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New Regulations For Greenhouse Growers To Produce Safe Food

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As the rules of the Food Safety Modernization Act are finalized, greenhouse growers will be required to ensure the edible crops they produce are safe for human consumption.

The purpose of the law, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, is “To ensure the U.S. food supply is safe by shifting the focus from responding to contamination to preventing it.” In September 2015, two of the FSMA’s rules. These rules, according to FDA, “focus on implementing modern food manufacturing processes for both human and animal foods.”

FDA said the rules “Will work together to systematically strengthen the food safety system and better protect public health.”

Phil Tocco, food safety educator at Michigan State University Extension, said FSMA is the first law in the United States to regulate food production, harvest and the movement of fresh produce at the farm gate. “Up until now if you were a retail grocer, a retail restaurant, or if you were preparing food, you had regulations placed upon you and how you did things,” Tocco said.

“If you were manufacturing a food product from raw materials, there were rules that you had to follow, particularly if you were working with potentially hazardous foods such as seafood or if there was a potential issue if you were slaughtering animals. There were regulations in place. However, there were no regulations for the harvest and transport of fresh produce at all. If you were harvesting fresh produce you didn’t have to follow any rules to do so.”

Tocco said growers need to think strategically about food safety when they first start out. “All restaurants have to have at least one person on staff that has ServSafe certification. They have taken a test indicating that they are ServSafe certified. They understand the concepts related to food safety.”

Tocco said many growers he has met were successful chefs before they moved to food crop production. “It makes a huge difference because these growers start evaluating the practices that they do. They can ask themselves if their food handling practices pass muster.”If a grower sells his product at a farmers market, he better be able to answer the questions that consumers are going to ask about food handling and food safety.

Tocco said the food safety risks encountered by an outdoor field grower are much reduced in a controlled environment warehouse or greenhouse.

Source: How Growers are Producing Safe Food

Toronto Has Become A Leader In Urban Agriculture, But New Projects Struggle To Take Root

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Urban agriculture as a whole is on the rise in Toronto – this year, the mayor’s office recognized Toronto’s first Urban Agriculture Day on Sept. 15, marking a milestone for the city’s growing community of practitioners.

Even before this year’s recognition by Mayor John Tory, Toronto had been hailed as a leader in the field thanks to the GrowTO Urban Agriculture Action Plan unanimously approved by City Council in 2012 to provide a framework for encouraging the growth of urban agriculture.

Through networking meetings, public forums and lobbying, the group has done just that, and – working with the Toronto Food Policy Council – was largely behind efforts to bring Toronto’s Urban Agriculture Day to fruition.

Experts explain that supporting urban agriculture citywide is crucial because projects such as community gardens or larger-scale operations such as Black Creek Community Farm not only provide access to healthy and affordable food but offer skills and job training.

Established in 1991 as a subcommittee of the Toronto Board of Health, the TFPC focuses on the city’s food policy as a whole, a large part of which includes strategies for increasing urban agriculture.

This year’s first Urban Agriculture Day was preceded by a week of tours around the city led by TUG and the TFPC, seeking to expose some of the ways urban agriculture can result in healthy, low-cost food, engagement of isolated communities such as seniors and people living with mental illness, as well as promising entrepreneurial ventures.

As a permanent city employee through the food policy council is undoubtedly beneficial, but if Toronto hopes to follow the lead of other cities and adopt projects such as these, many suggest another city staff member dedicated to urban agriculture is needed.

Such farms would be a new hybrid model meshing community gardens with farmers’ markets, creating economic development to support low-income communities.

New entrepreneurs are also cropping up, large developers such as the Daniels Corporation have shown interest in building rooftop farms and members of city government and community organizers are increasingly advocating for the benefits urban-agriculture projects.

