Browse Tag

farming

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How to Start Your Own Indoor Farm

The best kind of independence and security you can have is food security. Growing what you need right in your backyard, kitchen garden, or even indoors can make you feel empowered and reduce your dependence on expensive produce.

Indoor farming functions on the concept of utilizing indoor spaces for growing fresh vegetables, microgreens, herbs, and even flowering plants by leveraging the power of technology.

The concepts of aeroponics, hydroponics, soil-based & hybrid indoor cropping are rapidly catching people’s interest because of their high yield and relatively simpler management.

According to Mordor Intelligence, the indoor farming market is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 8.1% over the forecast period of 2022-27 – a statistic that is quite encouraging.

Here’s all you need to know to get started.

Selecting the Right Production Method

Today, many growers practice Urban Farming, where they use modern methods to maximize yields from smaller areas and try to grow crops indoors. There are various ways in which you can increase crop production. Some of them are Deep Water Culture, Nutrient Films, Media Beds, Aeroponics, Hydroponics, etc.

The method best suited for your space depends on the area you designate for cropping, the kind of crop you wish to grow, and the investment (time and money) you want to put into it. Lighting and water requirements are also some factors to consider when selecting a suitable production method.

Setting up Lighting

Setting up the right kind of lighting for your indoor farming system is essential to maximize the production and quality of crop yield. For example, hydroponics systems need a longer duration of artificial light – about 14 to 16 hours a day, while aquaponics would need about 13 hours of natural light.

The requirement is different for each system, so set up your indoor farm at a place where the surroundings can help meet its lighting requirements.

Gathering Tools

Nobody can professionally farm without the right tools. When researching urban farming methods, look up the tools you require to keep it functioning well. If opportunity allows, get some training to handle minor repairs or modifications yourself. It can help you figure out how to tweak the system for the best results.

Getting the Crop and Seeds

Once the setup is complete and the indoor plantation system achieves the recommended status (like required in hydroponics), you can start planting. Depending on what you are planning to grow, some crops need to be grown from seed, while some can be grafted. Acquire the starter sapling/leaf/seed/root, etc., and begin planting.

Monitoring and Maintenance

Once the planting is complete, all that remains is ensuring the health of the crop and the system. Monitor the status of your crops and indoor farming setup to see whether it performs as it should. If needed, acquire fertilizer or growing aid to help the saplings. Some indoor plantation systems need special fertilizers, like in hydroponics. Also, create schedules for every aspect of the plant’s health supervision.

Indoor farming can sound daunting at first, but you’ll ease into it once you grow familiar with the process, systems, and plants.

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5 Steps for Creating Your First Vegetable Garden

Are you thinking of creating your own vegetable garden? Growing your own vegetables will provide you with inexpensive, fresh, organic vegetables and offer health benefits that come with being closer to nature. If you are a first-time vegetable gardener, follow these steps to start your garden now!

1.   Plan and Prep

When you are new to gardening, it’s better to start small to make sure it’s fun and fulfilling. Plan your seeds, buy organic manures, get the required tools, and get enough pots or materials to separate the gardening area. Make sure you have everything you need before you start with gardening. If you don’t know where to start, here’s a checklist of must-have gardening tools!

  • Gardening Gloves
  • Secateurs
  • Hand Trowel
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Shovel
  • Rake
  • Hand Saw
  • Garden Pitchfork

2.   Pick a Spot

Do you have a place in your yard that receives 6 hours or more direct sunlight? If yes, you’ve found the spot for your vegetable garden. Make sure this spot has access to a water source. If the water source is far, it is likely that the plants will get ignored. You can also use a self-watering system for sufficient irrigation.

The spot you pick should be sheltered from high winds to ensure the plants grow well. Use a trench or high bed to separate the gardening area from the rest of the space. You can also fence it with wooden planks, rocks, or any available material.

3.   Plan Your Bed

You can plan where each seed will go in the garden bed. Make a visual representation of the space each plant takes in the garden bed. Knowing how much each plant will grow can help in the successful design of the space.

