local foods

Regenerative Agriculture: Returning to Our Roots

By Karen DuVall

Whenever friends visit my hometown, one of my favorite spots to show off is the bison ranch across the road from my parents’ woods. Carl Van Meter dreamed of looking out his window to see bison roaming as they once had two hundred years ago, so he purchased a pair in 1976. The herd grew to about 100 head, and they were a source of fascination to me as I grew up along with them.

Van Meter Buffalo Ranch in Buffalo, Indiana

Van Meter Buffalo Ranch in Buffalo, Indiana

Regenerative Agriculture holds a similar philosophy to return agricultural acreage to its natural state. What exactly is regenerative agriculture? It’s a practice that’s steadily gaining in notoriety and popularity.

  • Conventional Agriculture focuses on efficiency, high yields, and monoculture (large fields of one type of crop.)

  • Sustainable Agriculture focuses on doing no harm to the land and local food production.

  • Regenerative Agriculture goes a step further by using farming and grazing practices to rebuild topsoil and restore soil biodiversity. This draws down carbon dioxide from the air and improves the water cycle, which in turn helps to reverse climate change.

Healthy topsoil, healthy worms, healthy crops, healthy humans, healthy planet

Healthy topsoil, healthy worms, healthy crops, healthy humans, healthy planet

Due to its very nature, there’s no one right way to practice regenerative agriculture. It heavily depends on the specific needs of the location and local community. It looks to indigenous knowledge and skills from that area. Some examples are conservation tillage, cover crops, composting, and pasture cropping. Here’s a sample of a range of regenerative ag organizations leading the way around the world, while economically benefiting the ag producers.

In fact, bison are a key component of a regenerative agriculture effort at Kankakee Sands in northern Indiana. The Nature Conservancy has been converting 700 acres of row-crop land back into prairie. Bison provide a necessary service to the prairie by grazing down dominant plants, which encourage other plants to thrive and increase biodiversity. This broader range of food encourages more indigenous wildlife to return. Even their large hoofprints are regenerative because they enhance seed dispersal and planting.

Small farmers are facing enormous pressures. Prices are volatile, especially for soybeans and dairy. Extreme heat, droughts, flooding, and shifts in growing seasons are undeniable. Often it seems that the only option is to consolidate with large farms. As ag producers are imagining different paths using sustainable and regenerative practices.

Prosperity Ag is here to help. Whether you’re a conventional, sustainable, or regenerative farmer, there are funding opportunities out there as you weather the storm. Contact us today to learn more.

Kids and Veggies: A Love Story

By Karen DuVall

Ask almost any parent and they’ll tell you that it’s a struggle to get their kids to eat vegetables, or even TRY them.

Seriously, just try it… Just a bite. Please… One piece…

It seems like this war has been raging since the dawn of time. Parents and teachers have tried virtually everything to reason, negotiate, and trick their kids into eating something healthy.

Government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and universities have attempted multiple strategies to increase healthy food consumption among children with uneven success. They’ve mounted educational campaigns to share information with parents and children about the nutritional value of fruits and vegetables. They’ve also taken the marketing approach by re-writing popular children’s songs with verses about veggies, and you might remember the controversy around Cookie Monster expanding his culinary palate to include fruit.

But a more down-home solution may exist: getting kids involved in gardening and farming. I was clued into this idea last year while I was catching up with one of my friends over the phone. She mentioned how weird it was that her five-year-old would only eat strawberries from the vines she helped plant. I laughed and thought it was cute, but it turns out that my friend’s daughter isn’t the only one. The research bears this out.

Kids who garden are more likely to eat their veggies.

Kids who garden are more likely to eat their veggies.

Researchers looked at several studies of garden-based nutrition education programs, and they found that, across the board, gardening increased children’s vegetable consumption

Our results suggest that gardening should be an integral component of wellness programs and policies.
— HortTechnology

Kids’ connection to local farms and farmers also shows promise. The USDA Farm-to-School program links local agricultural producers to K-12 schools to supply fresh local produce. The program also encourages school-based gardening in creative ways. Just for example, a school district in Michigan built two mobile greenhouse buses in its community garden.

