non-profit sustainable agriculture
The recently established DROPP, Distributors of Regional & Organic Produce and Products, is a side project for the Great Basin Community Food Cooperative in Reno, Nevada. The food cooperative came into existence in 2005 under a buyer’s club model. Although the food coop is still going strong, DROPP is an effort to improve the infrastructure between the informed consumer and the sustainable grower and is best described as a food hub where farmer and fork collide.
“As we were building new relationships with local farmers we started sending out local availability lists to restaurants and members of our coop just saying ‘this farm has this and this farm has that.’
Project Sweetie Pie, a grassroots gardening organization in Minneapolis, Minn., has a simple objective: Grow luscious gardens in the city’s vacant lots to cultivate a strong community. Michael Chaney, Project Sweetie Pie organizer and community leader, and other community members (specifically members of Afro-Eco, a Minneapolis group that promotes social, economic, cultural, and ecologically sound cooperation) formed the organization to cultivate garden plots on unused lots scattered throughout North Minneapolis. Chaney said the organization supports the plots to help promote the growth of community agricultural businesses and a food corridor containing livable wage jobs.
A lot of farmers will tell you that the food grown through sustainable agriculture is only part of the equation. Creating infrastructure for small growers through food hubs, incorporating marketing and educational materials for customers and overhauling the perception of organic food in the United States are all essential parts of a successful food evolution. Indeed, there’s more to food hubs than just food. Just ask Kristen Suokko of Local Food Hub in Charlottesville, VA.
“We see Local Food Hubs nationally having impacts on a range of interrelated issues: food security, food safety (knowing where the food comes from), local economic vitality, land stewardship, and public health,” shares Suokko.
In 2011, then-21 year old Tyson Gersh met Darin Mcleskey at the University of Michigan. According to Gersh, who grew up in nearby college-town Ann Arbor, McLeskey was the first person who ever used the words “Detroit” and “cool” in the same sentence.
People had always told him that Detroit was a scary place.
”Ann Arbor is a bubble,” says Gersh. “I legitimately thought Detroit was the airport.”
After Mcleskey talked Gersh into taking a first road trip 50 miles down I-94, past the airport, Gersh was amazed to see skyscrapers.
Portland, Oregon’s Zenger Farm is striving to be a national model for urban, sustainable agriculture education while meeting the needs of people in its backyard: the low-income neighborhoods of Lents and Powelhurst-Gilbert.
The urban farm works to provide sustainable food and agriculture education, food access, and support for emerging food businesses in the area.
Though the farm is not currently certified, plans are underway to pursue organic certification within the next year, according to Sara Cogan, Farm Manager for Zenger Farms. Sustainable agriculture methods used on the farm includes drip irrigation, strict avoidance of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and creation of habitat to support diverse populations of beneficial insects.
Luke Ebner and Angela Stanbery were fine art majors who also had an eye (and a few green thumbs) for organic gardening. Ebner started working at Permaganic Co.’s Eco Garden, a community garden, educational program and non-profit in Cincinnati, Ohio, part-time in 2003. Stanbery joined him in 2004.
While Ebner had previous experience working at various organic farms and Stanbery worked as a ‘horticulture helper’ with the Cincinnati Park Board, the couple never dreamed they’d take over and transform Eco Garden into a non-profit, educational organization.
Keep Growing Detroit, a nonprofit community gardening and urban agriculture support organization, has a mission to achieve nothing short of sovereignty for Detroiters.
Food sovereignty, that is.
The organization’s vision is one of a Detroit where Detroiters grow the majority of fruits and vegetables they consume. The group also serves Hamtramck and Highland Parks, autonomous cities surrounded on all sides by the City of Detroit.
“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.”