2008 Harvest Award Winners
In 2008 the Harvest Awards were celebrated in town and in the country, reflecting the importance of the urban-rural connection in support of local foods. The Harvest Awards were formally presented at a dinner at Glynwood on Saturday, October 25, where guests had the opportunity to meet the winners and learn more about their organizations and accomplishments. On Sunday the Award winners and Glynwood staff were joined by Frederick Kirschenmann for a roundtable discussion about their work, its challenges and their visions for the future of sustainable agriculture.
On Monday, October 27, the Harvest Award winners were introduced at a lunch at Beacon Restaurant in New York City, where the first Glynwood Medal for Distinguished Leadership in Sustainable Agriculture was presented to Frederick Kirschenmann. Guests listened to him talk about the challenges and opportunities facing agriculture and enjoyed a lunch of locally produced foods prepared by top New York City and Hudson Valley chefs.
In 1885, the NYS Forest Commission asserted that “the Adirondack region, as a whole, is utterly unfit for agricultural purposes.” Rob Hastings is proving them wrong. He has pioneered advances in season extension, using hoop houses, high tunnels, row covers, wind breaks, zip covers and walls of water, to create a year-round operation, in spite of the Adirondacks’ short growing season. Rivermede is managed without pesticides or chemical fertilizers. Some of the innovations that make this possible are based on what Rob learned during the six years he spent at Penn State specializing in tissue culture. He is also drastically reducing energy use on the farm. Rob’s impact reaches beyond his own community. He has been a leader in the effort to create Adirondack Harvest as a regional brand and to create a network of regional growers that now involves 227 farmers along with 54 restaurants and stores in 8 counties, helping improve the economic viability of the entire farm community.
His most recent project is creation of a farm store that provides an outlet for other farmers’ products as well as his own and that educates customers about the importance of supporting local farms. Rob Hastings is an example of how a great grower, with passion and commitment, can have an impact that extends far beyond his or her own fences.
“My photovoltaic panels are online and the geothermal heating project should be finished by next summer. My hope is to be independent of oil with in two years.”
—Rob Hastings, Rivermede Farm
Although Detroit has close to one million residents, there are few neighborhoods where residents have ready access to healthy foods. There are only a handful of full-service grocery stores in the entire City. Twenty seven percent of the land in the City—103,000 parcels—is vacant. It is in this context that the Garden Resource Program has flourished, bringing land back into a productive use that strengthens neighborhoods and their residents. Now in its fifth year, the Program provides support for 320 family gardens, 160 community gardens, 40 schools gardens and six farmers markets. More than 8,000 gardeners participated in the program this year, producing literally tons of healthy, fresh foods. Participants receive resources including seeds, Detroit grown transplants and compost. The Program also provides hands-on training for gardeners, leadership opportunities and policy organizing to support local food systems. The Program was created by a consortium of local organizations. Their successful model is based on a neighborhood-based organizing approach that efficiently weaves together resources and a wide range of programs to conduct projects that serve disparate areas of the city. In the words of one colleague: the Garden Resource Program “has evolved a robust, complexly layered quilt of networks, resources, services and strategies that have led to the creation of a community of growers, eaters, neighbors, teachers, learners and urban citizens.”
Another wrote: “Detroit is not an easy city in which to live. Its vitality and soul flourishes in the personal relationships among those of us who live here. The Garden Resource Program collaborative nourishes its participants’ bodies, minds, soils and souls.”
The Garden Resource Program exemplifies the powerful impact that can result from effective collaboration among organizations and community residents and addresses a critical issue for city residents at the intersection of food and health.
“I saw a grown man dance in the street after he picked the first radish he had grown. It gave him a new sense of his ability to affect the world.”
—Patrick Crouch, EarthWorks Urban Farm
/The Garden Resources Program.
“If the city of Detroit can do it, the whole world can do it.”
—Ashley Atkinson, Greening of Detroit/
Garden Resources Program
Since its founding a decade ago, the FoodRoutes Conservancy has had a measurable impact on farms and communities across the country by helping to change the way people think about buying food.FoodRoutes has achieved this by combining the resources of a centralized national organization with the power of grassroots chapters.
FoodRoutes used specially commissioned national marketing research to create templates for educational and promotional materials with messaging about why and how to buy local food. The materials are put into action through Buy Fresh Buy Local®chapters that are organized by local communities. FoodRoutes staff helps tailor the templates to reflect that region’s
food and farming specialties and provides other technical assistance.
This strategy has now been used by 74 chapters spanning 43 states. Through it, FoodRoutes is leading the way in the effort to strengthen local food economies. The results are dramatic. For example, local food purchases in Black Hawk County, Iowa have increased by 1800% since that chapter began ten years ago. During that period the purchases of local food at just one institution, the University of Northern Iowa, have increased from $111,000 to more than $2.1 million.
FoodRoutes and the Buy Fresh Buy Local® Program demonstrate the power of combining research, resources, and support on the national level with the energy and community connections of grassroots organizing.
“Our food is just as endangered as our open spaces, birds, and wetlands, and it needs to be equally respected.”
—Tim Schlitzer, FoodRoutes Conservancy
Nuestras Raíces is based in Holyoke,Massachusetts, a predominantly Puerto Rican community and the poorest city in the state. The organization’s name means “our roots” in Spanish and builds on the community’s heritage by using sustainable food and agriculture to create meaningful employment, cultural celebrations, and leadership opportunities. The wide array of programs conducted by Nuestras Raíces provides hope, empowerment, and stability for multiple generations of citizens in a city faced with poverty and urban decay.
Started by the members of one urban community garden in 1992, Nuestras Raíces has grown into a robust network of gardens, business incubators, and farmer training and youth programs. It has assisted in the creation of 25 food and agriculture businesses, community-led environmental efforts and food policy councils.
Tierra de Oportunidades (Land of Opportunities) is one of its cornerstone projects. Based on thirty acres of fertile land along the Connecticut River, it serves as a training site for fifteen beginning farmers, a new business incubator, an environmental conservation and stewardship project, a youth development initiative, and a cultural heritage project. Beginning farmers grow crops and livestock varieties traditionally used by the Puerto Rican and Caribbean communities. Their produce is sold at local farmers markets which mostly serve elders and people with low incomes. Youth play a key role in maintaining and running the site and often stay involved in the project for years. The farm is said to be a “bright beacon of hope in a blighted portion of a city plagued for many years now by racial tensions and poverty.”
The scale, approach, and depth of Nuestras Raíces’ programs make it an exceptional example of a holistic approach to food systems and social change, by and for those who need it most, including our next generation of citizens and farmers.