Posts By Kate Edwards
Fresh, locally grown food is neither ubiquitous nor available in many inner city neighborhoods across the country. Dormant real estate from vacant lots to hollowed out factory buildings in these neighborhoods, however, are not in short supply. It is out of this dichotomy that Green Collar Foods (GCF) was founded with a goal of helping community partners retrofit old buildings with low cost indoor aeroponic farms to increase food access and job opportunities to those in need across the United States and U.K.
The company founders, whose backgrounds range from automotive manufacturing and farming to finance, designed their indoor aeroponic farms, or “GCF Hubs”, with the goal of making them inexpensive and easy for a select group of local residents and entrepreneurs to build and run. The company generates revenue through collecting a franchise fee from these resident owners, as well as licensing fee for the GCF’s farm management technology. The local resident owners in turn accrue revenue from operating their GCF Hubs and reaping profit from the produce that they grow.
Green Collar Foods believes that it has created a business model to help insure the success of each local inner city GCF Hub owner.
In the mid 90s, people in Ventura, California were growing concerned about a growing trend of large tracts of farmland and open space being rezoned for development by the City Council. In response, locals formed Save Open Space & Agricultural Resources (SOAR), a grassroots organization that drafted a ballot initiative requiring voters’ approval on the rezoning of open space, agricultural land, and rural land. After the measure passed by a slim margin, neighboring towns and cities approved similar provisions, and Ventura became the only county in the country with voter-based protections for ag land.
Two decades later, support for the landmark initiative is still contentious. With the original SOAR restrictions getting ready to expire in 2020, Ventura residents, farmers, and officials are putting together competing ballot initiatives for this November’s election cycle to decide the future direction of the program.
According to a May 2015 report released by Purdue University and the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, demand for recent college graduates holding agriculture-related degrees will increase rapidly through at least 2020. The demand will grow so rapidly, in fact, that the number of projected annual job opportunities in agriculture is expected to outpace the number of graduates by almost 40 percent.
The nation’s colleges and universities must have seen this coming, as many institutions have created or expanded opportunities for students to gain first-hand experience with farming and ranching on campus or nearby. These pastures, fields, and laboratories provide students with training in the full spectrum of tasks involved in farm operation, from basic planting and harvesting, to management and long-term planning. Some raise food for campus dining operations. Others sell their products to the public. Some are extensive enterprises that can be measured in acres, while others are small, concentrated projects working in square feet with all-volunteer crews.
Nine of these farms are described below. What they have in common is their purpose: to educate the next generation of farmers about sustainable and humane growing practices that can form the foundation of our agricultural future.
While it may have the eye-catching photography typical of most fancy cookbooks, Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4/Day, is a cookbook for the roughly 44 million Americans, (according to current USDA data) who receive SNAP benefits.
The cookbook is the brainchild of Leanne Brown, who was working toward her master’s degree in Food Studies at New York University and decided that she didn’t want to write “[J]ust another paper that would just be of interest to academics, but something that could be more widely applied and that would be of use to a lot of the people that I was working with.”
Having studied the issues faced by food stamp, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), recipients, Brown elected to write a cookbook for her master’s thesis intended for those whose food budget is dictated by their monthly $126 per person SNAP benefits. It features recipes that are healthy, flavorful and easier to prepare than the complicated and ingredient-heavy dishes usually found in books of this genre.
According to the National Resources Defense Council, Americans throw out roughly $165 billion worth of food each year, including 52 percent of all fruits and vegetables. While the majority of this waste is generated by producers and consumers, shipments of food rejected by wholesale produce buyers at grocery stores and other outlets also accounts for literal truckloads of food sent to the landfill because of a couple fuzzy strawberries, an off color, or other slight imperfections in the load.
To save this otherwise edible food from its fate as landfill fodder, a new mobile technology company called Food Cowboy has emerged to divert these rejected food shipments toward those in need. The company has created a smartphone app that connects truckers and other food donors like cafeterias and restaurants with charities who are able to accept the large loads of rejected but perfectly edible food.
“Truckers spend all this time moving food and they don’t want to just dump it,” says co-founder and health and nutrition expert Barbara Cohen.