Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image
Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture
Scroll to top

Top

Posts By AJ Hughes

Hub-to-school: Vermont Food Hubs and Schools Work Together to Drive Localization of the Food System

January 13, 2016 |
Volunteers pose next to boxes of gleaned food, all destined for a Vermont food hub. Numerous food hubs in the state supply produce to schools. (photo courtesy Abbey Willard/Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets)

Volunteers pose next to boxes of gleaned food, all destined for a Vermont food hub. Numerous food hubs in the state supply produce to schools. (Photo courtesy Abbey Willard/Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets)

Food hubs and farm-to-school programs are essential mechanisms in increasing access to food produced locally and sustainably. In Vermont, an effort is underway to combine the power of both.

As the recipient of a USDA farm-to-school grant in 2013, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM) produced a report titled “Using Food Hubs to Create Sustainable FTS (Farm-to-School) Programs.” It explores how to leverage “non-traditional resources to expand farm-to-School market relationships between Vermont’s schools and producers.”

The publication was released in March 2015, and now, more than nine months later, VAAFM local foods administrator Abbey Willard is pleased with its impact. Read More

Land Trusts Aid Beginning Farmers in Land Procurement

January 11, 2016 |
Holly Rippon-Butler serves as land access program coordinator for the National Young Farmers Coalition. This organization works as an advocate for beginning farmers as they try to gain access to land, and it educates farmers regarding best strategies for procuring land. (photo courtesy Holly Rippon-Butler/National Young Farmers Coalition)

Holly Rippon-Butler serves as land access program coordinator for the National Young Farmers Coalition. This organization works as an advocate for beginning farmers as they try to gain access to land, and it educates farmers regarding best strategies for procuring land. (Photo courtesy Holly Rippon-Butler/National Young Farmers Coalition)

The average age of American farmers is 58.3 years, and new farmers are needed to carry the torch. One of the biggest barriers to beginning farmers is access to land.

But obstacles are meant to be overcome, and land trusts provide an effective way to preserve farmland while blazing a pathway for retiring farmers to pass their land on to others.

Land trusts are nonprofit entities designed to protect resources, including farmland. One of the best ways they come to the aid of new farmers is through conservation easements—binding contracts through which a landowner sells some or all of his/her property rights to a land trust. Under this arrangement, a farmer would still own and be able to earn money from the property, but the trust would ensure that the land continues to be used for agricultural use, rather than swallowed up by development.   Read More

Youth Learning Center Turns to Urban Farming for Education, Neighborhood Revitalization

January 5, 2016 |
A dedication ceremony for a new urban farm at Growing Minds Educational Services in Fort Wayne, Indiana took place in the fall. (photo courtesy Beth Hodges/Growing Minds Educational Services)

A dedication ceremony for a new urban farm at Growing Minds Educational Services in Fort Wayne, Indiana took place in the fall. (Photo courtesy Beth Hodges/Growing Minds Educational Services)

A Fort Wayne, Indiana food desert is now home to the city’s first urban farm.

A $430,000 grant from the City of Fort Wayne provided initial funding for the farm and an associated commercial kitchen. The operation is leased to and operated by Growing Minds Educational Services, a company devoted to tutoring students in helping them live up to their potential.

The organization’s motto is “planting seeds… establishing roots,” but Growing Minds co-founders Beth Hodges and Carlos Brooks never saw growing food as part of their original plan.

That was until four years ago when Brooks heard northeast Indiana farmer Pete Eshelman speak at a business conference. Eshelman is not your average farmer—the former New York Yankees baseball player now raises Wagyu, a legendary Japanese breed of beef cattle, along with Mangalitza pigs, Dixie Rainbow and Naked Neck chickens, and a variety of other livestock and produce. Read More

Indiana School Farm Teaches Urban Farming, Entrepreneurship

December 15, 2015 |
postIMG_3254-(1)

A student at Thea Bowman Leadership Academy handles chickens inside their coop at the school’s farm. (Photo courtesy Lynda Bodie/Thea Bowman Leadership Academy)

Gary, Indiana, known for being the birthplace of Michael Jackson and home to massive steel plants, now has a high school with an urban farm program.

Last year, students at Thea Bowman Leadership Academy in Gary started the urban farm. It’s founded and operated under the principles of a business plan written as part of an entrepreneurship and personal finance class curriculum. Read More

Mayo Clinic, Western Technical College Embark on Sustainable Ag Partnership

December 14, 2015 |
post-greenhouse

Western Technical College in La Crosse, Wisconsin now has a new Horticulture Education Center. The center is the result of a collaboration with Hillview Urban Agriculture Center. (Photo courtesy Pam Hartwell/Hillview Urban Agriculture Center).

La Crosse, Wisconsin is taking a triple bottom line approach to sustainable agriculture education.

A partnership formed by three local organizations, Hillview Urban Agriculture Center, Western Technical College, and Mayo Clinic Health System-Franciscan Healthcare — dubbed the Get Growing Partnership — marked a culmination of sorts in October when a dedication took place for a new greenhouse and Horticulture Education Center at Western Technical College. Read More