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Thriving Community Garden in Ontario, CA Offers Hope and Health to Neighborhood in Need

May 24, 2016 |
Photo Courtesy of Huerta del Valle Community Garden.

Photo Courtesy of Huerta del Valle Community Garden.

A thriving community garden offers hope and a source of fresh, healthy produce to residents of an Ontario neighborhood struggling with high concentrations of poverty, obesity and food access.

Huerta del Valle Community Garden, as the garden is known to residents, is situated in an Ontario neighborhood consisting of approximately 16,000 people living in a two square mile area. The garden took shape in 2010 when former Pitzer student Morgan Bennett organized local community members to create a garden on the site of a former elementary school. Over the past four years it has received significant boosts from a HEAL (Healthy Eating Active Living) Zone grant from Kaiser Permanente that was awarded to the City of Ontario 2012 and renewed again in 2016. The garden received $64,000 from the HEAL Zone grant between 2012- 2015 and will receive $20,000 per year for the next three years, which will support staff, materials, equipment, promotion, travel, and other expenses related to developing the farm, garden and programming.

As of now, 62 area families have plots in the garden and often sell the wide variety produce that they grow to community members. Read More

On Land Once Owned by University of California, Riverside, UCR Student Launches Avocado and Citrus Venture

May 19, 2016 |
MIchael Johnson of Coronet Corner Grove in Riverside with avocado and citrus that he sells at local farmers markets, to the Riverside Food Co-op and through other local outlets. (Photo courtesy of Michael Johnson).

MIchael Johnson of Coronet Corner Grove in Riverside, CA with avocados and citrus that he grows and sells at the local farmers market, to the Riverside Food Co-op and through other local outlets. (Photo courtesy of Michael Johnson).

On agricultural land once used by the University of California, Riverside (UCR) for the development of the hybrid Gwen Avocado, Michael Johnson, a student who coincidentally happens to be attending UCR, has launched a burgeoning local food and farming venture.

Johnson has since rechristened the two acre plot of land, which his father purchased from UCR in 1995 as ‘Coronet Corner Grove.’

As a kid, he grew up working and playing on the farm land to which his father added oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes, kumquats and loquats to complement the avocados already growing there.

The farm slowly became a part of him and in 2012, when he was just 18, Johnson saw an opportunity to take advantage of the growing demand for local produce and create an economically viable farming enterprise. So, he launched ‘Coronet Corner Grove’ and began handing out business cards and selling his produce at the Riverside Certified Farmers’ Market. Read More

Crowdfunding Tomatoes: Technology Platform Allows Consumers to Fund Produce

May 12, 2016 |
ProduceRun stand. Photo courtesy of ProduceRun.

ProduceRun stand. Photo courtesy of ProduceRun.

William Pattison, co-founder and president of ProduceRun, a web-based service that allows farmers to “pre-sell” goods to local consumers via a crowdfunding-like platform, is no stranger to farming. His family has worked the land for four generations.

“ProduceRun started on our own family farm,” Pattison says. “We wanted a better way to be found, sell and distribute our farm products to the public. I feel that our technology can make a real difference for farmers, making it easier for them to do business, and creating easier access for buyers.” Read More

It’s Almost Summer in the Urban Garden: Tips for Planting Hot Weather Crops

May 11, 2016 |
Zucchini. Source: Wikipedia.

Zucchini. Source: Wikipedia.

It’s almost summer, and for many that means it’s time to plant the vegetable garden.

Of course, you may have put many of your plants in the ground already, but for those who like to put their vegetable garden in all at once, mid-May is often the time to do it.

The changing climate has complicated this somewhat, so gardeners in northern areas may need to wait until June to put in hot-season crops. This is particularly the case in cities where the city center may experience a several degree differential from surrounding areas. due to an urban heat island effect Check your local USDA zone map to see where you are..

Most summer crops discussed will not tolerate a frost, let alone a freeze, although a blanket on a cold night or row cover will provide a few degrees of protection. Read More

Despite Current Dysfunction in the Food System, Renowned Agroecology Expert Holds Out Hope for Future

May 10, 2016 |
Stephen Gliessm

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Stephen R. Gliessman, Alfred E. Heller Professor of Agroecology in UC Santa Cruz’s Environmental Studies Department, shares his thoughts regarding the state of the food system. Photo courtesy University of California, Santa Cruz

What is the state of the nation’s food system? Is it fundamentally broken and beyond repair? Does it need to be changed, and if so, how? What is it doing right?

To address these questions, we reached out to Stephen R. Gliessman, an internationally recognized leader in the field of agroecology, and the Alfred E. Heller Professor of Agroecology in UC Santa Cruz’s Environmental Studies Department, where he has taught since 1981. He was the founding director of the UCSC Agroecology Program (now the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems) and is the author of the renowned and pioneering textbook Agroecology: The Ecology of Sustainable Food Systems. In 2008, Gliessman became the chief editor of the internationally known Journal of Sustainable Agriculture.

Here is what we learned:

What is the state of the food system?

The current state of the food system is unhealthy. There is too much emphasis put on the business of growing food rather than long-term stewardship, care for the earth, and the people who grow food. That, I think, is a more important part of what’s going on. It’s amazing what the current food system is able to produce in terms of calories, but it’s also amazing in terms of what it doesn’t produce in terms of healthy nutritious food. Read More

Former Dude Ranch Near Lake Elsinore Finds Success as Sustainable Pastured Lamb and Poultry Farm

April 28, 2016 |
Kepner Farms sells eggs at the Manhattan Beach farmers’ market. (photo courtesy Carl Kepner/Kepner Farms)

Kepner Farms sells eggs at the Manhattan Beach farmers’ market. (photo courtesy Carl Kepner/Kepner Farms)

Near Lake Elsinore, California, a former dude ranch is now home to pastured lamb and poultry.

