Archive for the ‘Food Cooperatives’ Category
Iowa may seem an unlikely destination for a young college graduate from Ithaca, New York. But not for Kristen Loria, who grew up with a passion for the rising food movement in Ithaca, later graduating from Cornell University in environmental science and sustainable agriculture. She grew to love a life rooted in agriculture with a commitment to creating a world that marries ecological and human well-being, rather than “one always being sacrificed for the other”.
After a splattering of experiences working on farms, in sustainable farm organizations and schools, Kristen landed in Iowa with AmeriCorps, immersing herself in garden and nutrition education programs. She found Iowa is a “place that embodies what our modern food system has become”.
Living in Iowa helped her to recognize “a serious flaw in the way we talk about food and agriculture” in terms of efficiency of production. She found although “many Iowans take enormous pride in Iowa’s effort to ‘feed the world’”, most of the productivity goes to energy and animal feed. This assumption stifles the necessary discussions to address and fix the food system.
However, changes within the Iowa food landscape are being introduced alongside conventional production practices. Kristen noted that while agriculture is a “very polarizing realm politically,” it is increasingly important to “collaborate with diverse farmers and perspectives” to truly make a change. Unlike New York, a relatively small producer state, Iowa has presented Kristen with a new, “beneficial dynamic.”
As her experiences continue to pile up, Kristen has realized the fluidity in which she can fit within the food movement–trying on different roles that “fit together and inform each other in valuable ways”, whether on the coast or in the cornfield.
Part 2 and 3 of this Iowa story will focus on two innovative programs that support the development of a new breed of young farmers, the Greenhorns and Farm Hack, which uses technology to create a collaborative environment between all farmers, young and old.
In 2005, a vast amount of the Vietnamese community living in New Orleans came from fishing and agricultural backgrounds. They farmed on their individual plots and had an unofficial but well-known schedule and location to sell their produce.
Then, Hurricane Katrina blasted through with insurmountable levels of damage. Most residents lived at least 6 miles away from the nearest grocery store, and 20% of them lacked a means of transportation to get there. Homes were blown away, but gardens and farms had an even worse survival rate.
From the debris of this tragedy, grew the Veggi Farmer’s Cooperative, as in VEGGI (Village de l’Est Green Growers Initiative), “food rebels” who are genuinely changing the way we eat. Not just what we put in our mouths–but creating a whole new mind-set about food and how it affects our livelihoods and communities.
The group faced “deep” challenges from the start, such as wetland mitigation restrictions on digging the 28-acre plot for which they had dearly fought. Then, a second disaster, the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, displaced overnight even more of this community who made their living from fishing.
The urban farm swiftly switched to an aquaponics farm model, a revolutionary concept that mimics nature in order to grow vegetables and raise fish together by combining two different methods: aquaculture, the raising of fish, and hydroponics, growing vegetables without soil.
In November of 2010, the group pulled together and started organizing as a co-op. They are now called the Veggi Farmer’s Cooperative and implement both aquaponics and land agriculture techniques. They now grow organic produce and fish that are distributed to 16-20 restaurants, sell in two markets, as well as feed themselves and their community with everything from Bibb lettuce to Taro root and Vietnamese coriander. They are even experimenting with greenhouse production for a healthy year-round supply of greens and creating a community seed bank and two edible gardens at local schools.
When asked why they chose to grow organic, they responded that this is the way that the Vietnamese community knew how to farm, and after seeing all of the pollution and chemicals that were released into the environment after the hurricane and the oil spill, they couldn’t imagine another way.
Find them on Facebook: VeggiFarmersCooperative