Keep companion planting in mind when you are planning the garden bed. Even though seeds and transplants are tiny, fully developed plants can grow huge. Plants struggle to flourish when they are overcrowded. Small, well-kept gardens thrive better than vast, unkempt ones.

4.   Plant in Rich Soil

Your vegetable garden needs the richest soil for the best harvest. Rich, healthy soil is easy to dig and drains well. To determine the quality of your soil, check if it is gritty, powdery, or sticky.

A combination of sand, silt, clay in specific proportions will determine the quality of the soil for gardening as it affects the nutrients and drainage. Add enough compost and mix it well with the soil.

5.   Sow the Seed

With everything else in place, it’s time to sow the seeds. The bulbs and the big seeds go directly in the bed, while the small ones need to be planted in a seedling tray or pot first. The sproutings can be replanted to the bed when they have grown slightly and have at least 4-5 leaves. With constant care, you will be harvesting and eating your own veggies in no time!

Gardening requires a lot of time and patience. If you find it difficult to water the plants and keep a check on them when needed, you can install a self-watering system by Torpedopot.

This doesn’t mean you can ignore the plants completely as they require regular attention; it will just take one more thing off the to-do list for you.

Powered by Torpedopot

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Black Owned Grocery Store Receives $2.5 Million Grant

Forty Acres Fresh Market is a startup grocer founded in 2018 by Liz Abunaw in response to the lack of fresh food options on Chicago’s West Side.

Forty Acres Fresh Market
Liz Abunaw

As much as Liz loved offering fresh produce at pop-ups, farmers’ markets, and a grocery delivery service, her dream was to open a brick-and-mortar store.

It seems her dream has come true. The city of Chicago is backing the development of a Black-owned supermarket with a $2.5 million grant, funded under the Chicago Recovery Plan.

The Chicago Recovery Plan Community Development Grant program will offer small grants up to $250,000 and large grants up to $5 million. Business owners can apply online. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, with a first-round deadline on Jan. 31 and a second-round deadline on March 10.

For Forty Acres Fresh Market, the grant will fund part of the construction costs, including plumbing, mechanical and electrical work for things like refrigerators and freezers. They expect to apply for construction permits in the coming months. Construction will begin once the city approves the permits, a process that could take three to five months.

Tracy Smith has been with Forty Acres since the beginning.

“It’s very exciting,” Smith said. “I’ve never been a part of anything like this … I’ve seen Liz do everything, from the first events to finding a location where they wanted the store … Every time we go over there to get something, someone asks when it is going to open.”

The store will fill the gap in mid-sized grocery stores, allowing residents to stock up on daily food items between major shopping trips. The store will be full-service, with a range of fresh fruits, veggies, prepared foods, frozen items, a refrigerated section and dry goods.

Bringing a grocery store to the area will improve more than just food access, Abunaw said: A grocery store is part of a neighborhood’s social infrastructure that builds cohesion in a community and benefits all businesses along the corridor. The increased foot traffic and local dollars being circulated within the Austin community can “slowly start to shift the perception that there’s nothing on Chicago” Avenue, she said.

“We want people to start associating good shopping experiences with Austin,” Abunaw told Black Club Chicago. “It’s not just buying food. It’s the people, it’s the customer service. It’s the frozen food aisle and discovering new things you didn’t even know you needed.”

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10 Step Guide for Growing Your Own Food

Growing your own food is a fun and fulfilling experience. It’s tremendously exciting to watch the seeds sprout, grow new leaves, blossom, and bear fruit.

growing your own food

The highlight of it all is harvesting and eating meals made from veggies you cultivated yourself. If you plan to grow your own food, check out our ten easy steps to guide you through the process. 

Choose the Seeds

The growing conditions of each plant are different. Thus, knowing what you will be growing will help you with your research and the rest of the process. Based on the seed availability, your favorite veggies, and the area available for gardening, choose what you want to grow and how much you want to grow.

Know the Veggie Friends

Growing certain plants together is a simple trick gardeners use to increase the profit. As you plan your garden for this year, make sure you choose companion plants that will complement each other and help your garden flourish. They can provide each other with nutrients, shade, or support, as well as attract pollinators and repel pests. 

