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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture

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USDA Helps Schools Connect with Local Farmers and Ranchers

November 19, 2015 |
post_usdalogoNearly $5 Million in Grants Will Create Healthier School Meals and Support Local Farmers in 39 States This School Year

WASHINGTON – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack  announced $4.8 million in grants for 74 projects spanning 39 states that support the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) efforts to connect child nutrition programs with local farmers and ranchers through its Farm to School Program. Read More

Tool Looks to Address Future Water Needs of Urban Agriculture Operations

November 19, 2015 |
A plot of land in Vancouver, British Columbia has served as the site of a research study to determine the water needs of urban agriculture. (photo courtesy Mark Johnson)

A plot of land in Vancouver, British Columbia has served as the site of a research study to determine the water needs of urban agriculture. (Photo courtesy Mark Johnson)

Cities around the world are transforming blight into gardens, turning bleak rooftops into greenspace, and using empty buildings for vertical farming. But will this upsurge in urban agriculture create even more demand for water?

This is the question Mark Johnson, professor of water and sustainability at The University of British Columbia, is looking to address. Johnson, along with other colleagues, has developed a tool to measure just how much water urban agriculture operations need.

The tool, dubbed CityCrop, uses LiDAR (remote sensing technology—stands for Light Detection and Ranging) and climate readings to determine the level of shade provided by buildings and trees. This data helps scientists figure out city-dwelling plants’ rates of evapotranspiration, which in turn reveals their water needs. Read More

California Start-Up Brings Precision Irrigation to Water-conscious Growers

March 30, 2015 |
Photo credits: Alan Wells

Photo credits: Alan Wells

If you are a farmer in California, there is one issue that should be on your mind at all times: water conservation. As California enters its fourth year of drought, recent estimates suggest that the state only has enough water in its reservoirs to last one more year.

Agriculture accounts for over 60 percent of California’s overall water usage. So as a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Viticulture & Enology at UC Davis, Tom Shapland understandably has water conservation on his mind.

Shapland and his fellow research associates worked together on a technology that would allow farmers to more precisely monitor and administer water to their crops.  Their research resulted in the creation of a sensor that measures water usage, or evapotranspiration, and the formation of Shapland’s start-up company, Tule. Read More

Minneapolis Landscape Business Works to Make City Ordinances Compost-friendly

April 16, 2014 |
Images courtesy of Giving Tree Gardens

Images courtesy of Giving Tree Gardens

With a penchant for all things rotting, Russ Henry has built a sustainable business, literally from the ground up.

Giving Tree Gardens is an organic landscaping service in Minneapolis well known for its high quality compost. Specializing in native species planting, pollinator-friendly designs and organic gardening education, Giving Tree Gardens has been building a sustainable business and a positive influence in the Twin Cities since 2005.

Russ Henry, owner of Giving Tree Gardens, spent many years in the landscaping world before starting his own company. Read More

Arizona Researchers to Compile First Ever High Resolution Global Cropland Map

August 13, 2013 |

Irrigated crop fields show up as red boxes on this satellite image of the Sonoran Desert. Image Credit: Northern Arizona University.

A multi-disciplinary team of researchers scattered around the country is gearing up to piece together the world’s first high-resolution map of global croplands, in a cross-institutional collaboration. The team’s goal is to answer the question, “Where is all of our food going to come from when global population reaches 9 billion people?” Researchers hope that having a detailed picture of what’s happening with croplands around the world will help to inform the net effect of regional demographic and geological changes. Piecing together that accurate of a map will likely take five years, $3.5 million (funded by NASA), computation of thousands of satellite images, and collaboration with crop experts all over the globe. Read More

The Art and Angst of Water: California Farm Bureau’s Danny Merkley Insures Water Flows in Fair, Balanced Manner

August 1, 2013 |

“With water, it’s soil. Without water, it’s dirt.” -Danny Merkley, California Farm Bureau

A symphony, a balancing act and an art form. These are just a few ways Danny Merkley, Director of Water Resources for the California Farm Bureau Federation, describes managing the flow of water in the Golden State. It’s been his job since 2007, but a love of water blossomed early in this fourth generation California farmer.

“Growing up on the ranch I ran a number of irrigation systems from surface irrigation systems, row systems to sprinklers to, in a small way, some drip systems early in the 1990s. Water to me is an art form; moving water across a field, across large acreages of land, across more than just a 20 foot front yard. I’ve always been fascinated with water, but water policy I accidentally walked into when I got bit by the water bug working at the state water board in 2004,” shares Merkley. Read More

Dry Farmed Crops from Little Organic Farm in Petaluma, CA Earn Plaudits from Top Chefs

July 26, 2013 |

little organic farmDavid Little of The Little Organic Farm in Petaluma, Calif. first began farming to help some childhood friends nearly 20 years ago. He had been working as a contractor and hated it so when his buddies inherited a couple ranches he jumped at the chance to head for the country and try something new. He stayed on for about a year before striking out on his own with a few acres of potatoes. Today, Little farms over 60 acres of land in plots scattered around Marin and Petaluma. Read More

To Counter Strain on Groundwater Supply, California Berry Grower Employs Innovative Water Management Strategies

July 9, 2013 |
Photo Credit: Driscoll's

Photo Credit: Driscoll’s

Driscoll’s strawberries, blueberries and raspberries are famous throughout the nation as some of the sweetest handful of anti-oxidants you can find. Grown in the Parajo Valley of California’s central coast region, Driscoll’s has been operating as a family business for more than 100 years.

But generations of expanding agriculture have put a severe strain on the groundwater supply that irrigates the region. Water is being pumped at twice the rate that the aquifer can safely provide, and as a result of over-pumping, seawater intrusion continues to diminish and contaminate the basin’s water supply. Driscoll’s – like farmers across the nation – is faced with finding innovative methods to counter the shrinking water supply.

Seedstock spoke with Emily Paddock, Driscoll’s water resource manager, to find out what they are doing about the challenge. Read More