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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture

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Urban Farming

Master Gardener Program Grows Food and Community Across L.A. County

November 29, 2016 |

Since University of California Cooperative Extension established the first Master Gardener Programs in the state in 1981, its army of certified volunteer gardeners, who are today spread across more than 50 counties, have supported programs aimed at educating California residents, especially those living in low-income communities, about growing their own food.

In Los Angeles, one such program that Master Gardener Program volunteers supported was the Common Ground Garden Program, which was established in 1976 with funds from a Congressional appropriations bill to support a national Urban Garden Program. Working in collaboration with the Common Ground Garden Program, the Master Gardener volunteers played a pivotal role in helping to set up several community and school gardens across the county.

After funding from the Urban Garden Program ceased, the Los Angeles County branch of the Master Gardener Program formally took over the task of training community gardeners.  Read More

In Collaboration with Underserved Community an Outsider Helps Establish First Urban Farm in Dallas

November 28, 2016 |

In what some might describe as a midlife crisis and others an epiphany, Daron Babcock, the executive Director of urban farming organization Bonton Farms, quit his all-consuming job in the corporate world and moved to Bonton, an impoverished inner city community in Dallas, Texas. He had already been volunteering there once a week, meeting with a group of men who had been in prison and were struggling to get their lives back on track. But two hours on a Saturday was not enough, so he decided to work full-time with the men.

After moving to Bonton, he noticed that many people were sick and dying at a rapid rate. He also learned that Bonton was a food desert, with the nearest grocery store a three hour return trip on public transportation. Daron recognized a correlation between the lack of access to healthy food and the high rate of cancer, stroke, heart disease, and diabetes – Bonton had a 300 percent higher death rate from diabetes than the county rate.

It was a collaboration between six men, three of whom suffered from diabetes and cancer, that led to a decision to plant a garden. Read More

Twin Cities Coop Unites Diverse Coalition of Farmers in Shared Pursuit of Economic Viability

November 23, 2016 |
Emily Hanson

Emily Hanson, co-founder of Shared Ground Farmers’ Coop, which brings together farmers from diverse backgrounds to help them achieve economic viability and increase the supply of healthy, local food to communities in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota. Photo Courtesy of Emily Hanson.

Straddling the rural urban divide, Shared Ground Farmers’ Coop in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota seeks to unite minority and immigrant farmers and help them gain access to local food markets, achieve economic viability, and enhance leadership skills all while emphasizing sustainable farming.

“Our coop aims to bring together farmers from diverse backgrounds to work towards a better living and more healthy food for folks in the city,” says Emily Hanson, co-founder of Shared Ground and co-owner of Amery, WI-based Whetstone Farm, a 40 acre property that is primarily in pasture with approximately five acres of vegetables is one of the founding farms of the cooperative. “We strive to help make farm ownership possible, especially for immigrants and others who struggle with land tenure.” Read More

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

November 22, 2016 |
(From left to right) Father and son team, Robbie and Eric McClam, run City Roots, the first urban farm in South Carolina. Photo credit: City Roots.

(From left to right) Father and son team, Robbie and Eric McClam, run City Roots, the first urban farm in South Carolina. Photo credit: City Roots.

After 30 years working in the field of architecture, Robbie McClam yearned to return to his farming roots. His first ever job was working in the tobacco fields of the farm on which his father was raised. He remembers it as the hardest job he ever had, according to son Eric.

In 2008, Robbie learned of the work being done by renowned urban farmer Will Allen and his Growing Power organization in Milwaukee and upon retiring from his career in architecture, decided to enroll in its 5 month Commercial Urban Agriculture Program.
Read More

Urban Agriculture Incentive Program Seeks to Increase Farming Opportunities in Local Communities

November 21, 2016 |

In September 2013, California passed Assembly Bill 551 (AB551), Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones (UAIZ), which allows cities and counties within the state to incentivize land owners to donate vacant or undeveloped land for urban agriculture use over a five-year period, according to information from the Los Angeles Department of Regional Planning. Land owners who participate will receive reduced property tax assessments in exchange for this allowance.

The requirements to participate include parcels between 0.10 and 3 acres, a minimum contract of five years, complete use of the land for agriculture purposes, and no prior physical structures existing on the property. Many California communities have already passed or are in the process of approving the ordinance including San Francisco, San Diego, Long Beach, San Jose, and Sacramento; however, only a couple of contracts have been processed in those areas combined.

The ordinance has already passed through Los Angeles County, but this motion only applies to unincorporated areas. The incorporated city of Los Angeles is currently in the process of approving the ordinance, according to Iesha Siler, a policy associate for the Los Angeles Food Policy Council (LAFPC). Read More

A Hydroponic Urban Farming Family Affair

November 16, 2016 |

Dustin Lang didn’t set out to become an urban farmer. In fact, after high school he went on to study and practice corporate law. That is, until he was drawn back to the urban farm that he now runs together with his father Glen and father-in-law Jim Loy.

The aptly named LL Urban Farms in Raleigh, North Carolina, established by the Lang and Loy families in 2012, is a true family affair. The families first connected when their two eldest children, Dustin and Taylor Loy (now husband and wife), met in high school.

Coincidentally, at the time, both Dustin’s father and his future father-in-law were approaching retirement age and looking for viable small business opportunities to pursue. They looked at the potential of greenhouse agriculture and controlled environment systems, and despite the fact that neither of them had any previous professional experience in farming, decided to start a business to grow food for the local marketplace. Read More

As Primary Goal, Two Decades Old Community Farm in Tennessee Teaches People to Grow Food Sustainably

November 15, 2016 |
Beardsley Community Farm donates all of the food it produces to local pantries, kitchens and hunger relief organizations. It cultivates 10,000 pounds of produce a year. Photo courtesy of Bruce Cole Photography.

Beardsley Community Farm donates all of the food it produces to local pantries, kitchens and hunger relief organizations. It cultivates 10,000 pounds of produce a year. Photo courtesy of Bruce Cole Photography.

Initially established in a Knoxville, Tennessee, food desert, CAC Beardsley Community Farm has been donating its fruits and vegetables to area hunger relief organizations for almost two decades.

“Beardsley started in ‘98 actually as a way to address the situation in this area because at that point it was a food desert,” Beardsley Farm Manager Charlotte Rodina says.

The farm, which exists in a public park that was originally the site of an agricultural college, and later a middle school, is owned by a local governmental social service organization called Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee.

Rodina says the farm is still working on hunger relief efforts despite the fact the area is no longer considered a food desert. Read More

Rising Land Prices Push Urban Farmer to Develop Creative Solutions to Increase Food and Land Access

November 9, 2016 |

Against a backdrop of rising land prices, traditional farmers in Utah struggle to survive. However, a mix of resourcefulness and necessity is driving farmers to develop creative solutions in urban environs. Salt Lake City-based Green Urban Lunch Box (GULB) is one such endeavor that is utilizing innovative growing models to ensure urban farming fills the gap traditional farming cannot afford to maintain.

“We don’t want to do what other people are doing. If we cannot do it significantly better and significantly cheaper than another nonprofit is doing it then we shouldn’t do it, because we are just going to be competing with them for funds,” says founder Shawn Peterson.

A fifth generation Utah farmer and an experienced business entrepreneur, Peterson founded the Green Urban Lunch Box six years ago in the heart of Salt Lake City after watching the movie, Truck Farm (from the maker of King Corn) on using farm trucks in the urban setting. Read More