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Go Marcy Kaptur

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Touch the Soil News #799 (Feature photo courtesy of Marcy Kaptur) Never heard of Marcy Kaptur? Well, most folks have not. However, Marcy holds the distinction of being the longest running woman representative in the U.S. House of Representatives. In office since 1983 (34 years), Marcy is introducing a new kind of agricultural bill. Called the Urban Agriculture Production Act of 2017 (H.R. Bill #3699), the Bill intends to help create the next generation of local, urban farmers and food producers. At the heart of the legislation is to attack the food-security erosion in much of America – often found in what is termed “food deserts”. As a preface to…

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Urban Agriculture – It’s Big

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Touch the Soil News #766 (feature photo – courtesy of FAO) According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FA0), a division of the United Nations, 800 million people worldwide practice urban agriculture. These urban agriculture efforts account for roughly 15 to 20 percent of the world’s food supply. The FAO sees urban agriculture as reaching far beyond just vegetables to include small animal agriculture (rabbits, goats, sheep, dwarf cattle, pigs, guinea pigs and fish). Urban agriculture includes trees for fruit and fuel wood. Small garden plots can be up to 15 times more productive than rural holdings. The FAO is working to expand the recognition of urban agriculture as an…

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Urban Food Systems – A New Cornerstone of Urban Infrastructure

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Touch the Soil News #754 (feature photo – Joe Mabel – CC SA 3.0) As many of the stories we cover reveal, connecting with urban food (agriculture) is as much about other benefits as it is about the direct food benefit. We are all familiar with the policy directives of the national government through the USDA – ditto for other governments as well. This “centralized” policymaking approach to the world’s food systems is slowly being challenged by Municipal (city) efforts to establish their own food policies. Toronto, Canada has one of the most advanced and mature Food Policy Councils. The 30-member councils is free to be creative in bringing urban…

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A Long Shot At Rethinking America

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Touch the Soil News #662 The State of Illinois is considering legislation that would formalize urban food and farming throughout the whole state. Illinois State Representative Sonya Harper (Democrat) is proposing urban agriculture zones. Illinois is the sixth most populous state with a population of almost 13 million. Sonya Harper has lived in a food desert most of her life. What this legislation aims to achieve is to break up food deserts and put vacant lots to use by establishing urban agriculture zones that would incentivize the sale of locally grown foods. An agriculture zone would be made up of organizations or individuals who grow produce or other agricultural products…

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The Growing Art of Urban Food

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Touch the Soil News #650 (Feature photo – courtesy of Office of Sustainability, George Mason University) Welcome to Fairfax County – 1.2 million people – and George Mason University (GMU). GMU has almost 3,000 teachers serving almost 34,000 students. It is the largest public research university in Virginia. Enter Doni Nolan, a 2014 graduate from GMU in biology. While at the university, Doni was introduced to growing food in a facility called the President’s Park Greenhouse. She got hooked and decided that her life’s career was to be a food farmer. Today, Doni is the Greenhouse coordinator at GMU and is commonly known as the “Mason Farmer.” She oversees what…

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An Unlikely Player in the Food Business

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Touch the Soil News #627 (feature photo – Panasonic vegetables under its Veggie Life brand – courtesy of Panasonic) Mention the name Panasonic and we all think electronics and lighting. This global electronics company headquartered in Osaka, Japan employs about 250,000 people. Rapidly gaining momentum in the food industry is indoor farming, vertical farming or controlled environment agriculture. When you look at food from these angles, several things stick out – high tech, electronics, and lighting. Three years ago Panasonic decided to build a controlled environment food system in Singapore. Singapore is a small country that is almost all city and asphalt with virtually no agriculture. At the time, the…

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Urban Agriculture is Getting More Popular

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Touch the Soil News #606 (feature photo courtesy of Groundwork Sommerville) The state of Massachusetts today announced $108,266 in grants to five projects through the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) Urban Agriculture Program to support growing the emerging urban agriculture sector and provide city residents access to fresh food. Last year the state awarded more than $160,000 for urban agriculture projects. Following are the 2017 recipients. It gives you an idea of what the State of Massachusetts wants to bring to its cities:   City of Boston, – $ 40,000 To increase the capacity of Boston’s urban farming network, the City of Boston will utilize funds to transform five…

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An Emerging Urban Agriculture Career Consciousness

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Touch the Soil News #577 It is true that food production out of cities today is a drop in the bucket compared to what comes from the hundreds of millions of acres of industrial farming. But, there is more to urban agriculture than just gross production. Urban agriculture represents a philosophical breakaway from the industrial food chain. The focus is on hyper-local mini farms compared to hyper-mega industrial farms. To be on the safe side, one can never underestimate the power of an idea whose time has come. Bryan High School – on the edges of the Omaha, Nebraska metropolitan area (some 900,000 people) – is home to one of…

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Fun Innovation

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Touch the Soil News #545 A group of fourth year architecture students at Butler University have designed and constructed a mobile greenhouse. Butler University is located in Indianapolis, Indiana and has almost 5,000 students. Butler University created this project in collaboration with architecture students from Ball State University (22,000 students) from Muncie, Indiana. Butler University has a teaching farm onto which they wanted to construct a greenhouse. As it turns out, the teaching farm is in a flood plain and the University could not get a building permit for the greenhouse. With the help of a $50,000 grant, it was decided that a mobile greenhouse would fill the need and…

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Oprah and Grow Your Own Food

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Touch the Soil News #539 (Feature photo CC. 2.0 Flicker) With the holiday season approaching, Oprah released her list of favorite things to buy. Item number nine (9) was urban grow kits. The grow kits come with one pack of organic seeds, one balanced bag of organic soil and one container to grow the plant in. https://www.urban-agriculture.net/collections The urban grow kits are created and shipped by the Urban Agriculture Company of Los Angeles, California and range in price from $17 to $19. In her own words, Oprah explains the kits: “I absolutely love cooking with fresh produce from my garden, and these urban grow kits will give city folks the…

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