The Farm-to-School program has shown signs of success. The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior did a study on plate waste at six elementary schools to track how much food students were throwing out after their lunches. They found that the kids at schools ate more fruits and vegetables with Farm-to-School procurement from local agriculture, compared to similar schools that did not.

We are grateful for this newfound hope for parents and teachers. All is not lost is the Kids vs. Veggies debate, and Prosperity is here to help. If you are an ag producer, educator, or nonprofit leader who would like more information on funding opportunities for gardening and local foods nutrition programs, we’d love to talk with you! Contact us now and let us know your ideas.

 

Local Food Does a Body Good

By Sherri Dugger

The local food events and conferences around Indiana are beginning to multiply. And for good reason.

Local food systems positively affect economic growth of small towns and cities across our state. The more farmers and food producers we have providing for their communities, the healthier and wealthier the communities they serve. Conversely, economic growth can support and promote local food systems. Policy makes sure of that, and if policy provides technical and financial support for our food growers and local food systems, we all win.

Local food is indeed trending, and it shows no signs of slowing down. Food connoisseurs are hashtagging and Instagramming their local meals. Restaurants champion their locally grown menus. Farmers markets continue to multiply throughout the state. Despite this, estimates on how much local food being bought and sold still remains low, relatively speaking. In Indiana, food is a $16 billion a year business, and 90 percent of the food Hoosiers eat is imported into the state.

Local food is trending!

Local food is trending!

What that means for local food growers and producers? There’s plenty of opportunity.

When I speak at food and farming conferences throughout the state, I enjoy conversations with farmers and food producers of all ages and stages. Some farmers are starting up community gardens to feed low food access neighborhoods in urban areas. Others are planting and plotting out small five-acre diversified farms or agritourism businesses. Some are growing using aquaponic or hydroponic methods. Some are producing food in season-extending high tunnels and greenhouses. Still others are raising commodity grains from fence row to fence row.

   Then there are the food artisans, the food system advocates, and the foodies, themselves, who are throwing potlucks and slow-food soirées to celebrate our state’s natural bounty.

   These wonderful minds and passionate leaders are gathering each year at Indiana’s community events to discuss the ways we can make our food systems better. To address economic growth and local food systems simultaneously, we must develop food value chains made up of stakeholders who share the same values, who strive for transparency, and who work for and support the production of healthy, fresh foods traveling as few food miles as possible. We need policy makers, food council members, growers, aggregators, processors, distributors, retailers, wholesale institutions and eaters all to sit down at the same table. The outcome of these gatherings will most certainly lead to creating more sustainable food systems that better feed our communities.

   And we need good policy. Over the next few months, our legislators will be discussing the future of our farm bill, which is the most important legislation regarding food and farming in the United States. The farm bill determines the funding that nutrition programs, farm safety nets, beginning farmer training programs, and conservation programs will receive—programs like the Local Foods Promotion Program and the Farmers Market Promotion Program receive. The farm bill affects all of us, and it determines whether farmers and food growers can access funds to start and grow their businesses.

Yes, local food tastes good. It’s also good for our health, our local economies, and for our communities. Simply put, local food is important. Talk to your legislators, tell your stories, and advocate for strong, local food systems. Because, even in Indiana, local food is always in season.


Sherri Dugger serves as the media and outreach director for Indiana Farmers Union, as a rural affairs consultant for The Humane Society of the United States , and as a Midwest outreach consultant for Earthjustice. She lives with her husband, Randy, and their dogs, cats, alpacas, goats, chickens, and bees at Dugger Family Farm in Morristown, Indiana. Sherri is also the creator and editor of a local food resource, Hoosier Locavore.

Welcome!

We're excited to kick off Prosperity Ag's blog. Our team members here at Prosperity are looking forward to sharing their perspectives on subjects like renewable energy and energy efficiency, local foods and sustainable farming, and anything else affecting rural communities. We would love to hear your feedback. Let's get the conversation started!