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When Lynchburg, Virginia resident Paul Lam’s beloved garden was destroyed inadvertently in 2003, residents rallied around him to find a new space. With the help of community members, Lam, who is disabled, eventually found a seven-acre site with nine empty greenhouses on it that had been the home of a large rose supplier.
The farm site needed a bit of rehab, so a call was put out for volunteers. Hundreds showed up from local area schools and universities to help clean it up. From this community outpouring for Lam, Lynchburg Grows, a nonprofit urban farming organization whose dual mission is to increase access to healthy food in the community and provide meaningful jobs to individuals with disabilities, was born.
At the root of Louisville, Kentucky’s ongoing and successful local food system implementation, which has generated considerable community and economic capital, is data.
A principal objective of Mayor Greg Fischer’s Six-Year Strategic Plan outlined in 2012-2013 to create new jobs and stimulate the economic development, is to develop ways to promote the city’s local food economy. Toward this end, three studies were conducted by the Local Food Economy Work Group, made up of elected officials from six counties and two cities, to gauge the needs of farmers and consumers pertaining to demand for local foods.
One of the studies showed that of Louisville’s $2 billion in food purchases a year, only $300,000 was going toward local food, and consumers and commercial buyers wanted to at least double that amount if opportunities were available. Another study highlighted the desire of local farmers to reach larger markets.
The United States is a wealthy country. It is home to some of the richest families in the world and is a major food exporter to countries with fewer resources. Yet, according to feedingamerica.org, 13 percent of US households were food-insecure last year, while at the same time, 40 percent of the food produced in this country never finds its way to families’ tables and approximately 6 billion pounds of fresh produce is left to rot in farmers’ fields each year.
An incredible amount of food is wasted. How did this happen? Some point to strong consumer preference for pristine fruits and vegetables. As a result, misshapen or slightly imperfect produce sits unpicked in fields and orchards, or is tossed into landfills, where it emits methane into the atmosphere. Much of this abandoned food is perfectly edible and could go a long way toward alleviating hunger in many communities.
One organization in northern Vermont is determined to put this once-wasted food to use by distributing it to those who need it the most. Salvation Farms was established in 2004
Against a backdrop of rising land prices, traditional farmers in Utah struggle to survive. However, a mix of resourcefulness and necessity is driving farmers to develop creative solutions in urban environs. Salt Lake City-based Green Urban Lunch Box (GULB) is one such endeavor that is utilizing innovative growing models to ensure urban farming fills the gap traditional farming cannot afford to maintain.
“We don’t want to do what other people are doing. If we cannot do it significantly better and significantly cheaper than another nonprofit is doing it then we shouldn’t do it, because we are just going to be competing with them for funds,” says founder Shawn Peterson.
A fifth generation Utah farmer and an experienced business entrepreneur, Peterson founded the Green Urban Lunch Box six years ago in the heart of Salt Lake City after watching the movie, Truck Farm (from the maker of King Corn) on using farm trucks in the urban setting.
NEW YORK, Sept. 28, 2016 – At the New York Times Food for Tomorrow Conference, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced more than $56 million in grants to strengthen local and regional food systems, support farmers markets, and fund organic research. Since 2009, USDA has invested over $1 billion in more than 40,000 local food businesses and infrastructure projects.
“Since this Administration launched the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative in 2009 to coordinate USDA efforts to support local and regional food systems, there has been a dramatic increase in consumer demand for buying local,” said Vilsack. “Over the years, we’ve seen how these new market opportunities are helping to drive job growth in agriculture, increase entrepreneurship in rural communities, and expand food access and choice. This latest round of grants will expand the capacity of farmers and businesses to serve this growing market, help revitalize local economies around the country, and support efforts around the country to provide fresh, healthy food to all Americans.”