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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture

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Urban Agriculture

Tech Firm Builds App to Help Busy People Succesfuly Grow Organic Food

April 18, 2014 |
Smart Garden Layout Image courtesy of  Smart Living Studios, Inc.

Smart Garden Layout
Image courtesy of
Smart Living Studios, Inc.

Smart Living Studios, Inc. was co-founded by Kristee Rosendahl, chief product officer, and Carl Alguire, CEO, in 2012. This was the same year the company introduced its first product, Smart Gardener, a free online application that’s designed to help people plan, grow and harvest their own organic food.

Since the company’s inception, private individuals who care about the future of the food system have funded the business.

“They learned about us through word of mouth, presentations or press about what we were doing and then reached out to us,” says Rosendahl.

Smart Gardener keeps gardening simple and makes recommendations for the right plants, where to plant them, how many to plant, and then sends a list of what to do that week. Tasks can include planting, mulching, feeding, thinning, watering, and more. The planner keeps records, too. Read More

Detroit Collaborative CSA Models Cooperation and Sustainability

April 14, 2014 |
Meg Marotte farm partner at Singing Tree Garden. Image courtesy of Singing Tree Garden.

Meg Marotte, farm partner at Singing Tree Garden. Image courtesy of Singing Tree Garden.

Local urban farmers in Detroit have recognized that the whole is often greater than its parts—and so they’ve combined forces to strengthen the local food scene and their own bottom lines.

Six Detroit farm businesses have combined to create City Commons, a cooperative in which members support the six farms with a purchase of seasonal shares of fresh produce and other farm products. Members receive a weekly box of fresh-from-the-farm, organically grown food that has been raised entirely within Detroit’s city limits. The coop model is advantageous for customers who like a wide variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables. It’s also advantageous for independent farmers who are trying to make a living exclusively by farming—especially those who share a passion for fresh, local food for an urban population.

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Seattle Urban Farm Aims to Reconnect Neighbors With Local Food and One Another

April 11, 2014 |
Photo courtesy of Alleycat Acres

Photo courtesy of Alleycat Acres

Founded in 2010, Seattle’s Alleycat Acres currently consists of three small farms that serve their surrounding communities not only with a place to reconnect with their food source, but also a shared space to regain the meaning of community in the urban setting.

Scott MacGowan is one of Alleycat Acre’s original founders, focusing on educational programming and logistics for the current and future farm plots.

“There is a cultural shift that has to happen,” says MacGowan. “People need to start growing more food, have more community get-togethers and share resources; more of those traditional farming practices. We’ve got to figure out ways to bring it back. And by negotiating with private landowners for abandoned residential lot use, Alleycat Acres is doing just that. Read More

City of Portland Continues Long History of Sustainable Urban Farming

April 10, 2014 |
 Photograph courtesy of the City of Portland Department of Parks & Recreation


Photograph courtesy of the City of Portland Department of Parks & Recreation

With just over half a million residents, Portland is a small northwestern city with long roots in sustainability and urban agriculture. In 1981, an urban growth boundary was approved for the city forcing a dense population into a restricted space and transitioning the city into a space savvy social economy.  Popular Science name Portland the most sustainable city back in 2008. Today, Portland remains a 400-square mile haven for sustainability enthusiasts and avid gardeners.

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Worker-owned Coop Grows Food and Farmers in Cincinnati

April 9, 2014 |
Photo courtesy of Bobby Gayol.

Photo courtesy of Bobby Gayol.

As a nation enamored with the marvels of capitalism, it is little wonder that worker-owned cooperatives (businesses owned and controlled by their workers) have not managed to capture much attention in the United States. There are, in fact, 300 worker cooperatives in the United States, but most of them remain relatively unknown or misunderstood by the general public.

Our Harvest Cooperative is a union worker-owned cooperative started in 2012 by the Cincinnati Union Coop Initiative. The Cincinnati Union Coop Initiative, which emerged in 2009, is a collaboration between Spain’s Mondragon Worker-Owned Cooperatives and the United Steelworkers—two organizations that came together with the goal of duplicating the success of Mondragon in the United States. Mondragon, founded in 1956, is now the seventh-largest corporation in Spain and remains a model for successful worker-owned cooperatives throughout the world. Read More

Trust for Public Land Forays into Boston Urban Agriculture Land Deals

April 8, 2014 |
Residents of the Dudley neighborhood participate in a raised bed community garden build day at the DNI Community Land Trust. Photo courtesy of Dudley Neighborhood Inc.

Residents of the Dudley neighborhood participate in a raised bed community garden build day at the DNI Community Land Trust. Photo courtesy of Dudley Neighborhood Inc.

It is said it takes a village to raise a child. And what does it take to raise a commercial crop of leafy greens on a vacant lot in Boston? A different kind of village—one that includes experts practiced in the art of land tenure.

By bringing together such experts,  the Trust for Public Land is helping to facilitate urban agriculture in the City of Boston. Back in 1972, the organization’s founder, Huey Johnson, recognized that negotiating land deals calls for expertise in law, real estate and finance.  The trick to open space preservation, as he saw it, was to employ the strategies of modern business.  Forty some odd years later, TPL has seen through over 5,300 parks and conservation projects in the majority of the nation’s states as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Read More

Milwaukee Leads Nation in Urban Agriculture Development

April 7, 2014 |
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Milwaukee Public Market. Photo source: Wikipedia


The City of Milwaukee is rife with urban farming organizations, like the venerable Growing Power, non-profit groups like Walnut Way and for-profit organizations like Sweet Water Organics and Central Greens. All of these groups have have helped shape Milwaukee into a national leader in the local food and urban agriculture movement.

According to an Urban Agriculture Code Audit  recently conducted for Milwaukee by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Milwaukee’s urban agriculture scene has grown to a point where there is now an immediate need for expanded processing centers.

The audit also found that while the city’s Building and Zoning Code provides a good foundation for facilitating urban agriculture, the code should be updated to allow for beekeeping aquaculture, and chicken keeping, and should be further developed to create standards for and accessory structures and uses like food processing and composting. Read More

City of Denver Advances Local Food Policy With Public-Private Partnerships

April 3, 2014 |
Harvesting squash. Photo courtesy of Shannon Spurlock.

Harvesting squash. Photo courtesy of Shannon Spurlock.

Where does your food come from?

For years, residents of Denver, Colorado may have scratched their heads over that question, because most of the city’s food supply was sourced from elsewhere. Recently, however, stakeholders in the private and public sectors collaborated to help food growers prosper within the Denver metropolitan area.

Some stakeholders have their hands in the dirt, teaching urban agriculture methods and building community gardens. Others are working behind the scenes to change the laws governing land use in Denver. All are working toward a goal set by Mayor Michael Hancock in 2013 to acquire at least 25 percent of the city’s food from “sources produced (grown and processed) entirely within Colorado,” according to the Mayor’s 2020 Sustainability Goals. Read More