Do Your Research

Now that you know what you are planting, read up on the season, the growing conditions, and processes for each of the seeds you have chosen. Know that each plant grows in different seasons and requires different amounts of sunlight, water, and manure. Have an understanding of the growing process for each seed to monitor the growth and make informed decisions. 

Find Your Spot

The perfect spot is where you can get a lot of morning sunlight. Sunlight contributes to the growth and development of a plant. However, planting it where the noon light shines a lot can make maintenance more difficult since it would require frequent watering and might even wither quickly. Plants require around 6–7 hours of sunshine to flourish. So, look for a spot with direct sunlight.  

Know Your Soil

Each plant requires different types of soil and pH levels for growth. A simple squeeze test can tell you whether your soil is clay, sand, or loam. Knowing your soil will help you determine how to prepare your soil for maximum yield.

Prepare the Soil

After understanding your soil type, you need to prepare your soil for each produce. Adding compost and fertilizers will help enhance the richness of the soil and help produce better yields. Add a generous amount of garden compost to the soil and mix it well before planting the seeds.

Plant It the Right Way

Depending on the seed, the way to plant it also differs. Some seeds need to be buried deeper, while others need only a light layer of soil to cover them. Bulbs can go straight into the pot, whereas the vulnerable range needs to start seed trays. They can be transplanted into the pot when they have a minimum of 4–5 leaves. Make sure to choose the right pot depending on the expected growth of each plant. 

Add Nutrients and Water

Like any living being, plants require sunlight, nutrients, and water to grow well. Keep a tracker and add fertilizers once every two weeks, and water it depending on the requirement for each plant. You can dip your finger in the soil to check the soil’s moisture level. Also, remember to add pesticides as and when needed. 

Harvest

Keep a close eye on ripening plants. Some need to be harvested raw, some fresh; some are happy to wait till you are ready to harvest, while some wait for none. Know and identify the right time to reap and enjoy harvesting the produce grown all by yourself.

Enjoy!

The final step is to enjoy the organic vegetables/fruit and make a healthy meal to share with your friends and family.

If you are looking for advanced ways to handle your garden, Torpedopot can help you set up a self-growing garden with a built-in, fully automated, pressurized plumbing system that waters your plants for you.

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Black Farmer’s Are Fighting to Be Saved As The Number of Black Owned Farms Grows Smaller

Black farmers in the U.S. have shouldered many blows, but this time, their livelihoods are seriously at risk of extinction. The days when Black farms flourished around the nation are long gone, and now out of the 3.4 million farmers in the U.S. today, only 45,000 are Black, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

So, what happened? How did we go from nearly 1 million Black farms to fewer than 36,000 today? Black farmers say that a combination of systematic racism, discriminatory government policies, and more recently, the effects of the pandemic have led to their downfall.

Without loans from lenders such as the USDA that allows farmers to buy seed, scale, and support themselves during the times between harvest, Black farmers are forced to shut down their farms and say goodbye to a legacy of agriculture.

According to Natalie Belize, author of “We Are Each Other’s Harvest: Celebrating African American Farmers, Land, and Legacy,”the cycle of the mistreatment of Black farmers has persisted for decades, and its “cascading” effects leaves farmers paralyzed as they face a mountain of growing debt.

And now, with the disproportionate economic and physical effects of the pandemic on Black people, Black farmers require critical help and fast. But just when the government has finally stepped up to the plate to provide financial relief for Black farmers, a judge has pushed back and put the money on hold as white farmers cry reverse discrimination.

If passed, the relief plan proposed by the Biden administration will provide $4 billion in loan forgiveness for socially disadvantaged Black, Indigenous, Hispanic, Alaskan native, Asian American, or Pacific Islander farmers. White farmers are ineligible for relief, hence why they believe that the relief package is unconstitutional.

But non-White farmers have been victims of the mistreatment of the USDA for over a century. Not only were Black people not given the 40 acres and a mule following the Civil War that they were promised, but since then, they have been repeatedly denied loans, forced to foreclose their farms, and watch as white farmers reaped the benefits.

