According to Green Spirit Farms‘ Research and Development Manager Daniel Kluko, the future of farming is heading in one clear direction: vertical. “If we want to feed hungry people this is how we need to farm,” said Kluko.
Kluko believes that vertical farming offers a very important benefit in today’s world of scarce land and resources— the potential for unparalleled plant density. After all, how else can a farmer grow 27 heads of lettuce in one square foot of growing space?
Green Spirit Farms was started by Daniel’s father Milan Kluko under his engineering company Fountainhead Engineering LTD. The idea for the farm emerged while the company was evaluating indoor, urban farm models in North America for a non-profit client—a process which piqued Milan Kluko’s interest about the viability of a vertical farming operation.
News Release – LOS ANGELES, CA – Worldwide, agriculture possesses the distinction of being the single greatest consumer of fresh water, accounting for nearly 70% of available withdrawals each year for irrigation. In the United States alone, 42% of all irrigated water is lost to evaporation.
With water prices, scarcity and quality all threatening the margins and livelihood of farmers, the SEEDSTOCK Ag Water Conference, scheduled for Wednesday, February 19, 2014, will focus on solutions to the challenges facing sustainable agriculture.
“Scarcity and abundance are not nature given—they are products of water cultures. Cultures that waste water or destroy the fragile web of the water cycle create scarcity even under conditions of abundance. Those that save every drop can create abundance out of scarcity.” - Vandana Shiva, ‘Water Wars: Privatization, Pollution, and Profit‘[i]
Humans, animals, and plants all depend on water to survive. It quenches our thirst, nourishes our livestock, and sustains our crops. Civilizations have risen and fallen as a direct result of access to clean water and agricultural irrigation. Today, despite increasing technological advances in farming, we are no less dependent on water.
Every day, the U.S. agricultural industry pours 128,000 million gallons of water into irrigation, according a 2005 USGS survey of national water resources.[ii]. Aquaculture and livestock production draw another respective 8,780 and 2,140 million gallons per day, but both are dwarfed by irrigated agriculture, which represents the second largest drain on the nation’s water resources, surpassed only by thermonuclear power.
Seventy-five years ago, Albert and Frances Lundberg moved from the John Steinbeckian Dust Bowl of Nebraska to California to try their hand at farming land that had not yet been destroyed by pretty much the same challenges farmers face today – drought and poor soil management.
Albert had seen the results of shortsighted farm husbandry and passed along his philosophy of sustainable agriculture to his four sons, Eldon, Wendell, Harlan and Homer, who established Lundberg Family Farms, and pioneered organic rice growing in America.
Third-generation farmer, Jessica Lundberg, summed up the enterprise’s ongoing commitment to sustainability as more than an abstract liberal value. It’s a pragmatic imperative.
“When my grandparents left dried-up Nebraska and came to Northern California, they had new-found appreciation for being stewards of the land,” Lundberg said. “Soil is a living organism and must be treated well.”
It’s enough to make you cry. Gills Onions is one of the largest family-owned onion farming operations in the nation. But the Oxnard-based facility doesn’t just grow the tears-provoking vegetable. They control every aspect of production from growing, harvesting, processing, packing and shipping the bulbs in handy, diced up packages to retailers, food service outlets and industrial manufacturers throughout the nation and Canada. And they do so using some surprising sustainable production practices that have lowered their operating costs over a million dollars a year.
Allen Gill had been farming in California’s Central Valley since the 1940s when he brought sons Steven and David into his Rio Farms business.
In the late 90’s, Frank Martin set up a card table in the gravel parking lot of the local post office and sold zucchini he had grown in his garden. So began the Prescott Farmer’s Market and Frank’s transition from passionate gardener to profitable farmer.
“At that first market day, I made $60 and thought, ‘Whoa, I made bank!’” he recalls, laughing.
Around that time, he met some students from Prescott College who had heard about a new idea, this thing they called “community supported agriculture.” For a school project, they organized local farmers who wanted to participate in the CSA and assigned each grower five items to harvest each week.