Rhonda Killough’s path to sustainable agriculture was an unusual one. While pursuing a career in performing arts in Las Vegas, her life was abruptly stalled by a motorbike accident in 2002.
“I was physically broken, I couldn’t move very much so I mostly listened to NPR,” she recalls. Two news reports in particular caught her ear. One described Las Vegas as the most wasteful city in the country, and the second outlined the impact of a lack of fresh produce on the incidence of diabetes in underprivileged communities.
As part of her recovery, Killough started taking brief walks around her neighborhood and got chatting with the groundskeeper at a neighbor’s large home.
Beginning an Aquaponics business takes hard work, the right partnerships and a patient nature when it comes to organic pest control. Viridis Aquaponics is a burgeoning startup based in Watsonville in the San Francisco Bay area. The farming business has been quite a learning curve for co-owner and former construction businessman Jon Parr. A mutual friend introduced Parr to Drew Hopkins. Finding they had complimentary business skills, they began devising a business plan for a sustainable greenhouse-based farm. That plan found an investor and soon became the eight acres of grow space that now houses Viridis Aquaponics, Inc. The company is days away from its first harvest.
A lot of farmers will tell you that the food grown through sustainable agriculture is only part of the equation. Creating infrastructure for small growers through food hubs, incorporating marketing and educational materials for customers and overhauling the perception of organic food in the United States are all essential parts of a successful food evolution. Indeed, there’s more to food hubs than just food. Just ask Kristen Suokko of Local Food Hub in Charlottesville, VA.
“We see Local Food Hubs nationally having impacts on a range of interrelated issues: food security, food safety (knowing where the food comes from), local economic vitality, land stewardship, and public health,” shares Suokko.
“ …because what it does is it makes fresh healthy produce and makes the experience of gardening available to communities that might not ordinarily have them. So it’s about health and food security, it’s about community building and creating spaces where a community can gather to plant and eat and really work together on a community project.” Abbie Harris Denver Urban Gardens
Urban gardening finds its modern roots in the victory garden movement of World War II. During the conflict, allies on the home front were encouraged to plant a vegetable garden to supplement the local food source and offset the restrictions of the rationing system. Urban gardens not only provided a sense of food security during a time of global conflict, but they also helped city dwellers connect with their food source. During the 1970s Denver, Colorado enjoyed a resurgence in the community garden movement and by the mid-1980s the concept of growing within the city limits was well established. In 1985, Denver Urban Gardens (DUG), an independent nonprofit began as a volunteer organization to support the urban agriculture movement. Today, the folks over at DUG manage over 130 community gardens spreading food security, education and a sense of community across the mile high city.
As a fourth generation farmer, Elaine Lemmon has a fond relationship with dirt. But growing up, she didn’t plan on becoming a farmer later in her life. When the real world called, she answered, studying anthropology and archeology at Penn State University. But, her studies would later steer her back to farming. “I soon got disenchanted with how science-for-profit really wasn’t good science,” says Lemmon. “The part of archeology I really loved was working outside and working in the soil.”
Industrialized agriculture pollutes water, land, and soil; harms natural wildlife habitats; threatens natural resources, all while still leaving a billion people hungry around the world, charged a new policy brief by the Union of Concerned Scientists, a non-profit science advocacy organization with headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “American agriculture is at a crossroads: a point where we can either apply our scientific knowledge to create a vibrant and healthful food and farming system for the future, or double down on an outdated model of agriculture that is rapidly undermining our environment and our health,” the brief began.
While grassroots movements around the country have pushed back against industrialized agriculture for decades, the science has only recently caught up to the sentiment, said Doug Gurian-Sherman, plant pathologist and senior scientist for the Food and Environment Program at UCS.
Nearly 1 billion people around the world are hungry. Another billion people are obese. At the same time, one third of the food produced for human consumption spoils or goes to waste. These problems have become pervasive throughout the globe. They affect industrialized and developing nations alike. Danielle Nierenberg and Ellen Gustafson of Chicago, Illinois saw these statistics from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization as symptoms of a failed global food system. In response, they launched Food Tank: The Food Think Tank as a platform for anyone with a stake in the global food system to contribute to a solution. According to the non-profit’s website, “Food Tank: The Food Think Tank is for the 7 billion people who have to eat every day.”
Larry Jacobs, a visionary from California, pioneered a new form of agriculture three decades ago that demonstrated to skeptics food could be cultivated profitably without the use of farming chemicals and pesticides. He went on to found the Del Cabo Cooperative in Mexico, which continues to assist indigenous farmers in growing and selling their produce at a price that creates a sustainable livelihood for their families.
In part one of a two-part interview with Seedstock.com, Larry Jacobs, NRDC’s 2013 Growing Green Award winner, explains why he chose in 1980 to make the switch to organic farming. This occurred at a time when U.S. farmers who experimented with organic farming methods were not even on the radar screen, and were often considered residents of “Kookville,” Jacobs says.