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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture

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New Pittsburgh Urban Ag Law Passes, Boosts Options for Residents

September 2, 2015 |
Photo courtesy of Grow Pittsburgh.

Photo courtesy of Grow Pittsburgh.

by Julianne Tveten

Pittsburgh City Council passed an ordinance in July to ease restrictions on maintaining chickens, ducks, goats, and apiaries in the city.

Drafted by a collection of agricultural nonprofits, the ordinance follows a 2011 regulation that required residents to undergo a hearing process lasting up to three months and pay up to $340 in cumulative fees. Under the new law, Pittsburghers can obtain a permit for $70 and be approved within a day. Read More

Urban and Local Food Systems Experts to Address Seedstock Sustainable Ag Conference

September 1, 2015 |

Agriculture innovation, urban farming, local food access, and sourcing from sustainable and hydroponic farms are just a few of the topics to be discussed at Seedstock’s 4th Annual Sustainable Agriculture Conference: “Innovation and the Rise of Local Food,” scheduled for Nov. 3-4, 2015, at UC San Diego – http://seedstockconference.com

In addition to keynotes Pierre Sleiman, founder and CEO of Go Green Agriculture, and Daron “Farmer D” Joffe, Director of Agricultural Innovation and Development for the Leichtag Foundation, this year’s Seedstock slate of speakers includes Gus Schumacher, Vice President of Policy at the Wholesome Wave Foundation and former Under Secretary of Agriculture for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services at the United States Department of Agriculture during the Clinton administration. Read More

Activist Coalition Pushes University of Maine System to Source More Local Foods

September 1, 2015 |
The University of Southern Maine in Portland is one of six campuses in the UMaine system, whose food vendor contract ends next year. The UMaine system recently released a request for proposal to source more of its food locally. (Wikimedia Commons phot

The University of Southern Maine in Portland is one of six campuses in the UMaine system whose food vendor contract ends next year. The UMaine system recently released a request for proposal to source more of its food locally. (Wikimedia Commons phot

On August 31, the University of Maine (UMaine) System released a formal request for proposals (RFP) designed to significantly increase sourcing of locally grown foods across its six campuses.

A contract between UMaine and corporate food vendor Aramark will conclude on June 30, 2016, ending a 10-year relationship. The move comes after a coalition of activist groups had lobbied the UMaine system to source more of its food locally. 

The Maine Food for the UMaine System project is a coalition of 20 organizations, 170 farmers and more than 1,500 students, faculty and staff within the UMaine system. It’s spearheaded by Farm to Institution New EnglandMaine Farmland TrustReal Food Challenge and Environment Maine. Read More

Slow Money Northwest Breathes Life into Local Agriculture

August 31, 2015 |
Courtesy of Slow Money Northwest

Courtesy of Slow Money Northwest

by Traci Knight

In 2009, a group of angel investors in Santa Fe, New Mexico came together to build a mission to help local food systems grow and thrive. 

During this two-and-a-half-day conference with representatives from 43 states and six countries, Northwest participants caucused and continued to meet on a quarterly basis.

These meetings inspired Tim Crosby to spearhead Slow Money Northwest. He now serves as the group’s director. To date, the organization has helped investors connect over $7 million to under 20 area businesses. Serving thirteen different northwest regions, Slow Money Northwest has provided different levels of technical assistance for over 100 businesses. Read More

Southern California’s Temecula Valley Becoming an Epicenter of Local Food and Agriculture

August 26, 2015 |
Carrots are harvested in the Temecula Valley. (photo courtesy of Don Webber/Cultivating Good)

Carrots are harvested in the Temecula Valley. (Photo courtesy of Don Webber/Cultivating Good)

Grass-fed beef, yams, ostrich eggs, duck eggs, quail eggs, wild game—all of these and more can be found in or near Temecula, California.

Located in southwestern Riverside County and at the southwest point of the Inland Empire region, Temecula is located in the Temecula Valley, home to many vineyards and wineries.

While Temecula is now a thriving epicenter of the local foods movement, this was not always the case.

