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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture

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With Market for Local Hydroponic Produce about to Explode, Texas Family Farm Expands Operation

October 29, 2013 |
Hydroponic lettuces at Bluebonnet Hydroponic Farms.

Hydroponic lettuces at Bluebonnet Hydroponic Farms.

Bluebonnet Hydroponic Farms has been in business since 2000, when Emile Olivier and his wife moved to the U.S. from Canada. Emile wanted to capitalize on his family’s small-scale backyard gardening hobby, so the couple started the farm with cash infusions from previous endeavors and with a small inheritance.

Soon, the project became a family affair when Catherine Anderson, Emile’s daughter, and David Anderson, Catherine’s husband, began to work on the farm.

The family decided to utilize hydroponics as the technology would allow them to obtain higher yields on a smaller spatial footprint than conventional agriculture. David’s father-in-law also perceived that there was a demand and niche market for hydroponic produce. Read More

Police Chief in West Boylston, MA Buys Farm to Protect and Grow a Community

August 7, 2013 |
Dennis Minnich, West Boylston, MA Chief of Police and Owner of Stone's Throw Farm. Photo Credit: West Boylston Police Dept.

Dennis Minnich, West Boylston, MA Chief of Police and Owner of Stone’s Throw Farm. Photo Credit: West Boylston Police Dept.

Not content with just being Chief of the West Boylston police force in Massachusetts, Dennis Minnich became the warden of a locked pen of 70 miniature horses; and that was only the beginning. He noticed the huge property containing them was falling into disarray as its owner was aging and in his limited free time, Minnich volunteered to help take care of the horses. In 2011, when the owner put the property up for sale, Minnich realized that he wanted to become a farmer.

To save the farm from encroaching commercial developers, he scrounged together the money, bought it, branded it Stone’s Throw Farm, and registered it as an Agricultural Preservation Restriction. 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

More Than Just a Pig Farm, Jake’s Country Meats Bridges Gap Between Food Production and Consumption

July 18, 2013 |

Jake’s Country Meats is more than just a pig farm—it is a family legacy. After six generations of raising pigs in the Michigan countryside, the Robinson family has developed a special connection to the land and remains dedicated to their mission of bridging the gap between food production and consumption.

According to the Robinson’s youngest daughter Renee, her father, Nate Robinson, has pig farming “in his blood” and he does a top-notch job of raising his Heritage breed pigs on pasture.

Renee, who came back to work on the farm after earning a degree in Marketing from Western Michigan University, takes part in all aspects of the family business. Read More

Mechanical Engineer Breaks Away to Simpler Living, Starts ‘Beyond Organic’ Farm

July 16, 2013 |

missy breakaway farmsAbout ten years ago, a former country boy was sitting in his office at a successful engineering firm in Bethlehem, Pa., wondering what he was doing with his life. As he gazed out the window at a nearby farm, Nate Thomas became nostalgic for his childhood days on his parents’ Lancaster County farm, where he helped to raise animals and enjoyed nature and adventures through a young boy’s eyes.

During his seven years working in the real world, he became increasingly unsatisfied with his professional life. “Even though financially it was a very good decision, my soul wasn’t satisfied,” says Thomas, who broke away from the real world to run a farm on land adjacent to his parents’ farm to fulfill a desire to live sustainably and self sufficiently. The deliberately named Breakaway Farms represents Thomas’ resolute drive for personal freedom, self-sufficiency and a life more in line with what he experienced growing up. Read More

Closing in on Four Centuries, Nation’s Oldest Farm Continues to Support Local Food System

July 8, 2013 |
Photo Credit: Appleton Farms.

Photo Credit: Appleton Farms.

Appleton Farms of Ipswich, Mass. is the nation’s oldest continually operating farm. Nine generations of Appleton’s have farmed the land since 1636. In 1998, the family donated the farm’s 1000 acres of farmland, pasture, and woodlands to The Trustees of Reservations, a non-profit land conservation organization that manages over 26,000 acres of land in 75 communities throughout Massachusetts.

“When we took over Appleton Farms from the family in 1998, the goal was not to compete with current farming operations, but to help support the momentum for local, healthy food and engaging the community and the public in a way to get people involved in land,” said Holly Hannaway, a spokesperson for Appleton Farms and The Trustees of Reservations.

Today, Appleton Farms supports a 550-share Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Program, donates 10,000 pounds of food annually to local food pantries, trains farming apprentices to be able to establish their own farms, manages a year round dairy store, offers farm-to-table dinners and cooking workshops for kids and adults and maintains 12 miles of trail for recreational use. Read More

Polarizing Production: Ag of the Middle

June 26, 2013 |

“Over 80% of farmland in the U.S. is managed by farmers whose operations fall between small-scale direct markets and large, consolidated firms. These farmers are increasingly left out of our food system. If present trends continue, these farms, together with the social and environmental benefits they provide, will likely disappear in the next decade or two.” Fred Kirschenmann

Often we hear about small farmers and Big Agriculture but what about the growers and producers in the middle? Their operations are usually too large to sell directly to customers, but too small to have much bearing on the stock market. The ‘Ag of the Middle’ is a term used to define the farmers caught in the middle of the agricultural debate both physically and politically. Read More

Wallace Farms Gets Back to Basics with Grass-fed Beef

June 20, 2013 |
wallace family farm

Photo Credit: Wallace Farms

As a young man, Wallace Farms CEO Nick Wallace faced a health crisis that would radically alter the future of the Wallace family. “Wallace Farms started out of our parent’s garage in 2001 and it started because a year and a half earlier I had cancer— I was 19. Everyone was starting to ask questions as to how that could happen.”

What the Wallace family uncovered in their search for answers was unsettling information about our modern food system and the negative impact it was having on human health. “My dad heard [Sally Fallon from the Weston A. Price Foundation] talk and he came home and said ‘I think I know why you had cancer’ and we realized that the foundation of our food production had changed drastically in the last 20 to 30 years.” Read More