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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture

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SoCal University’s Aeroponic Garden Challenges Food System Status Quo

June 28, 2016 |
A new teaching garden at the University of Southern California uses aeroponics to grows its fruits, vegetables and herbs. Photo courtesy Erika Chesley/USC Auxiliary Services

A new teaching garden at the University of Southern California uses aeroponics to grows its fruits, vegetables and herbs. Photo courtesy Erika Chesley/USC Auxiliary Services

A prominent university in Southern California is utilizing aeroponics to challenge the food systems status quo on campus. The University of Southern California (USC) Teaching Garden was established this spring to supply fresh produce to the university’s on-campus restaurants, dining halls, catering services, and hotel, while also teaching students and staff about flavor and sustainability.

The garden utilizes aeroponic towers to produce chemical-free fruit, vegetables, herbs, and edible flowers without traditional soil growing media. Instead, plant roots are sprayed with nutrient-rich water at regular intervals to provide nourishment. The aeroponic towers at USC’s facility come from LA Urban Farms, which utilizes patented Tower Garden technology.

Each aeroponic tower is made with food-grade plastic, has room for a nutrient-rich mineral solution at its base, and holds up to 44 plants. Using this method, the project is able to raise more than 2,640 plants in just 1,200 square feet with 90 percent less water than a conventional produce operation, a boon for a drought-prone megalopolis like Los Angeles. And since growing takes place vertically, land use is kept to a minimum. Read More

Indiana School Farm Teaches Urban Farming, Entrepreneurship

December 15, 2015 |

A student at Thea Bowman Leadership Academy handles chickens inside their coop at the school’s farm. (Photo courtesy Lynda Bodie/Thea Bowman Leadership Academy)

Gary, Indiana, known for being the birthplace of Michael Jackson and home to massive steel plants, now has a high school with an urban farm program.

Last year, students at Thea Bowman Leadership Academy in Gary started the urban farm. It’s founded and operated under the principles of a business plan written as part of an entrepreneurship and personal finance class curriculum. Read More

Mayo Clinic, Western Technical College Embark on Sustainable Ag Partnership

December 14, 2015 |

Western Technical College in La Crosse, Wisconsin now has a new Horticulture Education Center. The center is the result of a collaboration with Hillview Urban Agriculture Center. (Photo courtesy Pam Hartwell/Hillview Urban Agriculture Center).

La Crosse, Wisconsin is taking a triple bottom line approach to sustainable agriculture education.

A partnership formed by three local organizations, Hillview Urban Agriculture Center, Western Technical College, and Mayo Clinic Health System-Franciscan Healthcare — dubbed the Get Growing Partnership — marked a culmination of sorts in October when a dedication took place for a new greenhouse and Horticulture Education Center at Western Technical College. Read More

Q&A: Dr. Peggy A. Mauk of UC Riverside Discusses Efforts to Strengthen Local Food System

April 28, 2014 |
Dr. Peggy A. Mauk. Director of Agricultural Operations and Subtropical Horticulture Specialist, UC Riverside Photo courtesy of Dr, Mauk

Dr. Peggy A. Mauk. Director of Agricultural Operations and Subtropical Horticulture Specialist, UC Riverside
Photo courtesy of Dr, Mauk

Mention the southern Californian City of Riverside and people often think of oranges. This is hardly surprising, since it’s the birthplace of the state’s citrus industry and home to an internationally respected citrus research center run by the University of California, Riverside.

An effort is now underway, though, that could change perceptions about food production in this citrus hub. UC Riverside and city government are collaborating on a new initiative to get farmers and residents to think outside the area’s traditional export-oriented citrus growing model by promoting development of Riverside’s local food system.

Seedstock spoke to Dr. Peggy Mauk, Director of Agricultural Operations at UC Riverside, to learn more about this work. Read More

WSU Extension Offers Home Food Production Program for those Limited by Financial or Physical Hardship

March 28, 2013 |

A new educational program in Cowlitz County, Wash., is taking the fear out of gardening and enabling people who are limited by financial or physical hardship to experience the rewards of having their own garden. In the program’s first year, there were 22 applicants vying for 10 spots; this year, there are 61.

“You really get to know these people after reading the application,” says Gary Fredricks, the director of the WSU Extension office for Cowlitz County. From this year’s 61 applicants, he and the committee of Master Gardeners selected the 10 applicants that are the next cohort of the Home Vegetable Educational Garden (VEG) program. Read More

Two Young Farmers Discuss Their Sustainable Farming Enterprise, Offer Advice to Aspirants

January 21, 2013 |

Sarah Wertz and Matt Hyde of Rabbit Run Farm in Skull Valley, AZ. Photo Credit: Rabbit Run Farm.

The following is a candid conversation with young farmers, Matt Hyde and Sarah Wertz about their operation, Rabbit Run Farm in Skull Valley, Arizona.

What compelled you, especially as a young couple to get into sustainable farming?

We both enjoy working outdoors and eating good food.  The farming lifestyle represents our values and beliefs. Also, we took the class Small Scale Agriculture at Prescott College held at Whipstone Farm in Paulden, Arizona. Following the class, we talked with the farmers Cory and Shanti and asked if we could work for them the following season. We really enjoyed it! The next season, Byrnie at Ridgeview Farms offered us land to use as kind of a trial for farming on our own The next season we were offered the farm manager position at Jenner Farm in Skull Valley and moved our farming operation there. We’ve been farming ever since. Read More

University of Wisconsin-Madison student awarded one of nation’s first organic plant breeding fellowships

November 8, 2012 |

News Release – The story of how Tessa Peters ended up snagging one of the nation’s first graduate fellowships in organic plant breeding begins in an unlikely place: the middle of the ocean.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in physics, she set out as a geophysicist, mapping the ocean floor aboard a large ship, working five weeks on, five weeks off. During her time off, she traveled widely and stumbled upon her new career path. Read More

Chocolate genome research good for farmers, environment, sweet lovers

November 8, 2012 |

News Release – UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – With the help of information technology (IT), Penn State professor Mark Guiltinan makes the world a sweeter place.

Guiltinan is a professor of plant molecular biology in the Department of Horticulture in the College of Agricultural Sciences. He currently runs the Guiltinan Lab, where he studies crop improvement and sustainable farming methods. Guiltinan was a key player in The International Cocoa Genome Sequencing Consortium, a worldwide effort to sequence and analyze the genome of the Criollo variety of the Theobromo cacao plant, the key ingredient in high-quality chocolate. Using genome sequencing programs and computer clusters at Penn State and abroad, Guiltinan and his colleagues have mapped the cacao genome and are working to breed better, more disease-resistant cacao plants. Read More