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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture

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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

The Art and Angst of Water: California Farm Bureau’s Danny Merkley Insures Water Flows in Fair, Balanced Manner

August 1, 2013 |

“With water, it’s soil. Without water, it’s dirt.” -Danny Merkley, California Farm Bureau

A symphony, a balancing act and an art form. These are just a few ways Danny Merkley, Director of Water Resources for the California Farm Bureau Federation, describes managing the flow of water in the Golden State. It’s been his job since 2007, but a love of water blossomed early in this fourth generation California farmer.

“Growing up on the ranch I ran a number of irrigation systems from surface irrigation systems, row systems to sprinklers to, in a small way, some drip systems early in the 1990s. Water to me is an art form; moving water across a field, across large acreages of land, across more than just a 20 foot front yard. I’ve always been fascinated with water, but water policy I accidentally walked into when I got bit by the water bug working at the state water board in 2004,” shares Merkley. Read More

To Counter Strain on Groundwater Supply, California Berry Grower Employs Innovative Water Management Strategies

July 9, 2013 |
Photo Credit: Driscoll's

Photo Credit: Driscoll’s

Driscoll’s strawberries, blueberries and raspberries are famous throughout the nation as some of the sweetest handful of anti-oxidants you can find. Grown in the Parajo Valley of California’s central coast region, Driscoll’s has been operating as a family business for more than 100 years.

But generations of expanding agriculture have put a severe strain on the groundwater supply that irrigates the region. Water is being pumped at twice the rate that the aquifer can safely provide, and as a result of over-pumping, seawater intrusion continues to diminish and contaminate the basin’s water supply. Driscoll’s – like farmers across the nation – is faced with finding innovative methods to counter the shrinking water supply.

Seedstock spoke with Emily Paddock, Driscoll’s water resource manager, to find out what they are doing about the challenge. Read More

Startup Co. Recruits Beneficial Microbes to Boost Stress Tolerance in Crops

June 17, 2013 |

adaptive symbiotic systemsHave you ever wondered how some plants are able to endure the most extreme conditions from the hot springs of Yellowstone National Park to the high altitudes of Mt. Everest? It turns out that many of these plants likely owe their survival to symbiotic fungi that make themselves at home within the plants tissues. Microbiologist Russell (Rusty) Rodriguez and geneticist Regina Redman of Adaptive Symbiotic Technologies in Seattle, Washington are trying to foster similar relationships between fungus and plants in agriculture in hopes of improving drought and salinity tolerance, promoting temperature resistance, and boosting nutrient content.

The husband and wife team first discovered a symbiotic relationship between a fungus and a plant by chance while studying plants that grow in different soils in Yellowstone National Park in the 1990s. Rodriguez was collecting data for the U. S. Geological Survey where he worked as a principle investigator and microbiologist. Redman was conducting her own research while working as a research professor in the State University of Montana’s microbiology department. Read More

Central Pennsylvania Farmers Find Success – Living Proof of Sustainable Ag Dream Come True

June 11, 2013 |
Spiral Path Farm greenhouse. Photo Credit: Missy Smith.

Spiral Path Farm greenhouse. Photo Credit: Missy Smith.

When Terra and Mike Brownback purchased their countryside farm along with an old, rundown farmhouse in 1978, they had no idea that their little dream would become one of the most prominent and successful organic farms in Central Pennsylvania. With big dreams and a little savings, the suburban kids embarked on a mission to make their own small imprint on the future of sustainable agriculture. Included with their 56 acres in Loysville, Perry County, was an 1880 farmhouse in desperate need of a makeover to even make it livable. “Our house was in such bad shape. The windows were even broken out,” says Terra Brownback.

Thirty-seven years of blood, sweat and tears put into fixing up their home, learning how to farm and purchasing additional adjacent acreage have truly paid off. The Brownback’s now run Spiral Path Farm, a 255-acre farm that is home to a 20-year-old, 2,300-member CSA. It is a USDA Organic-certified producer for local farmers markets and a collection of regional organic wholesale warehouses. Read More

Startup Creates Solar Powered Irrigation Kit to Help Kenyan Farmers Farm more Sustainably

March 21, 2013 |

Charles Nichols and Samir Ibrahim think solar energy is the key to helping small-scale farmers succeed. Together, Nichols and Ibrahim co-founded SunCulture and created the AgroSolar Irrigation Kit to help Kenyan farmers farm more sustainably.

The Irrigation Kit that they developed uses solar water pumping technology and high-efficiency drip irrigation. Because the pump is solar it works well in Kenya’s climate, especially the country’s drier regions, noted Ibrahim.  Read More

Seedstock Conference to Address Challenges of Water Scarcity and Quality in Sustainable Agriculture

March 11, 2013 |

seedstock water conferenceNews Release – LOS ANGELES, CA – Worldwide, agriculture possesses the distinction of being the single greatest consumer of fresh water, accounting for nearly 70% of available withdrawals each year for irrigation. In the United States alone, 42% of all irrigated water is lost to evaporation.

With water prices, scarcity and quality all threatening the margins and livelihood of farmers, the SEEDSTOCK Ag Water Conference, scheduled for Wednesday, February 19, 2014, will focus on solutions to the challenges facing sustainable agriculture. Read More

Nevada Farmer Employs Sustainable Small Farm Business Model that Brings Customers and Profit to Her

February 12, 2013 |

Pigs in the

Wendy Baroli is a happy farmer. It even says so in her email signature. She’s happy for many reasons including a productive, profitable small farm, a penchant for heritage breeds and her healthy contribution to the planet. But what she seems most happy about is her small farm business model that brings the customers to her, reduces overheads and provides clients a custom farming experience that’s become a way of life.

Baroli comes from a family of farmers, Italian immigrants that farmed organically because they were too poor to do otherwise, but never planned on actually being a farmer. In fact, politician seemed more up her alley. But then she discovered the truth about politics: there’s only so much you can do from the sidelines. She wanted to be the change. Read More