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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture

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organic waste

Center for Sustainability at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo to Host Compost Training Course on March 24 – 28

March 3, 2014 |

Image Credit: Hunter Francis, Director of the Center for Sustainability, Cal Poly Agriculture, Food and Enviromental Sciences (CAFES)

The Center for Sustainability, Cal Poly Agriculture, Food and Enviromental Sciences’ (CAFES) training course is a 4-Day Professional Development Certificate Series in large-scale composting. Additionally, there will be a 1-Day Industry/Grower Compost Symposium that will take place on Friday, March 28. More details are below:

Professional Development Certificate Series (Monday -Thursday)

A four-day comprehensive training on large-scale composting. This workshop will lead participants through the entire composting process from site selection and management techniques, to compost utilization and marketing strategies. Workshop includes a combination of classroom, laboratory and hands-on exercises including recipes, troubleshooting, regulatory issues, and end product evaluation. One day will be devoted to a tour of regional composting and organics recycling facilities. An optional ‘Certificate of Technical Ability’ will be available upon completion of the course. Read More

Ag Gains as Company Transforms 2 Million Tons of Organic Waste to 29 Million Bags of Soil

March 4, 2013 |

Anaerobic digesters at Harvest Power’s Energy Garden in Bay Lake, Florida. Photo Credit: Harvest Power.

Harvest Power is about dirt. It’s also about soil regeneration and managing the modern day intersection of waste, agriculture and energy, so that ongoing human consumption can be used as the engine to drive ongoing renewable energy.

In three and a half years, CEO Paul Sellew has created a company that diverts more than two million tons of organic waste material from landfills and turns it into some 29 million bags of soil, mulch and fertilizer products while producing 65,000 megawatt hours of heat and power-generating energy to run its facilities.

Harvest Power operates in 30 sites across the U.S. and Canada, using strategic partnerships with municipalities, haulers and state-of-the-art anaerobic digesters to create high value compost that is in turn used to create more high nutrition food that can be later be recycled into the system starting the whole process over again. Read More

TEDx Manhattan Shines Light on Sustainable Ag Issues from Seed Saving to Food Waste

February 21, 2013 |

Last weekend’s sustainable agriculture themed TEDx Manhattan was entitled “Changing the Way We Eat”.  A TEDx is an independent version of the incredibly popular TED Talks each of which is a day long series of brief presentations on “ideas worth spreading” around a specific topic.  The New York version is one of the more popular ones, with the 200 person strong live audience supplemented by a further 3,000 people at viewing parties around the country.

The subject of the day’s talks ranged from White House pastry chef Bill Yosses on “the hedonistic culture of healthy eating” to a brief excerpt from the upcoming movie, “Food Chains”, which looks at the conditions endured by farm laborers. Read More

Electrical Engineer Leverages Knowledge of LEDs and Green Tech to Sustainably Grow Organic Mushrooms

February 6, 2013 |

Shiitake mushrooms growing under LED light. Photo Credit: Mountain Mushroom Farm.

Being an organic shitake mushroom farmer in Malo, Washington isn’t the easiest thing to do which is probably why electrical engineer, master electrician and green technology inventor Marc Keith decided to do it. Along with his wife Vivian, Keith runs Mountain Mushroom Farm, which he claims is one of the most self-sustaining low energy organic farms around. He may be right, and he would know, having built the farm from the ground…well, underground, up.

By carving out a chunk of his hillside and burying a shipping container, Keith was able to begin an underground shitake mushroom farm on his mountain property. His design choices and mathematical mind ensured the supports were perfectly aligned and the retaining walls perfectly sealed. Read More

2,500 Acre Organic Farm in Arizona Rooted in Compost and Community Thrives on Social Responsibility

February 4, 2013 |

Duncan Family Farms in Buckeye, Arizona. Photo Credit: Pamela Ellgen

The principles of organic farming permeate every aspect of Duncan Family Farms from the seeds they plant in the ground to those they sow in the local community.

“We believe that the primary responsibility of Duncan Family Farms is to produce clean, healthy, life-giving food,” says founder and self-proclaimed “dirt nerd” Arnott Duncan. “We are also committed to making a strong contribution to an improved environment and to giving back to our community.”

Arnott and his wife Kathleen started the farm over two decades ago, and that vision has remained the cornerstone of their operation since the very beginning. Read More

Green Waste Recycler Finds Profit in Organic Compost and Big Picture Thinking

January 2, 2013 |

Photo: Agromin

When our second American president, John Adams, visited England on a diplomatic mission, he famously walked right to the compost pile of his distinguished host’s barnyard, plunged in his hands and said, “Well, this may be good manure, but it’s not equal to mine.”

Like our early forefathers – who were farmers before they were politicians – companies like Ventura, California-based Agromin recognize the importance of good dirt to our nation’s ongoing health and prosperity. For some 20 years, Agromin has been taking municipal and county green waste from Orange County to Santa Barbara and converting it into a variety of soil amendments that are organic, nutrient-rich and friendly to the earth. Read More

D.C. Startup Makes Urban Composting as Easy as Taking Out the Trash; Lush Soil Benefits Urban Farm Projects

December 20, 2012 |

Tis the season for turkey, ham, stuffing, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, hors d’oeuvres, a lot of desserts and cookies! In keeping with seasonal tradition, Americans are preparing to ‘wow’ their guests with all sorts of tasty delights. While food spreads at holiday parties can be very impressive, they can also be quite wasteful. How many of us have chucked a bunch of leftover goodies, because they sat out all day or because they didn’t get eaten? Read More

Organic Farm in Petaluma, CA Finds Success with Lettuces and Leafy Greens, Looks to Expand

November 20, 2012 |

David Retsky, Founder of County Line Harvest. Photo: County Line Harvest

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. Read More