sustainable agriculture practices
Growing up in the corn and soy fields of rural Indiana, Andy Schwartz has seen first-hand what large-scale farming can do to soil quality. But it wasn’t until he managed farms of his own and made his own compost that Schwartz realized the role large-scale composting could play in keeping the quality of soil high and protecting the environment.
“When I made enough compost for myself and the food waste kept coming in I realized that I had to come up with a plan,” he says. “The plan was and is to keep valuable organic materials out of the landfill and use them to create a healthy growing medium for plants. Heirloom tomatoes and peppers from my garden are a much better outcome for food waste than producing methane gases and harmful leachates in a landfill.”
Determined to “feed the food that feeds you,” Schwartz studied successful composting projects around the country and launched Grow.Eat.Repeat, a compost pick-up company in Savannah, Georgia. With more than 300 restaurants, 100 hotels, and 50-plus schools in the city, Schwartz had no trouble identifying his primary market.
From Four Acres Under Glass to 400, Two Brothers Turn Risky Hydroponic Venture into Sustainable SuccessJanuary 9, 2014 | Marianne Peters
Shortly after immigrating to Ontario, Canada from Italy in 1961, brothers Tony and Gino Mucci planted their first vegetable crop on rented land. In 1969, they built a wood frame greenhouse, and in 1975, they put four acres of crops under glass—a risky venture during a time of high-mortgage rates, as well as high fuel and labor costs.
The investment paid off. Today, Mucci Farms continues to make investments in its profitable business, especially in the area of sustainability.
Located near Kingsville, Ontario, Mucci Farms is still family-owned and operated, growing and marketing 400-acres of hydroponic non-GMO produce across North America.
Brought together by a shared love of sustainable agriculture, Lars Prillaman and Leslie Randall launched 8.5-acre Green Gate Farm in the small, historic town of Shepherdstown, West Virginia.
Prillaman and Randall see agriculture not as an efficiency and profit-maximizing endeavor, but as an intricate process guided by natural cycles, ethical responsibility, and community enrichment, and work hard to maintain a farm that realizes their vision of what agriculture should be.
That being said, these young, new farm owners have been tremendously successful for a first-year start-up.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t care about making money doing it,” says Prillaman, “If I didn’t make money doing it I wouldn’t be able to do it.”
Thus far, the pair runs a thriving CSA which currently has a wait-list for next season, sells to a popular local restaurant, has tables at two farmer’s markets, and has received accolades from established farmers who are impressed and astonished with their first year success.
Awareness of Environmental Impact, Embrace of Sustainability, Defines 4th Generation Deardorff Family FarmsAugust 5, 2013 | Noelle Swan
The Deardorff family has been in the produce business since 1937, helping local farmers in Venice, Hollywood, and Los Angeles distribute their produce. As the city of Los Angeles swelled in the early 1960’s, the Deardorffs followed many of their growers north to Ventura County and began to work the land themselves on their own 50-acre ranch. Since then Deardorff Family Farms has passed through four generations and grown immensely. Today, cousins Scott Deardorff, and Tom Deardorff II farm 2,000 acres of sustainably grown celery, tomatoes, greens, and mixed vegetables throughout Ventura County. They market their produce through wholesale distributors, at local markets, and directly to consumers.
Visiting Blue Moon Farm is a visual delight—an oasis of diverse organic vegetable production in a sprawling landscape otherwise filled with fields of conventionally grown corn and soybean. Long rows of kale, bok choy, and other greens dot the landscape while greenhouses filled with tomatoes and melons stand in stark contrast to the surrounding monoculture.
Jon Cherniss has been tending this land since 1997, finding ways of increasing profitability and longevity while maintaining a commitment to organic farming methods, which are often eschewed in favor of short-term gains in Central Illinois.
As a fourth generation farmer, Elaine Lemmon has a fond relationship with dirt. But growing up, she didn’t plan on becoming a farmer later in her life. When the real world called, she answered, studying anthropology and archeology at Penn State University. But, her studies would later steer her back to farming. “I soon got disenchanted with how science-for-profit really wasn’t good science,” says Lemmon. “The part of archeology I really loved was working outside and working in the soil.”
David Little of The Little Organic Farm in Petaluma, Calif. first began farming to help some childhood friends nearly 20 years ago. He had been working as a contractor and hated it so when his buddies inherited a couple ranches he jumped at the chance to head for the country and try something new. He stayed on for about a year before striking out on his own with a few acres of potatoes. Today, Little farms over 60 acres of land in plots scattered around Marin and Petaluma.
Jake’s Country Meats is more than just a pig farm—it is a family legacy. After six generations of raising pigs in the Michigan countryside, the Robinson family has developed a special connection to the land and remains dedicated to their mission of bridging the gap between food production and consumption.
According to the Robinson’s youngest daughter Renee, her father, Nate Robinson, has pig farming “in his blood” and he does a top-notch job of raising his Heritage breed pigs on pasture.
Renee, who came back to work on the farm after earning a degree in Marketing from Western Michigan University, takes part in all aspects of the family business.