Farming with Pen and Paper: Crop Planning at the Aquaponics Project

Basil ready for its first harvest at the Aquaponics Project

Basil ready for its first harvest at the Aquaponics Project

Visitors to the CLF Aquaponics Project often ask, “As farm manager, what do you do all day? It looks like the system runs itself, right?” Although an aquaponics system, if managed efficiently, can require less labor than a soil-based farm, the lush rafts of swiss chard, kale, and sorrel need help to develop into quality produce. Every plant is seeded, transplanted, managed for pests and diseases, harvested, and sometimes even pruned or trellised as it grows. However, the trickiest part in managing any farm is in the planning that takes place behind the scenes.

A farm plan will determine the success or failure of a business; and since every piece of land, microclimate, and market is slightly different, it can take years of experience in one place to get right.  At the CLF Aquaponics Project, we are continually learning Read More >

Gone Fishin’: The Tilapia Harvest

tilapia demo

Tilapia demo at JHU, 2014.

I’ve grown vegetables for most of my adult life, and I have become accustomed to eating a lot of locally produced food, either resulting from my own farming endeavors or a trip to the local farmers market.  I feel fortunate to be able to easily source the majority of the vegetables on my plate from small-scale, local growers, or grow them myself. However, despite growing up in coastal communities, there have only been a handful of times in my life when the fish I ate came from a local source. Last Tuesday, I was provided with an opportunity to eat fish produced in Baltimore City when we harvested 20 pounds of tilapia from the CLF Aquaponics Project.

Working with Bon Appetit Management Company Read More >

Puget Sound Food Network Connects Locally Grown Food to Institutional Markets

June 9-12, Amanda Behrens and I journeyed to Missoula, Montana for the joint annual meetings of the Agriculture Food and Human Values Society (AFHVS), Association for the Study of Food and Society (ASFS) and the Society for Anthropology of Food and Nutrition (SAFN). The conference, entitled Food and Agriculture Under the Big Sky: Peoples, Partnerships, Policies, was impressively diverse in its attendees and covered subject matter.

University of Montana campus, where the conference was held

University of Montana campus, where the conference was held

For each session, conference goers had ten choices of roundtables, panels, workshops, or individual paper presentations to choose from. I was constantly torn between attending sessions on subjects I work on or learning about something totally new – Feminism, Labor and Justice or Adaptations to Climate Change? Food Choice and Identity in the Nineteenth Century or Pursuing Poultry Practicalities? While each choice meant missing many others, I was learning and impressed in every session by the presenters. They all brought with them their unique approaches to food systems issues, as theorists, students, policymakers, advocates, and on-the-ground change makers.

I was particularly drawn to one roundtable: Equity, Health & Regional Food Economies: The Power of Institutional Markets. Sourcing healthy local food to institutions has always struck me as an equally daunting and vital task in improving local food systems. I have imagined taking on that task to mean navigating complex power structures and bureaucracies, permits, vested interests of corporate food sources, distribution jargon, etc. So I was excited to hear what the speakers had to say. Read More >

CLF’s 9th Dodge Lecturer Vandana Shiva: Sustainable Local Food is Imperative

At the 9th annual Dodge Lecture yesterday at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health (video will be posted on CLF’s website soon), world renowned scientist and environmentalist Vandana Shiva stated that the most important issues in sustainable agriculture today are the disappearance of nutrition in food (a major public health concern) and localization of food sovereignty. Much of what passes for ‘food’ today -processed foods heavy with corn and soy byproducts – lacks the nutrition that once was the defining feature of food. The so-called gains of the Green Revolution weren’t so much gains as displacements. More wheat, rice and corn was grown, instead of the varied plethora of grains that had supported humans for centuries with diverse nutrients. Good nutrition in food comes from healthy soil, which is a result of biodiverse and sustainable agriculture practices, not vast monocultures. As we continue to grow chemically dependent monocultures of a few crops, we denude the soil of the organisms that keep it healthy and impart necessary nutrients to our food. Dr. Shiva expands on soil health in her recent book: Soil Not Oil. Read More >