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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture
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local food systems

Hydroponic Farm in Alabama Finds Success with Focus on Health and Local Food Demand

September 28, 2016 |
owls-hollow-farm-alabama

A view of the greenhouse at Owls Hollow Farm in Gadsen, Alabama. Photo courtesy of Owls Hollow Farm.

Rod Palmer of Owls Hollow Farm in Gadsen, Alabama, wants people to think a little more about what they’re eating.

If they continue to eat the same processed foods that have led to an epidemic of diabetes and obesity, then they shouldn’t be surprised if their health isn’t improving.

If they continue to buy expensive produce grown outside the U.S. at the supermarket, then they won’t be able to stretch their dollars that much.

Owls Hollow gives both residents and employees at local companies in nearby Birmingham a way to eat healthier while saving money.

Palmer comes from a background in home building, and he never focused on farming as a career. When growing up, everyone around him, including his family, lived on a small farm. It never seemed like something unique. Read More

Library Seeks to Establish Generations of Seed Shepherds

September 13, 2016 |
David King, founder and chair of the Seed Library of Los Angeles (SLOLA). Photo Credit: Karen Briner.

David King, founder and chair of the Seed Library of Los Angeles (SLOLA). Photo Credit: Karen Briner.

David King grew up in Kansas where, despite being very poor, his family ate very well because they grew their own food on his grandfather’s three acres. This was where David got his first taste of seed saving.

As founder and chair of the Seed Library of Los Angeles (SLOLA), David’s been committed to teaching others how to save seeds. He says he was spurred into action to start the library in 2010, when the Obama administration approved GMO sugar beets.

“It was just too much,” he says. “I lost it.”

So on a cold, drizzly day in December of 2010, he held the first meeting of SLOLA. About 45 people showed up, more than he had expected, and 15 of the people who attended that first meeting are still active members today. As stated on their website, SLOLA was founded with the idea of enabling all who live in the Los Angeles area to have access to nutritious, pesticide-free, non-GMO food. Read More

To Protect Food System and Farmers, South of the Sound Org Employs Innovative Land Trust Model

September 7, 2016 |
south of sound community land trust grub urban farm

One of the beneficiaries of the South of Sound Community Farm Land Trust is GRuB (Garden Raised Bounty), an urban agricultural non-profit that works with at risk youth in the South Sound area. Photo courtesy of South of Sound Community Land Trust.

Across the country, cities and suburbs continue to swell and push outward beyond the rural urban divide threatening small local farmers and food systems. Agricultural landholders are increasingly succumbing to offers from developers that far surpass the lease fees that they could obtain were they to continue to lease their lands to farmers. As a result, in certain counties and cities, what farmland remains is often priced beyond what most farmers can afford, or else it is offered for short-term lease periods. These leases often conclude abruptly with the sale of the land to a developer leaving the farmer left looking for a new plot of land on which to farm.

The tri-county region south of Puget Sound in Washington is one such area where significant urbanization pressures are posing challenges to those who wish to farm its lands. To tackle these challenges and help insure that local food and farming systems remain and flourish in the area, the South of the Sound Community Farm Land Trust based in Olympia Washington employs an innovative model of farmland preservation to insure that farmers have access to land at affordable lease rates. Read More

From Jail Farm to Food Bank, Locally Grown Produce Reaches Those in Need

September 1, 2016 |
A variety of fruits and vegetables are grown at the James A. Musick Facility jail farm in Irvine, California. Produce grown at the farm helps feed the hungry by way of the Orange County Food Bank. (photo courtesy Orlando Chacon/James A. Musick Facility)

A variety of fruits and vegetables are grown at the James A. Musick Facility jail farm in Irvine, California. Produce grown at the farm helps feed the hungry by way of the Orange County Food Bank. (photo courtesy Orlando Chacon/James A. Musick Facility)

If not for Mark Lowry and Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens, “The Farm,” rather than providing inmates with meaningful work and the Orange County Food Bank with a weekly abundance of fresh produce, would be nothing more than the nickname for the James A. Musick Facility jail in Irvine, California.

It was at an Orange County Sheriff’s Department volunteer recognition event where Lowry, the director of the Orange County Food Bank, first learned of the jail farm’s history. From 1963 until its closure during the economic downturn of 2008-2009, the inmate operated farm had grown produce and maintained a livestock operation. Read More

USDA Expands Resources for New Farmer and Rancher Program

August 15, 2016 |
Photo courtesy of USDA.

Photo courtesy of USDA.

By September 30, 2017, the USDA plans to increase investments across its New and Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program by $5.6 billion over two years. During this period, targeted outreach and technical assistance initiatives aim to increase participation in the program by 6.6 percent.

“We’ve got a big challenge in front of us—new farmers are hard to find,” said Lilia McFarland, USDA New and Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program coordinator.

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