Posts By AJ Hughes
Deep in the corn belt, South Bend, Indiana may become home to a new indoor farming facility that would not only produce food but also educate community college students about indoor agriculture.
The proposed 20,000-square foot vertical farming operation would be constructed and operated by Green Sense Farms, headquartered in northwest Indiana.
A panel discussion, during which the proposal was put forth for the indoor farm and farm-college partnership, took place in October at South Bend’s Ivy Tech Community College. If the college’s Board of Trustees grants approval, Green Sense Farms is set to spend $3 million to construct the facility on land leased from Ivy Tech.
A farmer, artist and educator based on a farm near the Wisconsin-Illinois border, Nance Klehm designs ecological systems and teaches about land stewardship with an eye toward building healthy soil.
Klehm founded Social Ecologies, an organization dedicated to engaging others in building regenerative agricultural systems and starting new ecological projects.
Some of these endeavors include a month-long urban agroecology intensive at The Huntington Library and Gardens in San Marino, California; The Ground Rules, a project in Chicago, Illinois designed to make better use of organic waste and improve urban soil health; and Soil Garden, an organic waste composting project in Warsaw, Poland.
Klehm’s vocational journey began in childhood.
As recently as April 2015, Growtainer founder Glenn Behrman wasn’t sure his shipping container indoor ag product was ready for prime time.
“I did not feel that the Growtainer was ready to sell,” he says. “I didn’t want to make promises or commitments to anybody. Lots of people don’t know what they’re getting themselves into—I would rather lose the sale because I’m honest.”
But with a new focus on the scalability and affordability afforded by the product’s Growracks, he’s ready to move forward.
A horticulturist and businessman, Behrman drew inspiration from PlantLab’s indoor farming efforts in Amsterdam, which motivated him and his business partner Alan Helene to develop growing systems inside shipping containers.
The City of Atlanta, Georgia last month named its first-ever urban agriculture director. Mario Cambardella is poised to officially join the city’s administrative roster, headed by Mayor Kasim Reed, in early December.
There is a critical need for such a position, according to Stephanie Stuckey Benfield, director of Atlanta’s Office of Sustainability. She says Cambardella will expand upon the city’s urban agriculture ordinance, which was adopted in June 2014 and changed Atlanta’s zoning rules to make more room for urban agricultural operations.
“We need more urban farmers,” says Benfield. She expects Cambardella to lead the way in refining the city’s urban agriculture policy and identifying opportunities for urban agriculture in underserved communities. He will be responsible for cultivating partnerships with local nonprofits and helping would-be urban farmers to navigate the city’s permitting process. He’ll also serve as a resource for farmers’ markets.
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.