On Nov. 10-11 hundreds of attendees from across Southern California and beyond showed up for the inaugural Grow Local OC Conference: The Future of Urban Food Systems held Nov. 10-11 in Orange County, CA at California State University, Fullerton to learn more about the community and economic development potential of fostering local food systems in cities.
The conference attendees were treated to lectures from the foremost urban farming experts, entrepreneurs, and community advocates in the sustainable and local food system space. Topics explored by the speakers and panelists included the role that food plays in bridging the rural urban divide, the potential for urban farming to generate community and economic capital, the challenges faced by entrepreneurs seeking funds for their local food and farming ventures, the potential for controlled environment agriculture in cities, and the power of community development initiatives to increase access to healthy, local food.
The conference provided ample opportunity for the local food champions, entrepreneurs, and advocates in Orange County to continue to strengthen their base of support to increase food access, improve health outcomes, and meet the demands of a thriving local food marketplace.
Like many great plans, Vermont’s Green Mountain Harvest Hydroponics operation began as a barroom conversation among friends. In the early 1990s farmer David Hartshorn and his now business partners, brothers John and Ted Farr, sat around discussing their dream of building a greenhouse to enable them to grow produce year-round. At the time, though, the energy costs required to bring the project online were so prohibitive that they tabled the idea.
Approximately twenty years later, though, the timing was right. In 2013, with a loan procured from the Vermont Economic Development Authority, Hartshorn and the Farrs launched Green Mountain Harvest Hydroponics (GMHH) in Waitsfield, Vermont.
Quickley Produce Farm represents a modern take on the family farm. It’s not a farm that has been passed down from one generation to the next, but rather a newly formed high-tech hydroponic farming operation run by four generations of family members.
Located in Galena, Missouri in the heart of the Ozarks, the farm, which officially took root in 2011, is run by David and Terry Quick. The couple’s daughter, Alisa Welch, and son-in-law, Russ Welch, play a pivotal role in day-to-day operations, and their three children — Dusty, Dawson and Bristol – lend a hand. Terry’s mom, Pauline Hedrick, also pitches in to make the farm a true family affair.
The family’s lineage points to a strong background in farming and gardening, but more recent generations had been working in a different trade: construction. That all changed in 2008 when the economy began to slow.
When it comes to Controlled Environment Agriculture [CEA], Valerie Loew wants the U.S. to catch up with Europe and China before it’s too late.
“The rest of the world is so far ahead of us, because they are so limited with their own resources,” says Loew, who is professor and horticulture department head at Fullerton College in Southern California. “They are taking advantage of this technology way before us because we have sunshine and we have water; but we really don’t. Between Europe and China, the amount of greenhouses they have is just off the charts. We need to start catching up.”
Rod Palmer of Owls Hollow Farm in Gadsen, Alabama, wants people to think a little more about what they’re eating.
If they continue to eat the same processed foods that have led to an epidemic of diabetes and obesity, then they shouldn’t be surprised if their health isn’t improving.
If they continue to buy expensive produce grown outside the U.S. at the supermarket, then they won’t be able to stretch their dollars that much.
Owls Hollow gives both residents and employees at local companies in nearby Birmingham a way to eat healthier while saving money.
Palmer comes from a background in home building, and he never focused on farming as a career. When growing up, everyone around him, including his family, lived on a small farm. It never seemed like something unique.