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.
On Land Once Owned by University of California, Riverside, UCR Student Launches Avocado and Citrus VentureMay 19, 2016 | Anne Meyer Byler
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.
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.”
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.
Despite Current Dysfunction in the Food System, Renowned Agroecology Expert Holds Out Hope for FutureMay 10, 2016 | AJ Hughes
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”