local food systems
Currently, the world’s food system is in a state of flux. Small growers across the globe attempt to impact their local communities by producing organic food that challenges traditional food production. The students of Stanford University’s FEED (Food Education Entrepreneurship Design) Collaborative intend to impact the food system in another way: human centered design.
Matthew Rothe of Stanford’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design explains the FEED Collaborative’s approach to fixing the global food system. “We believe that human centered design is a powerful process for uncovering the unmet needs of people and for unlocking the creative problem solving potential of its practitioners. Coupled with the domain knowledge of our collaborators and opportunities for social entrepreneurship, we believe human centered design is the most compelling opportunity we have for driving the level of innovation needed to transform our food system.”
Lucky Dog Organics harvested 7200 bushels of Arapahoe wheat last season. Though the farm is in the Catskills, the crop has roots across the country, in the frustrations of one particular eater.
“I was living in Pasadena, and I couldn’t buy a decent loaf of bread without an effort,” said Michael O’Malley, an artist who teaches in California and has a farm near Lucky Dog. To answer the bread problem, he decided to teach himself to bake. A sculptor, his interest in bread bled into his art, and some installations that involved baking bread.
“I always bake two loaves and give one away so it serves as this kind of bridge between myself and the people who are part of my life,” said O’Malley. This bridge stretched to Lucky Dog while he was on sabbatical a couple of years ago, when realized he needed to learn more about wheat. He bought a combine on Craig’s List, and started talking to his friend, farmer Richard Giles.
Jennifer Piette said the idea for her Out of the Box Collective was born from the European food culture in which she lived for more than 20 years, working as a screenwriter and film producer.
“Where I lived (in France, Portugal and England), there were fresh markets right around the corner,” Piette said. “You cooked. Here in America, we have a completely different relationship with our food.”
Piette was referring to modern-day proclivities for processed and packaged meals (Piette calls it “phony food”), and produce and meat sourced from factory farms. The volume is impressive, but the quality dubious.
“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.”
A nationwide initiative to encourage hospitals to provide patients and employees with healthier food choices may benefit independent growers. The Healthy Food in Health Care (HFHC) program encourages hospitals across the country to pledge to a more sustainable food program in their facilities with a focus on buying local and encouraging preventative healthcare.
The Healthy Food in Health Care (HFHC) program is the brainchild of the folks at Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) and is just one of their many initiatives to encourage hospitals to use their purchasing power to promote preventative healthcare through healthy food. HCWH began in 1996 in response to the discovery that the burning of medical waste was one of the largest sources of the carcinogen dioxin on the planet. HCWH is comprised of 28 separate organizations in 52 countries. The group is a privately funded 501 c3 with several green program successes already under their belt.
The family farmer is making a comeback with a starring role in the new American dream.
In recent years, the number of individual farms in the United States has increased for the first time since World War II, according to the 2007 Agricultural Census, the most recent data compiled by the USDA. A new wave of beginning family farmers have headed back to the fields, driven by a desire to connect with the land, frustration with the industrialized food system, and high unemployment rates.
The majority of new farms are very small, earning less than $10,000 per year. They tend to be run by younger farmers, two thirds of whom rely on off-farm work to supplement farm income, the census revealed. As with any new business venture, it can take several years to begin to turn a profit.
Over 230 Assemble at Indoor Ag Conference in Vegas to Explore Solutions to Grow Industry in State & BeyondApril 29, 2013 | seedstock
Producing food in arid, desert climates requires resourcefulness, grit and, increasingly, innovative indoor growing technologies and solution. As cities and states across the country with less than ideal soil, water and weather conditions look to increase local food production, sure up supply chains and create new economic engines, indoor agriculture from hydroponics to aeroponics to aquaponics has lately become a hot topic.
As evidence of this burgeoning interest in controlled environment agriculture, this past Wednesday saw over 230 growers, technologists, investors and entrepreneurs converge upon the Historic 5th Street School in Downtown Las Vegas for the inaugural Nevada Indoor Agricultural Conference co-hosted by Seedstock, the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) and Nicola Kerslake of Real Assets Junkie.
“The year is heavy with produce. And men are proud, for of their knowledge they can make the year heavy. They have transformed the world with their knowledge.” - John Steinbeck, Grapes of Wrath
Like all of us, writer and grower David Mas Masumoto is a product of his culture and his regional circumstances not to mention the owner of the famous Masumoto Family Farm peach orchards in the arid Central Valley of California. His love of the land punctuates his narrative as he shares his wisdom of organic farming, family ties and the story that is sustainable agriculture.
The Masumoto family has farmed peaches, on an 80-acre patch of land south of Fresno, since 1948. After finishing college, Mas Masumoto returned to his family farm and a few years later bought 40 acres of land from his father. In the mid-1980s he made the decision to farm organically.
The demand for local food continues to grow, often faster than small growers and infrastructure can keep up. That’s why the work of the Northwest Agriculture Business Center (NABC) is vital in connecting small farmers to big business in Northwest Washington State.
Founded in 2006, NABC is the brainchild of a group of farmers and politicians who noticed a gap in the small business assistance market. Independent growers running small farms are first and foremost farmers. Brand development, marketing, establishing a customer base and utilizing accounting technology are often unfamiliar and time consuming aspects of the small farm business. NABC provides assistance in these and other areas helping to keep small farms viable.
‘Next Urban Chef’ Program Stresses Importance of Local Food to Detroit Youth, Teams Students with ChefsApril 24, 2013 | Nina Ignaczak
“The food system is literally killing people in communities like Detroit,” says Alison Heeres, 27, coordinator of a program designed to educate and engage youth in the local food movement in the City of Detroit.
Heeres, who works with the University of Michigan Health System teaching nutrition and wellness in schools, has witnessed firsthand the impact of lack of access to and knowledge about fresh, local food in urban communities. So when she was asked to coordinate a program to engage Detroit youth in a high profile project designed to get them thinking about food and nutrition in a new way, she took the opportunity.
The program, Next Urban Chef, is modeled after the wildly popular Next Iron Chef television series, and focuses on youth education and leadership development around local food.
It’s 5 pm on Thursday, milk is running low, and the kids polished off the last of the peanut butter the night before. Working parents everywhere, stuck in traffic, are scrounging for a healthy dinner.
Enter Door to Door Organics, an online organic grocery retailer that delivers fresh, organic groceries at a competitive cost with traditional brick-and-mortar grocers.
The company, which was founded by David Gersenson in 2004 in his 300 square-foot Boulder, Colorado garage, now serves 9 states, operating out of five centralized hubs in Colorado, Michigan, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Missouri.
After $50 Million Buyout, Entrepreneurs Return to Farm to Further Ideals of Sustainable Food MovementApril 17, 2013 | Melonie Magruder
In today’s cyber-driven universe, technology wunderkinds don’t normally go from $50 million buyouts by Google back to the farm. But that’s exactly what Rob Spiro, co-founder of the farm-to-fridge grocery delivery start-up in San Francisco, Good Eggs, did.
Spiro and his colleagues from Silicon Valley founded the company a mere 18 months ago, with the idea that their experience in the tech world could be put to good use in furthering the ideals of a sustainable food movement. After selling their social search service, Aardvark, to Google in 2010, Spiro, et al thought to lasso the burgeoning grassroots drive for local, organic food direct-to-consumer in the Bay Area.
Facilitating Food Alliances, Ag Innovations Network Aims to Boost Local Food Production and Health of CitizensApril 15, 2013 | Jan Fletcher
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.