Although the USDA has many spokespersons who say that the institution is committed to eradicating racist and discriminatory practices, many Black farmers just don’t buy it, like John Wesley Boyd Jr.

“I think discrimination is still pervasive. I think that it’s done in a much subtler way,” Boyd said to CBS News. “I don’t think you’re going to see many USDA officials spitting on people now or maybe calling them colored, but they aren’t lending them any money—the way they lend White farmers.”

The relief program that Black farmers have been desperately waiting for is still halted and in the hands of U.S. Judge Marcia Morales Howard. So as white and Black farmers alike wait for a motion to be ruled, all Black farmers can do now is continue to fight and keep hope so that they stay afloat.

Written by Reese Williams


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Agricorp Raises $17.5M To Export Spices From Nigeria and Empower Farmers

Agricorp International is a spice producing, processing, and exporting company. Founded in 2018, the Nigeria based startup is on a mission to satisfy a growing global demand for spices.

Although Nigeria is the second largest producer of ginger in the world, it only accounts for  3.5% of the export market share due to capacity constraints and consistency.

Through our engagements with local community members and farmers, Agricorp has created direct jobs for over 100 women and aggregated products from over 4,000 smallholder farmers and is currently on track to aggregate from over 10,000.

Agricorp recently announced a $17.5 million ( 7.2 billion naira) investment that will enable it to increase the amount of ginger and other spices processed and exported to the Middle East, Europe, and America. The investment also secures Agricorp’s position as Africa’s largest spice export startup.

The funding was raised from Vami Nigeria, One Capital LLC and AFEX. Vami led the funding round with $11.5 million in equity, while the other investors provided working capital financing for the company. Ernst & Young (Nigeria) served as transaction advisers while Elisio Law Office and Pavestone Legal served as legal advisers.

“We believe that by increasing our capacity, we will maximize the potentials to boost Nigeria’s forex earnings through export, contribute our quota to improving the Nigerian GDP from agriculture, and serve as a worthy model to African youths who aspire to be agribusiness owners. We want to show them it is possible and very rewarding as well” said Kenneth Obiajulu, Agricorp’s CEO.

Tony O. Lawson


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$20 Million Agriculture and Food Investment Fund Aims to Improve Black Health and Wellness

TPP Capital Holdings (TPP) is a Black owned impact fund manager and healthcare real estate development firm on a mission to change the face of Black health by investing in agribusiness, agriculture, indoor vertical farms/greenhouses, farmland development, health-focused food and beverage enterprises with Black and Brown ownership located in federally qualified opportunity zones throughout the country.

To date, TPP has commitments to provide direct investments through Fund I, including a $2M investment commitment in Vertical Harvest LC3, a Jackson, Wyoming, agri-business that has built a profitable sustainable model for urban hydroponic farms. Other commitments include a $5M equity investment in the construction and operation of a 70,000-square-foot greenhouse that will grow one million pounds of fresh produce annually. The site will be accompanied by 50 affordable units housing for farm workers.

In this interview with founders Anthony Miles and Clinton Bush, we discuss TPP’s plan to reduce food deserts, health disparities, and burdens of chronic medical conditions in the Black community. We also discuss how they can help Black entrepreneurs manufacture healthy food and beverage brands.

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Tony O. Lawson


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From The NFL To The Farm On a Mission To Combat Hunger

At age 26, Jason Brown signed a $37.5 million contract–one of the largest at the time for any NFL lineman. After the St. Louis Rams cut him from the team in 2012, Brown took a long, hard look in the mirror.

“God told me he had something greater in store for me.”

NFL

Instead of fighting for a position on another team, Brown decided to walk away from it all. He moved his family from a mansion to an old farmhouse and he gave up material wealth to go into a hard industry he knew very little about.

That’s how First Fruits Farm had its beginning. First Fruits Farm is also a ministry, donating tons of produce to local food banks and shelters over the years.

“People tell me that I’m crazy, they downright tell me that I’m stupid–OK?–to walk away from millions of dollars. Because if you have the opportunity to play in the NFL, it’s supposed to be a no-brainer,” Brown said on the Tamron Hall Show.