When local food artisan and chef Leah Di Bernardo decided to move back to Southern California from New York City (she grew up on both coasts), Riverside County was the last place she thought she would end up. But she landed in Temecula. Read More

Statement from Secretary Tom Vilsack on Ongoing Devastating Wildfire Season

August 26, 2015 |

post_usdalogoWASHINGTON, Aug. 20, 2015 – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack made the following statement:

“This year, we are experiencing yet another devastating wildfire season, particularly in the drought-ravaged West. Climate change, drought, fuel buildup, insects and disease are increasing the severity of unprecedented wildfire in America’s forests and rangelands, which impacts the safety of people, homes and communities. Development close to forests has also increased the threat to property, with more than 46 million homes in the United States, or about 40 percent of our nation’s housing, potentially at risk from wildfire. USDA works closely with the Department of Interior and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, along with other partners, to deploy the workforce, equipment, and interagency coordination necessary to respond safely and effectively to increasingly severe wildfire seasons. We are expending in excess of $150 million per week on fire suppression activities, and that will likely grow in the days and weeks ahead. Well over 26,000 firefighters and support personnel from federal, state and local agencies are deployed, along with 28 next generation and legacy air tankers, and additional aviation assets. We are now working with the U.S. Military and foreign partners, such as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, to bring in additional resources. Read More

New Food Co-op Opens Doors in Chicago’s Oak Park Neighborhood

August 25, 2015 |
At the recent ribbon cutting of the Sugar Beet Food Co-op in Oak Park, Illinois were (from left) founder Cheryl Muñoz, State Senator Don Harmon, Oak Park Village President Anan Abu Taleb, Trustee Bob Tucker and Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin. (photo courtesy Cheryl Muñoz/Sugar Beet Food Co-op)

At the recent ribbon cutting of the Sugar Beet Food Co-op in Oak Park, Illinois were (from left) founder Cheryl Muñoz, State Senator Don Harmon, Oak Park Village President Anan Abu Taleb, Trustee Bob Tucker and Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin. (Photo courtesy Cheryl Muñoz/Sugar Beet Food Co-op)

A few years ago, Cheryl Muñoz and other moms in Oak Park, Illinois regularly patronized the Oak Park Farmers’ Market during the summer months. But when winter came to this Chicago neighborhood, they missed having regular access to local foods. So Muñoz and these other women decided to form a food co-op that would supply local foods year-round.

Muñoz had a relative in Traverse City, Michigan, home of Oryana Natural Foods Market, a year-round food co-op. This Midwestern food co-op proved to be just the inspiration that was needed.

“Why not do this in Oak Park?” Muñoz thought.

“Us moms started talking about it,” she says. Read More

From Concrete to Green: Urban Agriculture Initiative Seeks to Transform LA River into Ag Oasis

August 24, 2015 |
Organizers of the LA River food and ag zone envision a myriad of attractions, including farmers’ markets, as well as local transportation facilities. (image courtesy of Leigh Christy/Perkins+Will)

Organizers of the LA River food and ag zone envision a myriad of attractions, including farmers’ markets, as well as local transportation facilities. (image courtesy of Leigh Christy/Perkins+Will)

The Los Angeles River flows from the Simi Hills, northwest of Los Angeles, through the San Fernando Valley and into the Pacific Ocean at Long Beach. A large portion of the river is concrete.

But now, urban planners and other stakeholders envision a portion of the LA River as being home to a robust agricultural zone in the heart of Los Angeles.

Funded by a California Proposition 84 (Safe Drinking Water, Water Quality and Supply, Flood Control, River and Coastal Protection Bond of 2006) grant, the Los Angeles River Revitalization Corporation and architecture and urban planning firm Perkins+Will have explored the feasibility of creating an agricultural hub on the banks of the Los Angeles River.

After extensive research and community input, the conclusion was that such an agriculture hub is a viable option. Specifically, it was decided that a 660-acre area along the river in the neighborhoods of Lincoln Heights, Cypress Park and Chinatown is an ideal place to start such an urban agriculture project. Read More

Sustainable Ag + Food News: Seedstock’s Weekly Roundup

August 20, 2015 |

1 Urban farms need financially sound business models to be truly sustainable (MSU Extension)

Excerpt: Michigan State University Extension applies research from MSU to help Michigan residents solve everyday problems in agriculture, community development, nutrition, family finances, youth development … Read More

Seedstock Conference to Highlight Confluence of Agricultural Innovation and Local Food Demand

August 19, 2015 |

seedstockconference twoInterested in learning from agricultural futurists, urban farmers, and entrepreneurs pushing the bounds of food access and soilless growing? Looking to meet like-minded ag entrepreneurs and urban farmers? Searching for food buyers, venture investors, or technology partners?

Then you won’t want to miss the upcoming “4th Annual Seedstock Sustainable Agriculture Conference: Innovation and the Rise of Local Food” in San Diego on Nov. 3 – 4, 2015. The event will kick off Read More