaurant scraps in turn are used to feed the fish on his farm. This sustainable circuit of good is developed from a combination of creative thinking, hard work and a passion for good food.
“As a chef that owns a catering company and a restaurant, I wanted to be able to provide my clients with the best produce possible. For a chef there is no better way for being in tune with your food than to grow it yourself,” explains Navidi. Future Foods Farms, the largest aquaponic farm in Southern California, sits on 25 acres of open country and began in earnest back in 2008. Comprised of ten large greenhouses, Future Foods Farms is home to a varied assortment of fruit and vegetables not to mention hundreds of tilapia fish. Vegetarian fish fed on California organic brown rice no less.
Kick the commodities to the curb – that is the summer dare and promise of NOGMO, the Northeast Organic Grain and Malt Offering. Andrea Stanley organized the CSA to put regional grain products on people’s radar.
“I feel the locavore movement is so geared toward vegetables and fruits and not so much towards major staples of our diets like grains,” said Stanley, cofounder of Valley Malt in Hadley, Massachusetts. The CSA will show that flour, popcorn and of course, malt, have local roots, too.
Andrea and her husband, Christian Stanley established the first malthouse in the Northeast in nearly a century. There is no school for small scale malting, and no standard equipment to purchase, either. They scouted information on the process, and built their first one-ton malting system. Another very important thing they’ve built is relationships with farmers as they sought grain to malt. These relationships are the core ingredient of the CSA.
CSA’s have taken the leap into the 21st century. Community Supported Agriculture has for years been the refuge of the urban food-conscious looking for reliable, locally-sourced whole food. But small-scale operations can’t always reach a critical mass and some people can’t always take advantage of Farmers Markets. Enter Azoti.
Developed by tech entrepreneur David Ranallo, Azoti provides the internet platform that efficiently connects local farmers with local companies – and all of their employees – for quick distribution of fresh, sustainably-raised food, to a populace hungry for healthier choices.
“We need to de-commoditize food,” Ranallo said. “Azoti can help farmers with marketing, manage wellness programs for employers and fill orders for customers all at once. And when we can help farmers forecast demand, we’ll see cheaper Farmers Market-quality food.”
“Our idea is that sustainable is renewable and so we’re in the solar business because basically the ranch is a big solar panel that we use to harvest sunshine and turn into grass that we turn into beef. We also want to make farming attractive to the next generation because if the next generation isn’t attracted to it then it isn’t sustainable.”-Keith Lankister, Bar Double L Beef
Wendi Lankister met her husband Keith while studying ranch management in college. Keith Lankister was studying to be a farrier. The couple found they shared a desire to start their own sustainable cattle ranch. After twelve years of working on ranches around the west gaining valuable insight into the processes of raising livestock, the Lankisters settled just outside Glenrock, Wyoming with their three daughters. Today, the Bar Double L Beef ranch is a profitable adventure in homeschooling, healthy living and grass fed certified organic cattle.
When landscape architect Lisa Jaroch decided to leave her job designing parks and greenways at Hamilton Anderson, a prestigious Detroit architecture firm, she was ready to move in an entirely new direction.
A hands-on landscape designer, she had always possessed a green thumb and a passion for sustainability – interests that led her to pursue a new life as an organic farmer.
“This is my encore career,” she says. “It brings everything together for me.”
Jaroch left her job in 2011 to pursue certification through Michigan State University’s 9-month Organic Farmer Training Program (OFTP) program at the Student Organic Farm. The 10-acre farm doubles as a hands-on learning laboratory and a local food producer, offering a 48-week CSA, a 7-month campus farm stand, and supplies MSU dining halls with fresh produce.
Like many neighborhoods in Detroit, Boston-Edison, once home to Henry Ford, has seen better days. Abandoned, burned out structures are interspersed with vacant lots. Although an intact historic district survives, much of the neighborhood suffers from the post-industrial poverty and neglect that plagues much of rest of the city.
It is here that Noah Link and Alex Bryan, recent University of Michigan graduates, launched Food Field, an organic farm, in 2010. After working on several area farms and gardens, the pair was inspired to join Detroit’s burgeoning urban agriculture movement. Together, they drafted a business plan and applied to purchase land through the Michigan Land Bank Fast Track Authority, a state-operated clearinghouse for tax-reverted public property. The Authority approved the plan, and after soil tests found no contamination (a common issue in post-industrial urban landscapes), they purchased a 4-acre parcel that was the former site of an elementary school.
