Excerpt: You’ve been trying to up your Thanksgiving game every year, adding essence of cardamom to your grandmother’s sweet potato casserole and latticing bacon across your bird.
The rich Cajun and Creole food tradition of southern Louisiana’s French-speaking region of Acadiana is the target of preservation efforts by a new local food alliance.
Until recently, efforts to bolster local foods in the Acadiana region were disparate and disjointed, according to Christopher Adams, executive director of the Cultural Research Institute of Acadiana. The Acadiana Food Alliance is trying to change that.
“There’s been a fair amount of movement in the area for local food, including an upsurge in farmers’ markets and lots of restaurants featuring local food on menus,” says Adams. “These have been independent and scattered efforts, with lots of individual potentials. Our hope is to bring together an effective collaboration.”
The journey toward the new food alliance began in February 2014 when about 30 interested people began meeting regularly. The group applied for technical assistance from the U.S. EPA’s Local Foods, Local Places program, and were one of 26 recipients (out of 300 applicants) nationwide. The Local Foods, Local Places program seeks to enhance economic opportunities for locally based farmers and businesses by improving access to healthy local food and supporting food hubs, farmers’ markets, and community gardens and kitchens.
For urban farmers, clever space utilization is key, especially in a major city like Washington D.C., where planners estimate there will be a need for 200 million square feet of new housing by 2040. Using rooftops can change the game and offer major ecological benefits along with fresh local food. Rooftop Roots is a team of D.C. locals who have been working for five years to scale up rooftop growing in their city and supply local food banks with the harvest. Seedstock spoke to executive director Thomas Schneider about how it’s done.
Seedstock: I understand that Rooftop Roots was born in a conversation between you and Christian Patrizia, your marketing director whilst hanging out on a roof. How long between that conversation and the first seed getting planted? What were some of the first steps?
Thomas Schneider: Gosh, the idea came up on July 3, 2010. I started thinking about it more and more, trying to figure out how to make it work, and asking random people I met what they thought about the idea. That fall, we came up with the name and the concept, and that winter we started reaching out to folks in the non-profit arena to figure out where to get started.
You’ve heard the term “black sheep of the family”—but Paonia, Colorado’s Oogie McGuire herds a flock comprised entirely of onyx rams, lambs and ewes. At Desert Weyr farm, McGuire raises Black Welsh Mountain sheep, a British breed from the mountains of Wales. They are the only all-black breed of sheep in the world.
It all started when McGuire, an avid knitter, set out to make a Medieval Welsh cloak. “I got the sheep, a spinning wheel, and a loom; I learned to weave and made the fabric…however, my mental image of a medical cloak was not historically accurate. I ended up making a 19th century ladies cloak,” she remembers. But by then, McGuire had fallen in love with the breed.
McGuire inherited the farm when her mom passed away in 1998. After enjoying successful careers in software development, she and her husband decided to leave southern California; instead choosing to come home and farm the land where she’d grown up showing sheep and lambs at the local 4-H. “Mother had a large flock of mixed breeds—what we call a ‘spinner flock,’” explains McGuire. We kept the ones we thought we would like, and ended up culling everything but the Black Welsh. We had to like how they handled and how they behave; they had to taste good and have wool that I like to work with. The Black Welsh had all those qualities.”
Excerpt: They’re remaking the culinary traditions in African-American communities and diversifying the farm-to-table concept.
Nearly $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.
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.
Through her work in international development, Colleen Beck witnessed how people utilize water to grow food around the globe in Kenya, China and Thailand.
Returning to Pennsylvania, she was asked to research an aquaponics system for the faith-based NGO, MTEC International, which does international mission work. After creating two custom systems, she decided to launch Seed Aquaponics LLC in December 2014 and take the business global, seeing aquaponic farming as an “obvious solution” to managing water use in agriculture.
Beck says that she was drawn to aquaponic farming because of the efficiency of the practice. Food can be grown twice as fast as conventional methods, using 90 percent less water. By nature, aquaponic farming is also organic; any chemicals in the water would kill the fish, not to mention the systems eliminate the risk of water contamination from sewage, floods or runoff.
Growing Opportunities, an urban farm in Bloomington, Indiana, puts disabled, low-income and unemployed/underemployed adults to work in its hydroponic greenhouse. As a result, it’s producing bumper crops of people with newfound confidence and skills.
A project of Bloomington’s South Central Community Action Program, Growing Opportunities works with clients who need help by teaching them both hard and soft vocational skills via the pathway of growing food. Its greenhouse is located at Stone Belt, an organization with 50 years of experience providing resources for those with disabilities.
City planners in Lawrence, Kansas are working together with local farmers to finalize changes to the city’s urban agriculture regulations. Home to the University of Kansas, this city of 80,000 hopes to work toward a strong relationship between urban farmers, non-farmer residents, and local governments in other small cities across the country, according to local station KAHB.
In August, the city conducted a survey asking residents about the barriers they face in growing food. They received 160 responses that they hope will indicate how to best support backyard farmers and urban growers in Lawrence. Open meetings were held on September 28 and October 19 to discuss the proposed new plan, which focuses heavily on small livestock but also addresses land access and on-site sales for community gardens and urban farms, among other things. The proposal puts the spotlight on “small animals that are more appropriate in a denser urban setting,” specifically bees, birds, small goats, worms, crickets, rabbits, and fish.