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.
Known as the “First Great Metropolitan Park of the 21st Century,” the City of Irvine’s 1,300-acre “Great Park,” is living up to its ambitious goals.
Created on the grounds of the former El Toro Naval Base, the park’s focus on promoting a relationship between local residents, sustainable food systems and community green space provides an example of how far a city can go to foster sustainable agriculture.
Ten Acre Organics began as the abstract vision of a few friends in Austin, Texas.
“We wanted to use social capitalism to make a positive impact,” says Michael Hanan, co-founder. “We started looking at where the greatest opportunities to do that were. We saw that growing and sharing the healthiest food possible was really one of the biggest challenges and biggest opportunities facing our generation.”
Hanan and fellow classmate Lloyd Minick began the farm in earnest in 2012. Currently, the farm is housed on a tenth of an acre residential plot in Austin. Although it is tiny, the startup hopes its method of integrated, closed loop farming that combines field plants, aquaponics, live animals and a small CSA can act as a model for productive urban farming around the nation.
New and Noteworthy Speakers Added to Slate for Urban Ag-Focused ‘Grow Riverside’ Conference on March 19 – 20January 29, 2014 | Robert Puro
Notable experts in urban agriculture, new farm financing, local food systems development, vegetable crop cultivation, food hubs and digital technology have been added to what’s shaping up to be a blockbuster slate of speakers for the Urban Ag-focused Grow Riverside: Citrus and Beyond! Conference (http://growriverside.com), which will be held at the Riverside Convention Center on March 19 – 20, 2014 in partnership with the City and Community of Riverside.
The conference will focus on the development of urban agriculture and local food system strategies and solutions that cities, Riverside in this particular case, can use to reconnect with their agricultural roots and create economic opportunities that investors, citizens, growers, government officials and other major stakeholders can leverage to foster a robust and sustainable local food future.
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.
Matt Russell, one of Coyote Run Farm’s owners, grew up on a farm in Iowa. And before Russell went to college, he swore he would never do two things: Become a farmer, and live in a small community. Well, a few years out of college was all it took to change Russell’s mind. He moved back to Iowa with Patrick Standley, the Farm’s other owner, and founded the 110-acre Coyote Run Farm in Lacona, IA, in January of 2005. “I wanted to set roots in Iowa,” Russell said. “When we felt like we had enough money to buy a farm, we started looking in the fall of 2004.” The farmers found land through a real estate agent within six weeks of starting their search.
When Russell finally did decide to go into farming, he wanted to make certain his farm business model would mitigate risk. “I wanted to figure out a way to increase the net as a percentage growth. Instead of growing bigger, I wanted to have lower growth and lower input.”
The Santa Monica Farmers Market is celebrated throughout metro Los Angeles as perhaps the best, most family-friendly and most diverse of markets in the county. Launched in July, 1981, the beachside town’s farmers market began with a mere 23 vendors. Since then, it has grown to include some 85 farmers from as far north as the Oregon border all the way down to Tijuana, and has expanded to run four days a week in three different locations across the city.
Laura Avery has been running the market almost since its inception and said she has been feeding her own family, her children and her grandchildren on the bounty found in the colorful market stalls.
“We started this market through a program then administered through the California Food and Agriculture Department, and they went out and recruited farmers for us,” Avery said. “It’s thanks to Jerry Brown, who was governor then and who passed the Retail Marketing Act that allowed us to operate, even though all the big retailers and shippers were totally against it.”