local food systems
It is believed to be a world first: a fully functioning greenhouse on wheels that plugs in much like an RV and that could offer up solutions to some of urban farming’s biggest challenges. The mobile greenhouse prototype, which goes by the name GrOwING GREEN, was born of a collaboration between architecture students at Ball State University and Butler University’s Center for Urban Ecology (CUE). It has already been recognized by the American Institute of Architects with a state award for excellence in architecture.
Timothy Gray, a professor of Architecture at Ball State, whose fourth year students designed and constructed the mobile greenhouse, points out that the mobility aspect opens up a world of possibilities, including the idea of bringing the farm to the people. As stated on their website, the prototype, “lends itself to the shifting and temporal nature of the urban farm.”
Straddling the rural urban divide, Shared Ground Farmers’ Coop in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota seeks to unite minority and immigrant farmers and help them gain access to local food markets, achieve economic viability, and enhance leadership skills all while emphasizing sustainable farming.
“Our coop aims to bring together farmers from diverse backgrounds to work towards a better living and more healthy food for folks in the city,” says Emily Hanson, co-founder of Shared Ground and co-owner of Amery, WI-based Whetstone Farm, a 40 acre property that is primarily in pasture with approximately five acres of vegetables is one of the founding farms of the cooperative. “We strive to help make farm ownership possible, especially for immigrants and others who struggle with land tenure.”
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.
A mutual passion for gardening and supporting underserved communities were the motivations behind the conception of Farm LA, a Los Angeles-based non-profit organization geared toward converting dilapidated and underutilized parcels of land for urban farming.
Emily Gleicher, a freelance producer for design and animation projects, and Jason Wood, a former commercial diver who now works as an electrician and framer in construction, founded Farm LA after a non-traditional gift sparked their interests.
“For Valentine’s Day, Jay found these lima bean plants at CVS that sprout out and say ‘I Love You,’” says Gleicher. “We had already become very passionate about gardening… so the lima beans took off, and we all of a sudden had lima bean plants all over our house. That is where our love for gardening and lima beans started.”
The story in Salt Lake County, Utah is pretty typical of a post 2008 American community. Vacant lots, underutilized land and an ever-growing local populace who would rather have locally grown produce than chemically-saturated, origin-iffy imports. The difference in Salt Lake County, however, is that rather than a nonprofit or private company, the government is facilitating the local food and urban farming movement.
“The urban farming program is the brainchild of Councilman Jim Bradley,” says Supreet Gill, Program Manager for Salt Lake County Urban Farming. “He initially became interested in the program after reading an article by Michael Pollan on [the] benefits of eating healthy food. Since that time, the urban farming program staff has created and managed various projects aimed at promoting cultivation and consumption of local, fresh and healthy food.”
Salt Lake County Urban Farming is a mediator, a go between if you will, that facilitates the relationship between the producer and the consumer with nothing to gain monetarily (budgets are beyond tight).
The organizers of the upcoming Grow Local OC: Future of Urban Food Systems Conference are incredibly excited to have Karen Ross, Secretary of the California Dept. and Food Agriculture deliver the conference’s keynote address, which will explore the importance of agriculture and the development of robust local food systems in cities.
Secretary Ross, whom Politico recently reported is at the top of presidential candidate Hilary Clinton’s USDA Ag Secretary list, will discuss how cities and urban oriented counties across California, and beyond, can develop greater capacity for urban ag and innovative growing endeavors, work more effectively with regional growers, increase food security and access, create an equitable food system in Orange County and SoCal, and more!
The Hawaiian Islands possess ideal climatic conditions to support year-round agriculture from consistently temperate weather to ample rainfall and abundant sunlight. Despite these favorable conditions, the islands rely on imports from the mainland and elsewhere for nearly 90 percent of the food that residents consume.
Last month, at the ICUN World Conservation Conference in Honolulu, Governor David Ige announced his pledge to double local food production by the year 2030. To help insure the success of this pledge, the Ulupono Initiative, a Hawaii-focused impact investing firm, has stepped into the fray to provide financial and advisory support to for-profit, non-profit and social ventures seeking to increase food security and production on the islands.
“We are pleased to hear about the governor’s announcement, and want to make it happen through investment means,” says Murray Clay, Managing Partner at Ulupono Initiative. “We are an impact investing firm, with one of the key areas of focus being local food production.”
As major league baseball teams enter the playoffs with dreams of reaching the World Series, fans are soaking in the last games of the season. I am one of these fans, who at press time, is worried about the chances of my favorite team, the San Francisco Giants, earning a Wild Card spot. While focused on baseball, I thought it was a good time for me to write about two of my favorite things: baseball and local food.
Surprisingly, there is a very direct connection between baseball and local food. Baseball stadiums do not close down once the world champion is declared. Many have developed community partnerships and programs that operate in the off-season and focus on improving nutrition and community health. That is why several big league teams including the Boston Red Sox, the Washington Nationals, and the Colorado Rockies’ have installed edible gardens that are helping to educate fans about local food systems.