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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture

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27 Communities Selected to Participate in ‘Local Food, Local Places’ Ag Revitalization Initiative

February 5, 2016 |

Press release – Last week, on behalf of the White House Rural Council, six federal agencies joined together to announce the selection of 27 communities in 22 states that will participate in Local Foods, Local Places, a federal initiative that helps communities increase economic opportunities for local farmers and related businesses, create vibrant places and promote childhood wellness by improving access to healthy local food.

Developed as a partnership among the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Transportation, the Appalachian Regional Commission, and the Delta Regional Authority, this initiative is part of the White House Rural Council’s Rural Impact work to improve quality of life and upward mobility for children and families in rural and tribal communities.

“Local Foods, Local Places helps people access healthy local food and supports new businesses in neighborhoods that need investment,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “The program is good for the environment, public health and the economy. By helping bring healthy local food to market and offering new walking and biking options, Local Foods, Local Places can help improve air quality, support local economies, and protect undeveloped green space.” Read More

Sustainable Ag + Food News: Seedstock’s Weekly Roundup

February 5, 2016 |

 

seedstock1 Urban farming work sows discord [Toledo Blade]

Excerpt: A Toledo man’s effort to establish “urban agriculture” in Toledo’s central city is running up against nuisance complaints brought by neighbors. Thomas Jackson, 44, of 1489 Milburn Ave., has piled up wood chips on seven parcels centering on Auburn and Milburn avenues. Read More

From Teacher to Grower: Farmer Revives Family Grove and Finds Profit in Diversification

February 4, 2016 |
Brian Griffith of Griffith Family Farm in Riverside, CA selling his fruits and vegetables. Image courtesy of Brian Griffith.

Brian Griffith of Griffith Family Farm in Riverside, CA selling his fruits and vegetables. Image courtesy of Brian Griffith.

When the recession eliminated Brian Griffith’s teaching job of 22 years, he wasn’t sure at first just what he’d do next.

“It was a difficult time,” he says. “That same year, my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.”

His parents lived on a two-acre property in Riverside, California.

“There was a citrus grove there and they didn’t care for it much or pay much attention to it,” he says. “Navel oranges had been really overplanted in Riverside at one time, and there was almost no money in growing a small quantity of them if you were selling them through the packing houses.” Read More

Navajo Nation Hikes Tax Rate on Junk Food and Incentivizes Healthy Eating

February 3, 2016 |
Since 2012 the Diné Community Advocacy Alliance has worked to help people within the Navajo Nation stay healthy throughout their lives. But in 2014, the DCAA took their advocacy a step further by enacting a two percent tax on unhealthy foods. Image courtesy of Diné Community Advocacy Alliance.

In 2014, the Diné Community Advocacy Alliance enacted a two percent tax on unhealthy foods. Image courtesy of Diné Community Advocacy Alliance.

Since March 2012, the Diné Community Advocacy Alliance has worked to help people within the Navajo Nation stay healthy throughout their lives. But in 2014, the DCAA took their advocacy a step further by enacting a two percent tax on unhealthy foods and a five percent tax break on healthy foods

“As a response to the diabetes epidemic, the dominant culture of unhealthy foods in our stores, and our Navajo Nation being a 99 percent food desert, we decided to address unhealthy foods in our community,” says Denisa Livingston, DCAA community health advocate. “The tax helps bring awareness to the epidemic and could draw more focus on reducing the prevalence of obesity and diabetes, and eventually, impact these incidences.” Read More

Despite Visibility Challenges, National Survey Bullish on the Future of Food Hubs

February 3, 2016 |
Harvest is in full swing at Manakintowne Specialty Growers in Virginia, where Jo Pendergraph and her family raise specialty produce for a local food hub. A recently-released National Food Hub Survey shows optimism about the future viability of food hubs. (USDA photo)

Harvest is in full swing at Manakintowne Specialty Growers in Virginia, where Jo Pendergraph and her family raise specialty produce for a local food hub. A recently-released National Food Hub Survey shows optimism about the future viability of food hubs. (USDA photo)

Three out of four food hubs in the United States are breaking even or turning a profit. One out of three food hub operators are women, and one out of five are people of color. These statistics and more were revealed in a recently-released National Food Hub Survey.

The 2015 survey, conducted by the Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems and the Wallace Center at Winrock International, came on the heels of a similar survey in 2013. More than 150 food hubs were included in the study, which was designed to identify food hub economic growth patterns.

“The survey shows some positive trends,” says John Fisk, director of the Wallace Center. “Food hubs are emerging and are growing revenue, and continue to be opportunities for small farmers.”