Its transformation began when Carl Kepner inherited the land in 2010 and began Kepner Farms. It took some trial and error, however, for the business to arrive at its current incarnation.

Kepner started with aquaponics, and by 2012 was selling agricultural products. But he did not like the overall performance he was getting through his aquaponics operation, and switched over to traditional planting.

“I like soil better,” he says.

But realizing that growing fruits and vegetables was too labor-intensive for his liking and wanting to make permaculture a central theme of his operation, Kepner decided to raise pastured lambs and chickens. Now, Kepner Farms features 2,000 chickens and 250 head of sheep and lambs. Read More

Diversification, Organic Growing, and Savvy Enable Riverside Family to Save Farm and Prosper

April 20, 2016 |
the grove farm riverside california local food organic ghamlouch-min

Hassan and Deborah Ghamlouch, along with their two sons, Zachary and Jacob, run The Grove, an organic family farm in Riverside, CA. (photo courtesy Hassan Ghamlouch/The Grove)

The Grove, a diversified and certified-organic family farm in Riverside, CA used to grow only citrus fruit and avocados. But in order to survive a changing market, it has diversified to include a wide array of organic produce.

Hassan Ghamlouch and his wife, Deborah, have operated The Grove for more than 13 years. Their sons Zachary and Jacob are also key contributors to the operation.

The farm has been in the family for four generations, dating back to the late nineteenth century when it primarily produced navel oranges. When Deborah’s parents wanted to sell the farm in the early 2000s, she and Hassan decided to purchase it and take over. They based their decision partly on the fact that The Grove’s orange trees are part of the original rootstock planted well over 100 years ago.

But Hassan and Deborah knew that if they wanted to keep the farm in their family, drastic changes were inevitable and necessary. Read More

Grocery Store on Wheels Tackles Food Access Challenges in Riverside and San Bernardino

April 18, 2016 |
(Photo courtesy of Joey Romero, Program Director for Mobile Fresh FSA)

Mobile Fresh FSA customers shop for fresh and healthy food in Riverside. (Photo courtesy of Joey Romero, Program Director for Mobile Fresh FSA)

Increasing access to fresh and healthy food in “food deserts,” defined as low-income urban areas where a substantial number or share of residents has very limited access to a large grocery store or supermarket, requires creativity, resourcefulness and drive. And it is drive that resulted in the creation of a grocery store on wheels that enables Moreno Valley-based Family Service Assocation (FSA) to tackle trenchant food access problems in Riverside and San Bernardino, two of the largest counties in the United States.

Family Service Association (FSA), an organization that builds community “one family at a time, through compassion, advocacy and comprehensive model services, fostering self-sufficiency and sustainable impacts,” launched mobile fresh market pilot project, Mobile Fresh, in December 2013. Program Director Joey Romero says at the time, Mobile Fresh was run out of a van, and FSA advertised the new mobile grocery service at some of its offices and local child care and community centers. “We parked, put a table out there and put out some fresh fruits and vegetables,” recalls Romero. Read More

Amidst Changing Economic and Growing Climate Temecula’s Crows Pass Farm Adapts to Survive

April 13, 2016 |
David and Tina Barnes are co-founders of Crows Pass Farm in Temecula. (photo courtesy Tina Barnes/Crows Pass Farm)

David and Tina Barnes are co-founders of Crows Pass Farm in Temecula. (photo courtesy Tina Barnes/Crows Pass Farm)

The ability to adapt is a necessary skill for survival in many arenas, especially in farming. David and Tina Barnes of Crows Pass Farm in Temecula, California know this truth from their own experience.

The farm was founded by the Barneses in 1991 and until recently produced a wide variety of crops including lemons, tangerines, oranges, strawberries, spinach and more.

To insure the economic sustainability of their farm, the Barneses initially employed a direct-to-restaurant business model and as recently as 2010, this approach led to success. At that time they were selling food directly to 45 eateries and business was booming.

Citing drought conditions, economic downturns, changing market conditions, an upcoming state minimum wage increase to $15 per hour, and the need to compete against produce growers who sell at a cheaper price, the Barneses made the decision to retrench and change the farm’s business model. Read More

Pasture-raised Livestock Operation in Murrieta, CA Finds Success by Getting People to the Farm

April 12, 2016 |
Primal Pastures Murrietta California Riverside Local Farm

Murrieta, CA-based Primal Pastures is a family farm that sells pasture raised chicken, pork, lamb, beef, honey, and wild seafood. (Photo Credit: Kathi Bahr)

“We’re trying to take farming practices back 100 years, but put the business model 10 years ahead,” says farmer Paul Greive of Murrieta, CA-based Primal Pastures.

Greive and three of his in-laws founded Primal Pastures in 2012, starting with pastured free-range chickens. The small family farm has since expanded its offering and, in addition to poultry, now sells pasture raised pork, lamb, beef, honey, and wild seafood to its customers.

Primal Pastures is not an organic farm, but Greive takes pride in the fact that he and his fellow farmers employ regenerative and environmentally responsible farming practices that “go beyond sustainability.” Read More