NFL

“A big inspiration from my story comes from my older brother. He was slain in service, serving our country over in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Since 2014, First Fruits Farm has provided more than 1.6 million servings of fresh produce.

Tony O. Lawson


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Black Inventor Creates The World’s First Self Growing Farming System to Combat Food Scarcity and Land Shortage

Darral Addison is a Black inventor with degrees in chemistry and physics. He is also the CEO and founder of Torpedopot™, a company that makes the world’s first self-growing planters.

Torpedopot™ optimizes the conditions in which plants can achieve their full potential and is scientifically designed to grow your plants for you!

In this interview, we discuss how his patented products can address issues such as food scarcity, land shortage, and help individuals grow healthier plants doing less of what we’ve been taught to do.

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Tony O. Lawson


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Chicago Teens Transform Liquor Store Into Fresh Food Market

A liquor store on the West Side of Chicago is being transformed into a pop-up food market after Austin area teens were given the chance to come up with solutions to their neighborhood’s challenges.

Much of Austin is considered to be a food desert. The pop-up market will be opened at 423 N. Laramie Ave., and within a half-mile radius around that site, there are 12 liquor stores but only two markets where people can buy fresh food.

The Austin Harvest food mart pop-up was brought to life by neighborhood teens who recognized the food scarcity in the area and decided to take matters into their own hands.

The market held a soft opening Wednesday where the teens offered produce, fresh-cut flowers, and refreshments.

The market will officially launch Monday and run for 12 weeks. It will be open 3-6 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the site of a former liquor store, 423 N. Laramie Ave.

The project was funded by former Chicago Bears linebacker Sam Acho and other Chicago athletes, as well as By the Hand Kids Club. But it was the teens themselves who envisioned the food mart and brought the idea to fruition.

Young West Siders had their hands in every part of development, from designing the space to crafting a business plan to managing the pop-up.

“We’ve been behind the scenes completely, as well,” said Azariah Baker, one of the teens who created Austin Harvest. “We’ve discussed how we want to show our market, where we wanted our market to be, what we sell, what we look like. This is who runs it.”

chicago
Azariah Baker

The teens started working on the pop-up after the protests for George Floyd in June. By the Hand hosted a series of listening circles to give young people a platform to voice their frustrations around the systemic racism they see in their neighborhood, and to talk about how the civil unrest had impacted them.

There, they discussed how the food scarcity in the neighborhood was part of a legacy of city neglect and racism on the West Side that worsened when some of the few grocery stores in the area had to shut their doors temporarily after being looted.

Keith Cankson

“Food is a basic necessity. But it’s also a basic necessity we don’t have access to,” Baker said.

Realizing the young people were serious about creating a plan for addressing the food desert in Austin, the Chicago athletes raised $500,000 to tear down the liquor store so the teens could develop a neighborhood food resource. Meanwhile, By the Hand worked with architects and placemaking firms to help the kids figure out what the store would look like.

The Hatchery Chicago also chipped in to give the teens entrepreneurship training so they could learn how to implement their business plans.

Baker said the Austin Harvest is giving the teens meaningful jobs where they learn about marketing, customer service and management. Their work has resulted in internship offers.

“The amount of opportunities that we are creating for ourselves is incredible,” Baker said.

Keith Cankson said creating Austin Harvest has shown him how much of an impact young people can have on improving the local economy and promoting health in the neighborhood.

“This is my first job,” Cankson said. “And also, all the trainings that we get, it’s really building us so we can be entrepreneurs later on. That means we can do so much more. We don’t have to just be bound to this one thing.”

The teens turned their idea into a reality in just two months, but they see the project as ongoing. After their 12-week pop-up fresh market, their goal is to acquire a brick-and-mortar building and develop it into a full grocery store to satisfy their neighborhood’s dire need for food throughout the year.

Baker said their model is proof that when given adequate resources, residents in under-resourced neighborhoods can create innovative solutions to address their challenges. She hopes to see similar projects across the city following their lead.

“We’re popping up with the question as to why our community doesn’t look as great as everybody else’s,” Baker said. “This took us two months to do. We are the blueprint. So think about how much you can build off of this over time.”

 

Source: Block Club Chicago