The following is a candid conversation with young farmers, Matt Hyde and Sarah Wertz about their operation, Rabbit Run Farm in Skull Valley, Arizona.
What compelled you, especially as a young couple to get into sustainable farming?
We both enjoy working outdoors and eating good food. The farming lifestyle represents our values and beliefs. Also, we took the class Small Scale Agriculture at Prescott College held at Whipstone Farm in Paulden, Arizona. Following the class, we talked with the farmers Cory and Shanti and asked if we could work for them the following season. We really enjoyed it! The next season, Byrnie at Ridgeview Farms offered us land to use as kind of a trial for farming on our own The next season we were offered the farm manager position at Jenner Farm in Skull Valley and moved our farming operation there. We’ve been farming ever since.
In a world where climate change continues to wreak more and more havoc on growing seasons and arable land becomes increasingly scarce and expensive, viable farming alternatives are the Holy Grail of sustainable agriculturists.
Local Garden of Vancouver, BC, a subsidiary of the vertical farming technology company Alterrus, is the latest challenger to the intractable problem of providing local fresh produce for future urban communities.
The company (they only launched production three months ago) is using the VertiCrop™ growing system created by Alterrus to raise baby greens, arugula, basil, spinach, kales and bok choy in a system that cultivates 10 times the amount of crops as traditional agriculture in the same amount of space, but uses 90 percent less water and terrain. And it does so on top of a parking garage in the middle of downtown Vancouver.
A Head of Lettuce from 1,000 Miles Away, or a Sack of Greens from the Vertical Urban Farm Across Town?January 2, 2013 | Melonie Magruder
In a perfect world of competitive business, twenty-first century startups have some high hurdles to overcome: the ideal is to offer a product that is beneficial for the consumer, leaves a negligible carbon footprint, has a sustainable operating model and contributes socially and economically to the community at large.
FarmedHere might be the poster boy for such a business.
The two-year-old startup grows salad greens, herbs and fish in a multi-stack, vertical agriculture setup, using aquaponic and aeroponic cultivation methods in an abandoned industrial warehouse about seven miles from downtown Chicago.
Two Childhood Friends Launch Hydroponic Farm to Meet Year-round Demand for Local Food in New EnglandDecember 17, 2012 | Missy Smith
In 1996, longtime friends from junior high school, Phil Todaro and Jeff Barton, took a road trip that altered the course of their careers. After Todaro read a Wall Street Journal article about a man who left a corporate job to start a hydroponic tomato farm in Vermont, the two friends went to visit him and became inspired. They believed there was a place in their local community for a farm that would provide pesticide-free produce year-round, so they set out to launch their own hydroponic farm. So, after studying under modern hydroponics pioneer Merle Jensen at the University of Arizona in 1996, the two friends and their families established Water Fresh Farm in 1997.
Today, Water Fresh Farm runs a hydroponic farm operation and marketplace in Hopkinton, Maine. Over the years, the two friends left the corporate world in pursuit of their farming dreams, with Jeff coming on full-time when the Water Fresh Farm Marketplace opened in 2011.
Although the Swartz family has been farming for three generations, Joe Swartz’s Sky Vegetables in Amherst is very different from the typical farm of his father and grandfather.
When his grandparents, John and Anastasia Swartz immigrated to the United States from Poland, they settled on a 40-acre homestead where they raised dairy cows, tobacco, onions, vegetables, and five children. Their sons, Walter and John Swartz took over the farm and expanded production to 300 acres of rented land in Amherst and surrounding towns.
A few years ago, Jeni and Doug Blackburn were looking for a new business venture to embark upon following Doug’s retirement. After perusing several different business ideas, Doug began researching greenhouses, hydroponics and aquaponics. Jeni explains that as the couple dug deeper into aquaponics, they realized that they had found their business.
“We really liked the idea. It’s a sustainable way of doing farming,” says Jeni, co-owner and farmer at Fresh Harvest Farm, in Richwood, Ohio. “We are re-circulating water, not adding chemicals, and the fish eating and breathing excrete ammonia, which is a natural chemical. The good bacteria creates wonderful nutrition for our plants naturally.”
Before settling down to start his own organic farming operation, County Line Harvest, in Petaluma, CA, David Retsky cut his teeth farming all over the country and internationally through World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF). His certified organic farms focus primarily on growing lettuces and leafy greens, which the farm provides to local restaurants and sells at 10 farmers markets throughout California each week.
I recently spoke with farmer Zoe Speidel, who works at the farm to learn more about its history, the challenges that it faces, future plans and more.
What does a high-tech guy do when he becomes tired of the daily grind in the manufacturing industry? If he is a food lover, he opens a greenhouse to supply area restaurants with fine greens and revels in all-things food.
Darrell Joseph, a self-proclaimed foodie, did just that. After working more than 20 years in manufacturing, he thought he would try his hand at something else. “I am heavy into food and fine dining,” says Joseph. “I wanted to do something with food. I wanted to interact with chefs, as well as people who enjoy food and fine dining.”
The words are right there on Alegria Fresh’s homepage: “Food is thy medicine; medicine is thy food.” This quote from Hippocrates could easily serve as part of the hydroponic vertical farm’s mission statement.
With a background in biochemistry and oncology, Erik Cutter—managing director of the Laguna Beach startup—decided during pre-med school that pharmaceutical drugs are not the answer to our nation’s health problems. “When I graduated with a degree, I did not believe in pharmaceuticals as a means of preventative health,” explains Cutter. “For me, it’s always been about preventative medicine and how food could do that. I don’t believe people have the information they need. I think we spent the last 50 years being disconnected from where food comes from. So, I decided to utilize the knowledge I have gained to help people obtain the truth about healthy foods and understand how important it is to know where your food comes from.”
Emphasizing Local Farm Ingredients, Craft of Cooking, Fast-Growing SoCal Restaurant Chain Stays True to RootsSeptember 9, 2012 | Melinda Clark
For Erik Oberholtzer, cooking and eating high quality, local, sustainably produced foods is “part of his DNA.” Oberholtzer co-founded Tender Greens, a rapidly-growing “slow food done fast” restaurant chain that serves affordable, sustainable, delicious meals across southern California. With big plans for growth in the works, Tender Greens faces the difficult, but exciting challenge of staying true to its roots while expanding across the state.
After culinary school and an impressive career as an executive chef at luxury resorts in Hawaii and San Francisco, Oberholtzer ended up in Los Angeles, where he met business partners Matt Lyman and David Dressler. The three of them decided it was time to venture out on their own – and they were very aware of a niche that needed filling.
“Tender Greens was a reaction to the lack of really good affordable causal options in Santa Monica,” says Oberholtzer.