local food systems
It might seem that to purchase locally-produced foods, one must take a two-lane county road to the nearest farm stand or visit the local farmers’ market. Even though it may seem that the big-box grocery store is an embedded part of modern life, modern technology increasingly is empowering the buying and selling of local foods on an larger-than-ever scale. From radio frequency identification tags to online food hubs to mobile phone apps, technology is taking agriculture “back” to the future.
The following are nine cutting-edge examples.
This piece is the part of a Seedstock series profiling women who are leading change in sustainable agriculture and local food. Read more profiles here.
You might call Erika Block something of a web weaver for the local foods economy. As CEO of Local Orbit, a company dedicated to providing sales and business management software and services to entrepreneurs, farmers, food hubs and others involved with local foods, she’s intricately familiar with the logistics that make the movement possible. With clients in 16 states and Canada, her 8-person team provides local food producers and aggregators with cloud-based tech tools and coaching so they can sell their products more efficiently to restaurants, grocers, and institutional buyers.
Seedstock 3rd Annual Sustainable Ag Innovation Conference Packs Punch with Stellar Slate of Expert SpeakersSeptember 16, 2014 | Robert Puro
Local food policy, urban agriculture strategy, and business model innovation are just a sample of the informative fare to be served up at the 3rd Annual Seedstock Sustainable Agriculture Innovation Conference – “Reintegrating Ag: Local Food Systems and the Future of Cities.”
The comprehensive, expert-rich program, to be held Tuesday and Wednesday, November 11-12, at the UCLA Anderson School of Management, will focus on the economic, environmental and community benefits that result from the development of a robust local food infrastructure. Participants from local food policy experts and urban agriculture entrepreneurs to investors and thought leaders in the sustainable agriculture industry will explore new approaches to strengthen the marketplace for local food and foster the revitalization of urban areas by embracing innovation in sustainable agriculture.
The City of Lexington, Kentucky has initiated a new local foods program as part of its economic development efforts.
Tapped to manage this new initiative is Lexington native Ashton Potter Wright, who has served as local food coordinator for Mayor Jim Gray’s office since the first week of June.
Wright previously served as operations manager of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Child Care campaign, where she was able to network with people from around the country. She holds a doctorate in public health from the University of Kentucky and worked at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She also serves as president of the board for Lexington-based Tweens Nutrition and Fitness Coalition.
“The position was in the works for three years or so,” says Wright. “It’s modeled after a similar position in Louisville, Kentucky.” Her territory includes not only Lexington, but also Lexington’s county, Fayette County.
Situated on the last few acres of a 140-year old family homestead, Everitt Farms hopes to serve as a platform for a local food district, returning a new Denver suburb to its old agricultural roots.
Located in Lakewood, Colorado, the farm is an urban agricultural experiment initiated by husband-and-wife team Derek and Kamise Mullen.
“We both have really wanted to do something like this for honestly, a good portion of our lives,” says Kamise Mullen. “It really wasn’t until we got married about four years ago that we actually started really growing food and trying to farm at all.”
Named after the first root to appear from a seed, Radicle Farm Company of New Jersey is rethinking the sustainable leafy greens concept. Through an aggregated network of local hydroponic farms, Radicle offers its living salad products to the wholesale and retail market.
“We want to be large,” says Christopher Washington, Managing Director of the company that started in 2013. “All the research that we’ve done has indicated that the consumer wants to support local product; it’s not really groundbreaking. What is groundbreaking is that companies that get the most traction are private brands in agriculture.”
In a recent New York Times op-ed, Bren Smith, a shellfish and seaweed farmer on the Long Island Sound, states that “the much-celebrated small-scale farmer isn’t making a living.”
Smith’s article is positioned as a call-to-action for sustainable farmers across the nation to come together and force national reform. Claiming that too-competitive farmers’ markets and CSA’s and the proliferation non-profit farming operations conspire to price the small grower out, Smith states that his “experience proves the trend.”
But does it?
Seedstock spoke with several of the small, local farmers we’ve covered over the last several years to get their take on Smith’s piece.
Food entrepreneurship as an after-school activity? Over the last few years, Detroit Food Academy has been making exactly this a reality for young people in the Motor City.
With help from local educators, schools and food businesses, the nonprofit project teaches food preparation and leadership skills to Detroit high school students through after-school programming. Youth participants learn what it’s like run their own business and get a chance to whip up recipes and debut them at a pop-up-style event. Graduates of DFA’s fall-through-spring school program also have the opportunity to apply for summer internships.