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Small agriculture innovators making a difference in U.S. communities

October 26th, 2012

From Green Right Now Reports

Food groups celebrated Food Day in the U.S. this week with a variety of commemorations.

But advocates know that recognizing the need for a food-secure world is the least of it. It takes dirt, sweat and vigilance to coax plants from the earth or raise livestock, as any serious gardener or farmer will tell you.

Despite the learning curve and the commitment, communities, small businesses and entrepreneurs are taking up the challenge and the shovel (or not, in the case of hydroponics and fish farming) to bring agriculture closer to the communities that need it.

They’re raising healthy food in abandoned lots,  inside reclaimed factories, on vertical surfaces and in pastures that endow livestock with healthy Omega-3 oils.

Nourishing the Planet project director Danielle Nierenberg knows all about this grassroots food production movement. She’s been traveling the world to study small scale agricultural for the last few years. This week Nourishing the Planet profiled 25 food projects from 25 cities, revealing a bounty of inspiring endeavors involving farms or healthy eating. Here’s a sampling of five, primarily excerpted from their article (the words are theirs and ours):

Alabama. The Jones Valley Urban Farm in Birmingham, Alabama has been in operation since 2007. Occupying 3.5 acres of once vacant space in downtown Birmingham, Jones Valley Urban Farm grows organic produce and flowers and offers hands-on education to the community about farming and nutritious foods.

The farm grows 60 different vegetable, fruit and flower crops, representing 200 plus varieties, and keeps bees for pollination.

Arkansas. The City of North Little Rock, Arkansas has been given $1.5 million to encourage healthy nutrition and lifestyles in low-income neighborhoods. The mission is to make the City of North Little Rock a Fit 2 Live community that is committed to healthy eating and active living by creating an environment that recognizes and encourages citizens to adopt healthy life choices.

One goal of the program is to support community gardens as a way to improve nutrition.

Illinois. Part vertical farm, part food-business incubator, and part research and education space, The Plant in Chicago, Illinois is converting an old meat-packing building into an indoor vertical garden. The Plant will include a tilapia fish farm, vegetable gardens, a bakery, a brewery, a mushroom farm, and a shared kitchen space.

The net-zero energy design hopes to not only produce zero waste, but actually consume more waste than it produces, eliminating waste from surrounding neighborhood food manufacturers.

Maryland. Rumbleway Farm, in the Chesapeake Bay town of Conowingo, combines animal raising, marketing, and community development. The farm experiments with “free-range houses” that provide chickens with more room to move, and with raising rabbits on pastures to boost their Omega-3 fatty acid content. The farm also hosts dinners around once a month, which are open to the public, to boost involvement and interest in the community’s agricultural system.

Missouri. To get a better return on their investments, the Shepherd family at Shepherd Farms in Cilfton Hill took entire control of their marketing and distribution. The farm focuses on unique markets by producing buffalo, pecans, and gamagrass, a plant whose extensive root system breaks compact soil and helps recycle nutrients.

To see all 25 Innovations visit the website, Nourishing the Planet.

 



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