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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture
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California Grower Sees Potential for Orchards on Terraces and Slopes of Subdivisions

January 23, 2017 |
Don Neff is president of Neff Ranch, which manages orchards on two different agricultural properties in Orange County. (photo courtesy Don Neff/Neff Ranch)

Don Neff is president of Neff Ranch, which manages orchards on two different agricultural properties in Orange County. (photo courtesy Don Neff/Neff Ranch)

Surprisingly, despite decades of urban development and the paving over of countless groves and orchards in the name of new housing tracts, with a little work one can still buy oranges grown in the few remaining groves that dot Orange County, California.

The presence of Orange County oranges at a number of farmers market in the region is in no small part due to the efforts of Don Neff, President of Neff Ranch, one of the last remaining orange growers in the county. After relocating to Southern California from Washington, Neff, a homebuilder and developer, was presented in with the opportunity to manage the remaining orange orchard on the Yorba Linda, CA estate of Susanna Bixby Bryant.

The location of the estate’s 21-acre orchard in the Santa Ana River floodplain kept its 4,000 Valencia orange trees safe from being bulldozed for new housing. Read More

Weekly Stories of Food Systems Innovation from Around the Country

December 15, 2016 |

Father-Son Team Launches First Urban Farm in South Carolina to Meet Growing Demand for Local Food

BY VANESSA CACERES

After 30 years working in the field of architecture, Robbie McClam yearned to return to his farming … Read More

USDA Awards $6.7 Million for Research to Support Healthy Agroecosystems

November 30, 2016 |

post_usdalogoNews Release – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) recently announced 18 grants totaling more than $6.7 million for research to discover how components of the agroecosystem from soil, water and sun to plants, animals and people, interact with and affect food production. These awards are made through NIFA’s Bioenergy and Natural Resources Program, Agroecosystem priority area of the Agricultural and Food Research Initiative (AFRI).

“Population growth, along with environmental factors, including the growing threat of climate change, are putting increasing demand on the land, water and other resources that produce our food,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “These investments will help us understand how we can farm more effectively and sustainably to feed the growing global population.” Read More

The New Mandatory GMO Labeling Law – What Does it Mean for Farmers and Consumers?

September 8, 2016 |
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A Frito-Lay package with a voluntary GMO label. Photo Credit: Will C. Fry/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The campaign for mandatory GMO labeling laws has been going on for years. On July 29, President Obama signed a bill requiring labeling of foods that contain GMO.

As a result, over the next few years food producers will have to provide more information to consumers about the genetically engineered contents of their products. The Mandatory Labeling Bill places the onus on the USDA to develop not only the criteria for labeling, but also what the labels will look like.

Opponents of mandatory labeling argue that labeling genetically engineered foods will imply that those products are unsafe, which they say would be misleading since the FDA and other organizations have determined that genetically engineered foods are safe for human consumption. Those in favor of mandatory labeling, on the other hand, say that consumers have a right to know and to choose whether or not the food that they consume contains genetically modified ingredients. Read More

From Christmas Trees to Hydroponic Produce, Farmer Holds onto Roots with Eye to the Future

August 29, 2016 |
Hydroponically grown red and green mixed varieties of lettuce at Mock's Greenhouse and Farm in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia. Photo credit: Mock's Greenhouse and Farm.

Hydroponically grown red and green mixed varieties of lettuce at Mock’s Greenhouse and Farm in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia. Photo credit: Mock’s Greenhouse and Farm.

For Paul Mock, founder of Mock’s Greenhouse and Farm in Berkeley Springs, WV, farming is more than a career; it’s a way of life.

“My family’s been farming for over a hundred years,” says Paul. “I’ve technically been in the business since I was five years old.”

The greenhouses, with their soilless growing systems, in which Paul Mock now spends his days stand in stark contrast to the Christmas tree farm he grew up on. After working on the family farm for most of his adult life, Paul moved off the farm in 2003 to start his own hydroponics greenhouse operation. His reasons for this dramatic change were straightforward.
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