Source: Toronto has become a leader in urban agriculture, but new projects struggle to take root – The Globe and Mail

A ₹20 (US$0.30) Waste Decomposer Bottle To Solve Crop Residue Problem

Farmers in the Indian state of Punjab are trying to adopt alternatives to avoid the burning of crop stubble that causes heavy smog and health problems not only in the neigbourhood but hundreds of kilometres away. The latest is the use of “waste decomposer” in the fields, prepared by the National Centre for Organic Farming, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare. The “waste decomposer” is a solution in a small bottle prepared with effective micro-organisms. It is available to farmers for 20.

Jagat Singh, assistant director of the centre, said many farmers in Punjab had started using “waste decomposer” in their fields. He also said that the Kheti Virasat Mission of Punjab, an NGO dedicated to promote organic farming, had taken many bottles from the centre.

Balwant Singh Bains, sarpanch of Chak Bilga village of Nawanshahr, is using the “waste decomposer” and said, “The farmers have started responding and are using this to decompose the stubble too.”

Rajeev Kohli, director marketing, international relations, Kheti Virasat Mission, Punjab, said that the NGO had ordered more than 1,000 bottles from the centre and farmers had actually shown interest in the “waste decomposer”. “The initial response is positive and many farmers who are not connected with us directly have also been asking for ‘waste decomposer’ to avoid burning,” said Kohli.

Officials at the centre said the solution decomposed over 10,000 metric tons of bio-waste in 30 days and can be also used in foliar spray and via drip irrigation for in-situ composting of the crop residue. The solution can also be used for seed treatment. The officials further claimed that it could be used as a growth promoter, for soil conditioning and early germination to attain the maturity of the crop over time.

Source: Farmers take to waste decomposer in fields

Accra’s Urban Farmers Need Support

In Accra, urban farming is responsible for 90 percent of the city’s fresh vegetables and 46 percent of the capital’s households are involved in it, according to a 2012 report published by the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF).

However, despite the popularity of urban farming, it operates on the peripheries of urban planning – largely ignored in the development strategies of cities such as Accra. Arguably one of the biggest obstacles to thriving urban agriculture in Accra and other African cities is weak or non-existent official governmental policy to support it.

The urban poor are also considered more vulnerable to rising food prices than the rural poor, according to a 2008 report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Growing crops in city gardens is “a potentially viable policy response to the complex challenge of feeding a burgeoning mass of urban residents amidst decline in food production in rural areas,” according to the ACBF report.

With the Africa Development Bank estimating that Africa’s population will reach 1.6 billion by 2030, in contrast to 1 billion in 2010, the need for and implementation of urban agriculture policies is urgent.

Urban planners and policymakers need to consider how to balance population growth and the growing pressures emerging in many African cities with the need to ensure urban food security.

Urban farming does not need to be restricted to growing food on private property.

Governments could supply financial grants for urban and peri-urban farmers, land provision for specific agricultural use, agricultural and nutritional education programmes, irrigation assistance, and easy access to local markets.

These skills and equipment could potentially be applied in an urban setting too, allowing for urban farmers to gain more than transport money each month, with the possibility of long-term saving for impoverished families.

Food produced within the city could mean cheaper transport costs and more affordable monthly groceries for urban families in the surrounding area. As urban farmers can also choose, for the most part, what crops to plant this could lead to a potentially more diverse, more nutrient-rich diet for city dwellers.

As a collective, growing movement, urban and peri-urban farmers in developing countries need to be acknowledged, empowered and supported by government and civil society.

Source: Accra’s urban farmers need support – UrbanAfrica.Net

Africa’s Urban Farmers

A nurse, Wangari counts on income from farming to raise money to buy more land – for more farming.

With prices for basic foodstuffs at their highest levels in decades, many urbanites feel well rewarded by farming.

Across Africa, political leaders, long dismissive of rural concerns, have woken up to the importance of agriculture and the role that educated people, even those living in major cities, can play in farming.

In Nigeria, former president Olusegun Obasanjo has a huge diversified farm and has pushed for policies to help absentee farmers prosper.

In Uganda, the vice-president routinely travels the country, promoting higher-value farming, such as dairy production.

