Posts By David Sands
Sustainable growing methods are part of the very fiber of Urban Till’s operations, but the Chicago-based hydroponics farm isn’t an outgrowth of the organic food movement. In fact, it actually has roots in the traditional food industry.
Founder Brock Leach comes from a background in food distribution. Before starting Urban Till with his friend, hydroponics expert Todd Williamson, he worked as manager of continuous improvement over at Martin Brower, a multinational company that provides supply chain management services to restaurants operators around the globe. Watching the increasing costs of moving edible goods along the supply line, he came to the conclusion that local production of food could be profitable, if it was done right.
Tyson Gersh works out of a rustic office in a rehabbed building overlooking a majestic urban garden in Detroit’s North End neighborhood. Lined with flowers, the farm bursts with an abundance of organically grown herbs and vegetables. A nonprofit called the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative oversees the field. Gersh, a 25-year-old-college student, is its president.
He established the all-volunteer organization in 2012 with fellow U-M student Darin Mcleskey to provide fresh healthy food to low-income families and to support the local community. Beyond growing food, its mission involves fixing up nearby buildings, converting some into ag-related structures like a retention pond and others into assets like a community center and veterans’ housing. Volunteers are also working on tech, developing data metrics they believe will help other urban ag projects grow.
Imagine going into a store and picking out your dinner by literally pulling it up by the roots. Sound farfetched? It’s not. In fact, it’s the behind a North Carolina-based venture called the Farmery.
The project is an effort to blend the convenience of a retail grocery store and cafe with the freshness of an indoor urban farming system operation.
Several prototypes of the system are already up and running, and the Farmery team is now in final talks with investors to get a two-story, 16,000-square-foot version operational by fall of 2015, most likely in North Carolina.
While Detroit’s urban farming movement has been generating excitement for more than a decade, the city’s bicycling scene has been turning heads lately as well. Over the past few years, new bike lanes have sprung up on Motown’s streets and cyclists have shown up in the thousands for mass rides like Slow Roll and Tour de Troit. At the intersection of these two worlds is Rising Pheasant Farms, a small family operation on the city’s east side.
Covering about three quarters of an acre, Rising Pheasant Farms encompasses a crop field, family garden, greenhouse and small fruit grove adjacent to the home of Carolyn Leadley, Jack VanDyke and their children, Rowan and Finn. With the help of two part-time workers, the couple harvests an assortment of vegetables including chard, kale, peppers and tomatoes, as well as microgreens and a smattering of berries and asparaguses.
This piece is the first in a new Seedstock series profiling the women who are leading change in sustainable agriculture and local food.
Over the past few years, journalist Tracie McMillan has carved out a space to talk about food in a way that isn’t discussed all that much in the mainstream media, namely, how it relates to the lives of working-class and poor people.
Best known as the author of “The American Way of Eating,” a New York Times bestseller where she goes undercover to investigate the gritty reality of the country’s food system as a farm worker, Walmart associate and Applebee’s employee, her reporting has also appeared in the pages of Harper’s and the New York Times.