For the 21st century farmer, crop choices are much more than a simple sum of projected annual yields: farmers have to think about how to get the most out of their acres, and how to prevent precious topsoil from washing away. Steve Groff of Cedar Meadow Farms is involved in efforts to find sustainable alternatives that will help to conserve topsoil and precious resources over time.
Groff farms about 225 acres of land in Martic Township, part of the heavily agrarian Lancaster County area in southeast Pennsylvania.
If it were up to The Land Institute, instead of miles upon miles of amber waves of grain the American heartland would look a lot more diverse. The Salina, Kansas research institution promotes agricultural systems that are more in line with the state’s prairies—where different varieties of plants thrive side by side—than with its celebrated monochromatic wheat fields.
The Land Institute was founded in 1976 when Wes Jackson quit his job as chair of California State University-Sacramento’s environmental studies program to return to his native Kansas in order to do practical research on his ideas about alternative, sustainable agricultural methods. Jackson, who has a B.A. in biology, an M.A. in botany and a Ph.D. in genetics is widely considered a visionary in sustainable agriculture circles. He argues that because of the way we have been farming for centuries there is now a “problem of agriculture” meaning that the very way we farm is in question.
The word ‘sustainable’ tends to get thrown around in the marketplace, which can be confusing to consumers who want to make conscientious food choices. That’s not the case when it comes to the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA). Through their farmers market, education and outreach programs, and framework of sustainable best practices, they’re helping set the standards for what the word can and should mean.
CUESA’s mission is to cultivate a sustainable food system by educating urban consumers and creating connections between them and local producers. Since 1999, CUESA has managed the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in San Francisco, a successful thrice-weekly market that requires its vendors to meet strict guidelines.
Seedstock Digest: A Farm in a Backpack, Software to Empower Sustainable Farmers, Affordable Drip Systems for Smallholders and more!July 2, 2011 | seedstock
Start your weekend off right and grab a coffee, donut, or maybe some eggs and settle in for a healthy helping of Seedstock. Today’s digest features a farm that fits in a backpack, local food systems software that gives sustainable farmers greater access to the larger food supply chain, an affordable drip irrigation system for smallholder farmers, and a unique 30 acre greenhouse operation that profits from and promotes organic growing.
At first, Mark Elzinga, President of Southwest Michigan-based Elzinga & Hoeksema Greenhouses, doesn’t sound like your typical organic farmer. “Why did we go into organics? For the money,” he says right off the bat.
While his attitude toward organic has changed over the years, his conviction that organic farming needs to be profitable to truly become mainstream has not.