The Liberian president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, recognising that educated people could contribute much to an agriculture revival, has launched a “Back to the Soil” campaign in large part to encourage urban dwellers to farm.

To be sure, absentee farming by elites and educated urban workers can’t solve all of Africa’s urgent food needs.

Absentee farmers face unexpected problems. Although I grew up around wheat fields, my knowledge of farming is thin. My hopes for success are buoyed by my ability to call my mother inexpensively and discuss the farm.

But because they know both the tastes of fellow city dwellers and rural conditions, many urban farmers are also succeeding.

Most people living in Africa’s cities have access to land in the countryside, which is why Liberia’s government rightly highlights the potential for farm expansion.

In Zambia ordinary Lusakans want to cook traditional meals in their own homes, driving demand for farmers who produce such delicacies as dried pumpkin, “Black jack” leaves and fresh okra.

Campaigns go hand in hand with expanded farming, because sellers of these foods prefer local growers – even if these growers increasingly live in the city.

Source: Africa’s urban farmers

India’s Gaffarbhai Qureshi Traveled 19 States and Grew 5200 Varieties of Plants

Gafarbhai Qureshi has collected over 5200 types of plants in his nursery and gives free information and training to farmers and students about these plants, herbs and trees.

His father, a small farmer from Ramdechi of Junagarh district of Gujarat, had four acres of land, a well and 50 plants.

He was a traditional farmer until he met Prof. Anil Gupta from IIM-A. The duo decided to start a journey – a ‘Shodh Yatra’ – from Gafarbhai’s farm and walk through various farms and forests across the country. The plan was to save lost varieties of plants and herbs of India and to spread awareness among the farmers about them.

In the 90s, chemical farming was also ruining fertile soil and the future of farmers, so they decided to encourage organic farming through their yatra as well. The aim of the Shodh yatra was to learn about the experiences of the farmers engaged in organic farming and inform other farmers about the same.

The team wanted to encourage the curiosity of children about varieties in organic farming.

During the Shodh Yatra, while travelling from one village to another, the team met villagers, farmers and learnt new methods of crop protection, cattle rearing and improved implements which were developed by them.

So far Gafarbhai has trained nearly 10,000 farmers and more than 20,000 students who visit his nursery every day. “See once I die, my knowledge will also die with me. But if I spread my knowledge, it will remain immortal. Like you are writing about me…this will remain forever even after we isn’t it? So I make sure I give out my knowledge to the next generation, and their learning is my fees,” he says humbly.

Through the journeys he has gathered 5200 varieties of plants, trees and herbs and planted them in his nursery – Qureshi Baug and Nursery. Qureshi farm and Nursery has annual sales of Rs. 2 million.

“The world market has enough production. What they are looking for is quality and not quantity. Our farmers have to understand this key and start farming organically and supply the best quality products. I am happy that the change has begun and I will continue doing my Shodh Yatras until every farmer of our country understands this,” concludes Gafarbhai.

Source: How One Man Traveled 19 States, Studied 6 Crore Plants and Planted 5200 Varieties

Facebook Group Cultivates Interest In Organic Vegetables

Scare over widespread use of pesticides has prompted many to turn to organic food and cultivation.

Residents of Thiruvananthapuram, India, looking to buy organic vegetables at affordable price now have one more destination to head to.

Krishibhoomi, a Facebook group, has started organic vegetable sale every Sunday at L-43, LIC Lane, Pattom, from 8.30 a.m. The vegetable sale, which started last week, has seen an enthusiastic response.

The produce includes that by certified farmers and Krishibhoomi members, mostly grown on their terraces and at times in kitchen gardens.

If there is any suspicion of any produce containing pesticides, these will be tested for their presence with the support of the Kerala Agricultural University’s Pesticide Residue Research Analytical Laboratory and the producer will not be allowed to grow the produce.

“Initially, the yield during organic farming may be low owing to field conversion and pest attacks may be frequent. But if one understands how to go about it properly, it can be done more economically than that done using fertilizers. One can get good produce and quantity too. Here, we are selling produce at market rates, and at time even lower than that,” they say.

