In the early 1990s, ReVision Family Home, a shelter for pregnant and parenting women in Boston, Massachusetts, began a community garden with the intention of providing fresh, nutritious food to the families at the shelter.
As it expanded, the community garden grew into ReVision Urban Farm, a half-acre urban farm that provides fresh, nutritious food not only to shelter residents, but to the entire Boston community.
In 2005, ReVision Family Home and ReVision Urban Farm merged with Victory Programs, a nonprofit agency dedicated to serving those who are homeless, have substance abuse issues, and/or other related illnesses and disorders. As a result, both the farm and the family home became programs among a diverse network of social services.
Nic and Jen Welty wanted to see more locally grown, nutritious foods offered to the students at their daughter’s school in Leelanau County, Michigan. Having previously worked as Farm Manager at Black Star Farms in nearby Suttons Bay, Nic Welty was poised to start his own venture. So, in 2008, the couple started their own company, 9 Bean Rows, and built a Community Supported Agriculture program with a focus on supplying local food to area schools. Soon, the couple snared a contract to supply the Leelanau County Public School System year-round with fresh salad greens.
From new farmers, aquaponicists and sustainable agriculture entrepreneurs to urban farming pioneers, microloan providers and crowdfunding evangelists, yesterday’s 2nd Annual Seedstock Sustainable Agriculture Innovation conference at UCLA Anderson School of Management provided clear evidence pointing to the desire, will and motivation to develop economically viable and sustainable farming solutions to insure that the food system of the future not only survives, but thrives.
The two-day event, which drew an audience of nearly 250 from as far afield as New Zealand, Mexico and Korea, kicked off on November 5 with a sustainable farm field trip to Houweling’s Tomatoes in Camarillo where attendees were treated to an in-depth tour of the company’s sustainable 125-acre hydroponic greenhouse. Following the tour of Houweling’s, attendees headed over to McGrath Family Farms for a farm-to-table lunch provided by Chef/farmer Adam Navidi of Green2GO Restaurant Market. Following the lunch, farmer Phil McGrath gave the attendees a tour of his 5th generation organic farm and explained how he has used sustainable growing practices and direct marketing to remain economically viable. One of McGrath’s keys to farming successfully: “Grow a huge diversity of things and grow in season.”
An Ohio native who moved to the bright sunny state of Southern California, Jeff Mott decided his life had a different purpose. That purpose meant leaving behind the SoCal lifestyle, buying an Amish homestead on the Virginia/Ohio border and initiating a lifestyle change that has not only proven to be profitable, but has also changed his entire perspective.
35 miles outside of Wheeling, West Virginia lies the Mott Family Farm, the Ohio-based haven of two former California residents, Jeff and Shelley Mott, who craved a back to basics approach to life, a slowing down of pace and an opportunity to share a love of growing that began in California. Land prices and moving closer to Jeff’s father were only part of the equation. Mott felt his California lifestyle was missing a sense of community.
Skip Connett, 57, is co-owner of Austin’s approximately 40-acre certified organic Green Gate Farms. The operation is a realization of a vision he had to cultivate a healthy farm that feeds mind, body and soul. He and his co-owner wife, Erin Flynn, 51, established Green Gate Farms in May 2006, five acres of which are in what was once a blighted neighborhood, eight miles east of downtown Austin, Texas. Another four to six acres of a 35-acre plot located 23 miles from downtown Austin are presently being developed with cover cropping, fruit trees and vegetables.
Skip, formerly a writer for the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, saw firsthand the dilemmas of poor health and that, combined with a passion for organic farming, drove him to cultivating the soil.