Two years after starting Fresh Water Greens, Owner Regina Villari (left) along with her brother and Production Manager Joseph Villari, have fresh lettuces and herbs in 37 supermarkets throughout New Jersey.
It’s been two years since Regina Villari, of Sewell, N.J., stepped into unchartered territory. Her idea was so different that no one else in her New Jersey town was doing it.
“I was intrigued by the operation,” said Villari. “I always wanted to have my own business and I wanted to do something in the local community that could provide fresh, local produce all year round.”
That something turned out to be a hydroponic greenhouse. Hydroponics uses nutrient-rich water instead of soil to grow lettuce, herbs, tomatoes and other vegetables. The greenhouse allows Villari to grow the crops year round, feeding thousands of people throughout the state. Read more »
Somewhere between the 12 hour days Jaclyn spends on her 10 acre farm in Northern California plus her off-farm baking job, she somehow found time to pen a great piece in Salon about her experiences as a new farmer. She describes how she and her partner are struggling to balance their love of the land and passion for farming with the financial challenges of starting a new business. ”Surely many farmers enjoy what they do, as I often find pleasure in my daily tasks, but ultimately farming is work, an occupation, a means of making a living that must fulfill the basic function of a job: to provide an income,” she writes.
February 7 marks the first anniversary of the Agriculture Act of 2014, commonly known as the 2014 Farm Bill. This milestone provides an opportunity to report on the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s (NIFA) efforts during the last year to implement the many provisions of relevance to the agency. Here are a few of the more significant provisions that have been implemented: Read more »
What do Tristan Reader of Tohono O’odham Community Action (TOCA), Amy Bacigalupo of the Land Stewardship Project in Minnesota, Haile Johnston of Common Market in Philadelphia and Michael Todd’s environmental studies class at Ames High School in Ames, IA have in common? They’re all building connections between farms and consumers and creating strong local food systems in their communities. And all joined me for a Google+ Hangout – a live, virtual panel – on Thursday, November 21 to discuss their work.
There is amazing energy surrounding the development of local food systems in communities nationwide, and our discussion certainly reflected that. But it also came at a time of uncertainty. Congress has yet to pass a Food, Farm and Jobs bill, the major piece of legislation funding USDA’s local food efforts (along with many other critical programs). Until a bill is passed, many of the key resources for producers, businesses and communities engaged in local food systems are without funding. That reality lent a sense of urgency to some of the topics we discussed. Read more »
Windy City Harvest Graduate Aaron Serrano shows NIFA National Program Leader Siva Sureshwaran seedlings in the Daley City College greenhouse. (Photo: Alexandra Wilson)
Aaron Serrano was 15 years-old when he was charged with a felony and sentenced as an adult to two years in a Chicago-area prison. Today, at age 18, he has a full-time job at FarmedHere, an aquaponics agricultural producer in Chicago, where his boss calls him “a treasure.”
Serrano’s transformation from a troubled teenager into a well-trained agricultural professional wouldn’t have been possible without the opportunities given to him by the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Windy City Harvest, which runs a Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) project funded by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Read more »
A passion for agriculture is what brought 50 young farmers to the Washington, D.C., area this week, as part of a national networking forum for the next generation of producers.
“We want to let young producers know that their voice is important and they shouldn’t be hesitant or bashful about communicating with policymakers,” said Gordon Stone, executive vice president of the National Young Farmer Educational Association, or NYFEA, which sponsored Agriculture’s Promise: The Washington Forum.
Undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Michael Scuse joined several speakers on day two of the three-day event — held Monday, Feb. 4 at National Harbor — to provide an overview of the Farm Service Agency, Risk Management and Foreign Agricultural Service and encourage discussion about USDA’s programs and policies. Scuse mentioned a new microloan program designed to help small and family operations, beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers secure loans under $35,000. Microloans will help producers through their start-up years by providing needed resources and helping to increase equity so that farmers may eventually graduate to commercial credit and expand their operations. Scuse also spoke about the importance of communicating effectively with rural America. Read more »