Sustainability isn’t just a token phrase at Mainstone Farm in Wayland, Massachusetts. It’s in their tagline. This “sustainable and natural” farm has been in cultivation for almost 150 years, and managers Tim and Pauline Henderson intend to preserve its fertility. “Even for our own garden, before we got into vegetables in 2003 or 2004, we never used pesticides,” explains Pauline. “It’s just something we believe in.”
Through practices like cover cropping, composting, and crop rotation, Tim and Pauline preserve soil health and ensure that the land remains fit for vegetable production year after year. Their 30 acres of vegetables are hugely productive – so much so that Pauline can’t even approximate the farm’s annual vegetable output in pounds. “We do so many crops, and with two or three plantings, I just couldn’t tell you,” she laughed.
William ‘Bill’ VanScoy takes a few moments away from his family and his greenhouses full of freshly transplanted seedlings to explain how his traditional hog farming operation became one of the largest hydroponic fruit and vegetable farms in Ohio.
“With the reducing acres of usable land in the USA, hydroponics (currently) is one of the more promising ways to keep pace with the growing food demands of a growing world population,” states VanScoy. And keeping up with demand is how it all started for this green thumbed Ohio family.
Farming in Southern California has advantages not available to growers in other parts of the country. The extended growing season, accommodating microclimates and fertile soil can encourage novice farmers to try something they might not normally take on. In the case of All Good Things Organic Seeds, newbie farmers Justin Huhn and Quin Shakra were inspired to go beyond organic farming of their 1.3-acre plot to establishing a seed sourcing company that aims to expand the available varietals of certified organic seeds on offer to backyard growers and small-scale commercial farmers.
During this time of year, Rising River Farm’s namesake, the Chehalis River, flows fast and steady, and even though the rainy weather makes it seem that spring is months away, Jennifer Belknap is itching to get outside. Even after 15 years of co-running Rochester, WA-based Rising River Farm with her husband, Jim McGinn, she is still anxious to begin planting the seeds that usher in another season.
Rising River Farm began in 1994 when Jim and two friends started a three-acre community supported agriculture (CSA) farm on land leased from Betsie DeWreede of Independence Valley Farm, located just outside of Rochester, Washington.
The idea of eating only locally-grown, seasonal food sounds appealing. Until you move to the desert. With an average annual rainfall of less than 13 inches, Tucson, Arizona is somewhat less than hospitable to traditional, soil-based agriculture. And fish? Forget it.
But, it was not the land that drew Stéphane Herbert-Fort to the Sonoran desert. It was the sky. He came to the University of Arizona to study astronomy and graduated with a PhD in 2011. Midway through his grad studies, however, he unearthed a deeper ambition than life as an academic.
“As a longtime fan of sustainable technologies and organic gardening, I wanted to join the two and make an impact on urban agriculture in Tucson. It was the perfect time for a change. Aquaponics fulfills my passions: to grow as much food as possible, simply and sustainably.”
Hydroponics, the practice of growing crops in nutrient-rich water as opposed to soil, in concert with aquaculture, the farming of aquatic organisms such as fish, crustaceans, molluscs, etc., creates a sustainable, symbiotic farming system called aquaponic farming. Aquaponic farming is not a new form of farming, but other than many of the readers of this website few people know about it. Three men, Gabriel Michels, Timothy Kirk and Nicholas Fox, who partnered to create Grass Roots Aquaponic Farms LLC, located in Oregon City, Oregon, hope to change that. The idea was planted years ago.
“Actually, I was inspired back in high school,” says Michels. “That was about 10 years ago. Nic and I were in the same class and our school got a grant to have a complete aquaponic setup. It was great! We grew all kinds of vegetables.”
Wendy Baroli is a happy farmer. It even says so in her email signature. She’s happy for many reasons including a productive, profitable small farm, a penchant for heritage breeds and her healthy contribution to the planet. But what she seems most happy about is her small farm business model that brings the customers to her, reduces overheads and provides clients a custom farming experience that’s become a way of life.
Baroli comes from a family of farmers, Italian immigrants that farmed organically because they were too poor to do otherwise, but never planned on actually being a farmer. In fact, politician seemed more up her alley. But then she discovered the truth about politics: there’s only so much you can do from the sidelines. She wanted to be the change.