Finding fresh, high-quality produce in Montreal is a challenge. The long and winding road that produce typically travels from farm to market in this city means that it must be harvested far before it’s ripe in order to survive long shipping distances. The downfalls of the current supply chain – heavy fuel use, food safety risks, and the lack of personal connection between farmer and consumer – inspired Mohamed Hage, president and founder of Lufa Farms, to develop a model urban farm that would provide local, sustainable food to city dwellers.
The seventeen immigrant women involved in the New Roots for Refugees farmer training program don’t understand why their small urban garden plots draw so much attention. Farming is a natural part of their lives.
The training program is run by the Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas, an organization that helps to resettle refugees in the Kansas City area and provide case management, English as a Second Language and job development. The idea for the program emerged in 2004 while Sherissa McDonald, an employee of Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas, was running a group to help refugee women acclimate to their new surroundings. When the topic of gardening arose, the group expressed a desire to have an area of land to cultivate. So that year the women planted small community gardens outside of the Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas offices.
In the documentary, The Real Dirt on Farmer John, John Peterson says that he “began to see the farm as a living organism.” Upon further reflection Peterson, the founder of Rockford, Illinois-based biodynamic farm, Angelic Organics, says that he’s always seen the farm that way. He says that the works of Austrian scientist and philosopher Rudolf Steiner helped to crystallize his thoughts around this idea.
To continue to grow and expand the local food marketplace will require innovative web-based solutions that provide consumers with greater access to producers and vice versa. One company at the forefront in this area is Santa Cruz, CA-based LocalHarvest, which since its formation in 1998 has focused on the development of a range of online products to strengthen consumers’ personal relationships not only with the food that they consume, but also with the sustainable farmers who produce it.
We’re out in the field today interviewing sustainable producers, agvocates and ag startup CEOs, but in case you missed our story about sustainable mushroom growing in recyclable boxes filled with used coffee grounds or the other one about the open ocean sustainable fish farmer, we have provided links and summaries below to get you caught up.