Urban Farming Improving the Lives of Seniors

ext

Spark Architects has come up with a unique urban farm concept called Homefarm, which is primarily aimed at improving the health and life of seniors at a Singapore retirement home. Homefarm is an aquaponic system, which is easy to manage and therefore ideal for seniors to work on.

According to the architects, the greatest potential of Homefarm lies in its ability to bring together two realms that are normally kept separate, namely the accommodation of seniors with urban farming. Singapore has an ageing population, as do most developed countries across the globe, and it imports more than 90 percent of its food. When employed, the Homefarm concept would take care of both of these issues at the same time.

arial plan

arial

biomas

Homefarm is a vertical aquaponic farm, in which the plants would be fertilized by the waste produced by fish also farmed alongside the vegetation. The farm would allow for rooftop soil and ground-level planting of vegetables. The retirement home would also have a rainwater collection system in place to use in the aquaponic farm, while plant waste would also be harvested with the aim of using it for biomass energy generation. The entire farm would be designed to accommodate the special needs of the retirees, and the latter would run it under the instruction of a professional team.

Related Articles on JetsonGreen.com:
Melbourne Festival to Feature Shipping Container Display in Urban Coffee Farm
Urban Farm Made of Shipping Containers
Multi-Generational Retirement Home Combines Sustainability with Accessibility


The Farmer Who Stopped Planting GMO Crops

Photo credit:  Shutterstock

by s.e. smith

You might think this is the time of year when things are calm on the farm, but just the opposite is true. While the fields are quiet and the farming equipment is quietly tucked away in the barn, it’s time to select the crops for next year and determine what’s being planted where.

Choosing crops, however, isn’t just about deciding to grow carrots, peas or corn (or, more accurately, corn, wheat, or soy), but what kind of any given crop a farmer wants to produce: sweet corn vs. high-starch corn, for example, depending on what’s likely to sell best in the coming year. Furthermore, the farmer needs to make another critical decision: genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or non-GMOs?

Photo credit:  Shutterstock

Photo credit: Shutterstock

For some farmers, it’s an easy choice. Some are actively trying to avoid GMO crops to obtain specialty certifications and the premium price that comes with them, while others may be seeking to produce crops more sustainably and ethically. Others prefer GMO crops for a variety of reasons, including perceived ease of harvesting, specific desired traits and contracts with seed companies.

There’s a serious drawback to growing with GMO seeds, though: They tend to be extremely costly. Biotechnology companies need to recoup their research and development costs, which requires high prices for seed and related specialty products such as specially formulated herbicides and pesticides. Farmers who pay these premiums can get locked into a merry-go-round with the biotech company, finding themselves trapped with GMO crops or reluctant to change.

That was certainly the case with Chris Huegerich, a farmer in Iowa who started out growing with GMO seeds because his father had embraced the technology and didn’t see any other way to grow. Initially, the crops performed extremely well, but in recent years, Huegerich had noticed a decline in yields and performance as pests and weeds became resistant. So he decided to run an experiment, planting part of his fields last year with conventional seeds. He immediately noticed a difference: they were cheaper to buy and cheaper to grow, and the yield was higher, too. In 2013, he repeated the experiment, converting an even higher percentage of his acreage to non-GMO planting, and he was similarly pleased by the result.

Considerable consumer pressure already has played a significant role in attitudes about GMO crops. As more and more consumers demand food labeling and specifically seek out GMO-free products, companies in turn are asking their supplying farmers to consider planting with conventional seeds. This is combined with a growing realization that GMO crops may not be as miraculous as previously believed when it comes to pest resistance and pairing with herbicides for weed control is leading some farmers to do the same thing Huegerich did, questioning the value of GMOs and giving conventional seeds a go.

One of the things that’s particularly interesting about these cases is that the farmers involved are not necessarily pushing for organic certification or even aiming for consumers who prefer GMO-free products. They’re just finding that non-GMOs work better for their needs, illustrating that sometimes, a revolution can come from a surprising corner.

If farmers continue to turn away from GMOs, biotech companies will have to scramble even harder to come up with new products and persuasive sales techniques. And even that may not be enough. In this case, a persuasive economic argument for working with non-GMO crops is emerging from multiple perspectives—those of consumers and farmers alike—and it may prove to be a tipping point for the industry.

Visit EcoWatch’s GMO page for more related news on this topic.

http://ecowatch.com/newsletter-signup/

How Eating Healthy Improves Farming Communities and the Environment

This Michigan farm uses a mix of orchards and field crops. Such diverse farm landscapes are good for the environment and rural economies. Photo credit: Union of Concerned Scientists

Eating fresher, healthier food would not only be good for our bodies—it would improve the health of our farmland, environment and rural communities.

The Healthy Farmland Diet, a new report from Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), uses economic modeling techniques to estimate the effects of changing food consumption on agricultural land use.

This Michigan farm uses a mix of orchards and field crops. Such diverse farm landscapes are good for the environment and rural economies. Photo credit: Union of Concerned Scientists

This Michigan farm uses a mix of orchards and field crops. Such diverse farm landscapes are good for the environment and rural economies. Photo credit: Union of Concerned Scientists

The report looked at what would happen if Americans ate fruits and vegetables at USDA-recommended levels. The modeling techniques predicted consumption of fruits and vegetables would increase by 173 percent over current levels and U.S. farmers would grow 88 percent more of these foods.

If meat and dairy consumption fell to levels recommended by the Harvard University School of Public Health, the study found farmers would grow less corn and other grain commodity crops used as livestock feed—8 million acres less. Reduced demand for meat would lower agriculture’s contribution to global warming as well.

Growing more fruits and vegetables and less of the commodity crops that currently dominate U.S. agriculture would produce healthier soil, air and water, as well as provide economic benefits in the form of job growth and increased access to healthy foods for farm communities, the study predicted.

Only about 2 percent of U.S. cropland is now used to grow fruits and vegetables, while 59 percent is devoted to commodity crops, such as corn and soybeans, which are used primarily to produce three things: meat, processed foods such as high fructose corn syrup and biofuels such as ethanol.

These crops are grown using monoculture practices that rely on heavy application of fertilizers and pesticides to compensate for their soil-depleting and pest-attracting effects. Monoculture is also less beneficial for local economies than more diverse farm landscapes.

The study also notes that increasing production of healthy foods will have ripple effects in local economies, creating jobs and spurring regional economic development.

Smart, forward-looking farm policies can help attain the goal of increasing production and consumption of healthy foods, UCS said. The group recommends Congress and the USDA should:

Fund and implement programs that help farmers grow more fruits and vegetables, such as removing planting restrictions, developing effective crop insurance programs and investing in research to develop better fruit and vegetable varieties.
Fund and implement policies to improve consumer access to fruits and vegetables, such as bolstering programs to help build market infrastructure and removing obstacles to the use of nutrition-assistance benefits at farmers’ markets.
Curb subsidies that promote production of ingredients for unhealthy processed foods—instead making modest increases in funding for programs, like those above, that help farmers grow the foods Americans need.

Visit EcoWatch’s SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE page for more related news on this topic.

topnewsbanner12

During Record Drought, Frackers Outcompete Farmers for Water Supplies

“There is a new player for water, which is oil and gas. And certainly they are in a position to pay a whole lot more than we are.”