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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture
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Posts By Susan Botich

Organic Farm School Teaches Tomorrow’s Farmers Everything from Soil to Sales

December 18, 2013 |
Source: Greenbank Farm

Source: Greenbank Farm

In 2008, Greenbank Farm  established its Organic Farm School to teach sustainable agricultural methods to students from all walks of life. The farm, located on Greenbank, Washington’s Whidbey Island, teaches agriculture methods and emphasizes how to manage a farm as a viable business.

Farm manager and instructor Jessica Babcock says the Farm School’s emphasis on business management is what sets it apart from other organic agricultural training programs.

“Each student leaves the program with an extensive business plan they have written that they can use to start their own sustainable farm business,” says Babcock. Read More

High Altitude Organic Farm Thrives on Product Diversity, RSA and Business Model Innovation

March 26, 2013 |

Sierra Valley Farms owner, Gary Romano. Photo credit: Sierra Valley Farms.

Sierra Valley Farms has found that by being open to new ideas, keeping farming practices simple and diversifying its products, farming sustainably can be successful and rewarding, according to owner Gary Romano.

“I’m a third generation farmer,” Romano says. “My family were flower growers in the Bay Area. My mom’s side of the family were cattle ranchers in the Sierra. When I was a kid growing up, I was raised on the flower farm. We did it the old-fashioned way—allowing cover crops to grow, hand weeding—the natural way. I took that model to use here and it works.”

In 1990, Romano bought the last 65 acres of his family’s ranch, located in the high Sierra of Plumas County, California and decided to turn it into a farm. It was a three-year process for Sierra Valley Farms to become Certified Organic, the only organic farm within 100 miles, according to Romano. Read More

Urban Farm Collective Converts Vacant City Lots into Edible Gardens, Exchanges Food for Hours Worked

March 7, 2013 |

Photo Credit: Urban Farm Collective.

It all started with a simple idea: bring neighbors together to transform vacant city lots into neighborhood food gardens. Why? To improve the quality of food available to the community. From that little seed, the Urban Farm Collective (UFC) has grown into multiple working gardens throughout the Portland, Oregon area.

“In the seed stages, it was very much just a handful of friends,” says Urban Farm Collective Director Janette Kaden. “We had yards and we thought we’d  share them and turn them into gardens.”

But it took some creative thinking to cultivate that seed idea into the strong community network it has grown to be.

“In 2009, we started with one garden,” Kaden says. “About a dozen people came to the table to talk about this idea of transforming vacant lots into gardens. But, out of that, only one or two people would show up at the garden to work.” Read More

Oregon-based Aquaponic Startup Seeks to Completely Close Loop

February 14, 2013 |

Hydroponics, the practice of growing crops in nutrient-rich water as opposed to soil, in concert with aquaculture, the farming of aquatic organisms such as fish, crustaceans, molluscs, etc., creates a sustainable, symbiotic farming system called aquaponic farming. Aquaponic farming is not a new form of farming, but other than many of the readers of this website few people know about it. Three men, Gabriel Michels, Timothy Kirk and Nicholas Fox, who partnered to create Grass Roots Aquaponic Farms LLC, located in Oregon City, Oregon, hope to change that. The idea was planted years ago.

“Actually, I was inspired back in high school,” says Michels. “That was about 10 years ago. Nic and I were in the same class and our school got a grant to have a complete aquaponic setup. It was great! We grew all kinds of vegetables.” Read More

Not Simply Organic, Oregon Farm Finds Success in Embrace of Technology and Sustainable Principles

January 30, 2013 |

Bill and Karla Chambers of Stahlbush Island Farms. Photo Credit: Stahlbush Island Farms.

When Bill and Karla Chambers founded Stahlbush Island Farms in 1985, their goal was to not only grow certified organic produce but also to integrate sustainability into all aspects of their operation. In 1997, Stahlbush Island Farms was certified sustainable by Food Alliance (FA).

“Sustainability is a journey, not an end point,” says Stahlbush Island Farms marketing executive Emily J. Hall. “It’s about having an ongoing philosophy regarding how you operate as a company, and making the right choices every day.” Read More