Fisk, along with Jeff Farbman of Winrock International and Rich Pirog and Jill Hardy, both of Michigan State University, spoke about the survey via a webinar conducted by the National Good Food Network. Read More

From Cars to Chickens: Urban Livestock Ordinance Considered in Detroit

February 2, 2016 |

By Anna Sysling

Urban Livestock Ordinance Considered in Detroit

Members of urban livestock work group in Detroit say farm animals like egg-laying chickens, ducks, goats and rabbits could be legally kept within city limits as soon as this summer.

While Detroit’s 2013 urban agriculture ordinance allows residents to cultivate plants and fish, there still isn’t any language to account for farm animals. But an urban livestock workgroup hopes to change that shortly.

Members of the group include employees of various city departments, such as the City of Detroit Planning Commission. They say farm animals like egg-laying chickens, ducks, goats and rabbits could be legally kept within Detroit city limits as soon as this summer. Their proposal also makes the case for honey bees and potentially even sheep for the purpose of grazing the city’s vacant land.

Senior Planner with the Legislative Policy Division and City of Detroit Planning Commissioner Kathryn Underwood is a member of the group. She’s been working on an urban livestock policy to present to Detroit City Council. Underwood expects a proposal will be ready to unveil in the next few months, describing it as a comprehensive ordinance that’s been years in the making. Read More

California Congressman Takano Works to Unleash Power of Agriculture for Riverside’s Health and Prosperity

February 1, 2016 |
Official Portrait - Mark Takano 113th

Congressman Mark Takano, whose district includes the City of Riverside, spoke at the 2014 GrowRIVERSIDE conference and is a champion of local and sustainable food and agriculture. (photo courtesy Josh Weisz/Office of Congressman Mark Takano)

Congressman Mark Takano, a Democrat from California’s 41st congressional district, was born in Riverside, California. The longtime Riverside Community College Board of Trustees member delivered a keynote address at GrowRIVERSIDE’s “Citrus and Beyond” conference in 2014, and he understands the importance of local sustainable agriculture to the economic prosperity of Riverside.

Seedstock caught up with Congressman Takano, who answered some of our questions:

Seedstock: What are your impressions on the pursuit of the development of local food system infrastructure in your district?

Takano: We’re making good progress, but there’s more work to do. The efforts of GrowRIVERSIDE are really encouraging and I was honored to be a keynote speaker at the GrowRIVERSIDE “Citrus and Beyond” conference. It really takes buy-in from consumers to get this kind of thing going and that’s what I’ve been seeing.   Read More

Sustainable Ag + Food News: Seedstock’s Weekly Roundup

January 29, 2016 |

 

1 Local food movement pushes fresh produce [Chicago Tribune]

Excerpt: The local food movement stretches way, way back, to a time when produce didn’t arrive from thousands of miles away in a semitrailer to land in shrink wrap … Read More

Hydroponic Farm in Alaska Combats Weather and Produce Shortfall by Growing Indoors, and Upward

January 28, 2016 |
Hydroponic organic lettuce from Alaska Natural Organics (ANO) Vertical Farm. Photo Courtesy of ANO.

Hydroponic organic lettuce from Alaska Natural Organics (ANO) Vertical Farm. Photo Courtesy of ANO.

The idea for Anchorage, Alaska-based hydroponic vertical farm Alaska Natural Organics was conceived when Jason Smith was working as a surveyor in the Frontier state. Smith and his wife had recently become interested in becoming healthier due to family health issues. 

“We just became a little bit more aware of what we were putting in our bodies; reading more about it. And in this process we started trying to eat healthier,” he says. The couple tried to buy organic produce of all types whenever possible.

In doing so, Smith became very aware of the high price of produce in Alaska, and the unfortunate reality that the quality of fresh produce in the state is often poor. Read More

Ag Tech Innovators Transform USDA Open Data into Tools to Strengthen Food Supply

January 27, 2016 |

7457.USDA_challenge_496x312Press release – WASHINGTON, Jan. 27, 2016 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Microsoft officials today announced the winners of the USDA-Microsoft Innovation Challenge, in which contestants used USDA agriculture production open data to develop online tools that can help make the American food supply more resilient in the face of climate change.

“In yet another example of how public and private resources can be leveraged together to address significant global concerns, the winners of the USDA-Microsoft Innovation Challenge have used open government data to create an impressive array of innovative tools to help food producers and our communities prepare for the impacts of climate change and ensure our nation’s ability to provide plentiful, affordable food,” said Agriculture Secretary Vilsack. “For more than 100 years, USDA has compiled data on the farm economy, production, and the health of crops around the country, and it is exciting to see such modern, useful tools spring from these information sources.” Read More