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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture

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New York Nonprofit Builds On-site Greenhouses in City Schools

March 3, 2014 |
An inside shot of one of the Greenhouse Initiative Projects. Credit: Ari Burling

An inside shot of one of the Greenhouse Initiative Projects.
Credit: Ari Burling

NY Sun Works, a non-profit organization that builds innovative science labs in urban schools, partnered with a small group of parents at PS 333, The Manhattan School for Children, to found The Greenhouse Project Initiative in 2008.

“Through our Greenhouse Project Initiative, we use hydroponic farming technology to educate and teachers about the science of sustainability,” says Manuela Zamora, NY Sun Works director and director of education programs.

The Greenhouse Project was founded because parents and educators within New York City’s K-8 public school system were concerned about what they perceived to be shortcomings in the systems’ environmental science program. Read More

Eco Garden Grows Community While Encouraging Kids to Play in the Dirt

May 22, 2013 |

Luke Ebner and Angela Stanbery were fine art majors who also had an eye (and a few green thumbs) for organic gardening. Ebner started working at Permaganic Co.’s Eco Garden, a community garden, educational program and non-profit in Cincinnati, Ohio, part-time in 2003. Stanbery joined him in 2004.

While Ebner had previous experience working at various organic farms and Stanbery worked as a ‘horticulture helper’ with the Cincinnati Park Board, the couple never dreamed they’d take over and transform Eco Garden into a non-profit, educational organization. Read More

Urban Ag Organization Hopes to Get All Residents on Board to Keep Growing Detroit

May 8, 2013 |
Photo Credit: Keep Growing Detroit

Photo Credit: Keep Growing Detroit

Keep Growing Detroit, a nonprofit community gardening and urban agriculture support organization, has a mission to achieve nothing short of sovereignty for Detroiters.

Food sovereignty, that is.

The organization’s vision is one of a Detroit where Detroiters grow the majority of fruits and vegetables they consume. The group also serves Hamtramck and Highland Parks, autonomous cities surrounded on all sides by the City of Detroit. Read More

Seattle Neighborhood Transforms Patch of Grass into Community Orchard

May 7, 2013 |

community orchard of west seattle“Wouldn’t it be great if we had a community orchard?” That question posed by Aviva Furman to her neighbor, Narcissa Nelson, was the beginning of the Community Orchard of West Seattle (COWS). This 1/8 acre demonstration garden showcases what a bit of networking, volunteerism and community support can achieve.

For newcomers to the orchard, the grass alongside its edge is a reminder of what the area used to be – a strip of grass that had to be mowed every year. The challenge initially for the organization was finding a site as the grant money from the City of Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods and support from key stakeholders was there, says Nelson. Without a site, “we were concerned with time and missing the planting opportunity of spring and the possibility of having to forfeit the grant money.” Read More

Facilitating Food Alliances, Ag Innovations Network Aims to Boost Local Food Production and Health of Citizens

April 15, 2013 |

Is healthy, locally produced food on the endangered ‘agri-list?’ Some think so and are taking a round-table approach to ensure local fare stays on the menu and local farmers keep their hands in the soil. Cultivating those grassroots is what this movement is all about, as volunteers address systemic issues in food production with a focus on local, sustainable cultivation.

The Sonoma County Food System Alliance created a forum to bring public-health advocates, farmers and ranchers together in a round-table work group. The goal according to the group’s website is fostering an awareness that cultivation of healthy food in a community is an ecosystem, with each part essential to supporting the whole.

The Sonoma County Health Department partnered with Ag Innovations Network (AIN), the Redwood Empire Food Bank and the Ag Commissioner’s Office to convene the Alliance in 2007, according to the group’s website. Read More

Beacon Food Forest Brings Together Diverse Community to Regenerate Public Lands

April 10, 2013 |
Blueberries growing in the Beacon Food Forest. Photo Credit. Beacon Food Forest.

Blueberries growing in the Beacon Food Forest. Photo Credit. Beacon Food Forest.

Young fruit and nut trees, P-patch beds, and woodchip paths are just the latest milestones of a three-year volunteer effort to create a food forest in the city of Seattle’s Beacon Hill neighborhood. This food forest represents “exactly the opposite of the tragedy of the commons,” said Glenn Herlihy, manager of field work, marketing, and communication for the Beacon Food Forest. Through its work, Beacon Food Forest is “regenerating public land” and bringing together a diverse community through the common ground of plants.

The Beacon Food Forest started as a final project that Herlihy and his classmates created in 2009 for a permaculture design class. The class “decided to take it [our project] to the community [in Beacon Hill]” to see if there was support for its creation and there was, said Herlihy. At the same time, plans were underway to revitalize Jefferson Park, also in the Beacon Hill neighborhood. Seeing the community support for the food forest, the park’s master design designated an area as an arboretum. Read More

WSU Extension Offers Home Food Production Program for those Limited by Financial or Physical Hardship

March 28, 2013 |

A new educational program in Cowlitz County, Wash., is taking the fear out of gardening and enabling people who are limited by financial or physical hardship to experience the rewards of having their own garden. In the program’s first year, there were 22 applicants vying for 10 spots; this year, there are 61.

“You really get to know these people after reading the application,” says Gary Fredricks, the director of the WSU Extension office for Cowlitz County. From this year’s 61 applicants, he and the committee of Master Gardeners selected the 10 applicants that are the next cohort of the Home Vegetable Educational Garden (VEG) program. Read More

Belief in Future of Small-Scale Urban Farming Prompts Company to Offer Free Garden Planning App

March 12, 2013 |

Farmscape, a company that installs and maintains urban gardens throughout Los Angeles, CA, decided to take two spectacular things – fresh produce and a dinosaur – and create an app out of them. The app, Agrisaurus, is designed to take the guesswork out of small-scale gardening and farming, and help farmers plan and plot produce sites.

On March 12, Agrisaurus became available for anyone to download. I recently got in touch with Rachel Bailin of Farmscape and Agrisaurus, and found out why Farmscape’s founders thought the app would help gardeners, and how the app works. Read More