The Krishibhoomi group has nearly 175,000 members who post their experiences of organic farming and produce.

This is an autogenerated summary from a published source: Facebook collective on organic vegetables

City Dwellers: Produce Your Own Plant Food

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Pot gardening is the growing of plants in pots or containers rather on the ground. It is generally applied for houseplants and is also useful in areas where the soil or climatic conditions are not suitable for a particular crop.

Any pot or container can be used, anything that can hold soil. The choice is unlimited, subject only to such considerations as availability, durability, cost, aesthetic effect, and the number as well as the maximum sizes of the plants to be grown.

Advantages of pot gardening include:

1. Flexibility. Potted plants can be moved from one location to another

2. Space Shaping. Potted plants can be used to shape and define selected parts of the landscape

3. Ease in Culture. Plants can be grown with the best potting medium, prepared by mixing the appropriate ingredients.

4. Mobility. Potted plants can be transferred to new locations whenever there is need to change residence.

Both land plants and aquatic plants can be grown in containers.

A steady supply of fresh and nutritious food for the family can be ensured by growing potted vegetables (e.g. eggplant, jute or saluyot, malunggay or horse radish tree, peppers, pigeon pea or kadyos), fruits (e.g. citrus, guava, sapodilla, sugar apple, tambis or bell fruit) and culinary herbs (e.g. basil, lemon grass, onions, anise, fragrant screwpine or pandan). Ampalaya and guava can be grown as sources of food and, at the same time, as emergency sources of herbal medicine.

This is an autogenerated summary from a published source: To City Dwellers: Produce You Own Plant Food, Go Pot Gardening!

Rich Millennials Are Ditching Golf Communities For ‘Agrihoods’

A new type of housing community known asAgrihoodsare popping up around the US. Agrihoods are built around working farms and are replacing the once-popular golf communities favored by Baby Boomers.

Hundreds of so-calledAgrihoods short for agricultural neighborhoods  around the US are now aimed at farm-to-table-loving millennials.

According to Paul Habibi, a professor of real estate at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, agrihoods represent aconfluence of economic profits, environmental good, and social benefitand that’s an especially attractive offer to millennials, he told the Orange County Register.

Agrihoods could become the 21st century version of those tony golf communities Baby Boomers flocked to in the 1990s.

In some places, communities are doing away with the golf course all together to make room for sustainable living.

Rancho Mission Viejo, the Southern California-based development company that initially trademarked the term agrihood back in 2014, is using its sustainable living-focus to draw young families and even active retirees to its Esencia and Sendero communities.

If agrihoods continue to attract young homebuyers, millennials may be held responsible for killing yet another formerly prized industry.

This is an autogenerated summary from a published source: Rich millennials are ditching the golf communities of their parents for a new kind of neighborhood

Jackfruits and Grapes in a Pot

When Blany D’souza told people that he was trying to grow jackfruits in a pot, they laughed at him. A year later, the same people were requesting him to help them do the same in their own gardens.

Photo Source

A Mangalore-based urban gardener with a rapidly increasing social media following, Blany had a green thumb since he was a precocious young boy. However, he finally found the time to set up his own garden only after he returned from the Gulf (where he served as an income auditor at a five-star hotel for six years) in 1998.

Thanks to Blany’s careful nurturing, a multitude of fruits and vegetables were soon growing on the 1,200 sq ft terrace of his home in Mangalore.

At one point of time, the family was harvesting about 150 to 200 kg of ivy gourds from their thriving terrace garden every month. They would distribute a part of this among their neighbours while selling the rest to local shopkeepers who would market them as “from Blany’s garden” to their customers!

Next, Blany progressed to growing grapevines, thanks to an unexpected incident. A local nursery had got some vines in a lorry load of saplings from Kerala even though it had not ordered them. The owner knew about Blany’s love for gardening and asked him if he would be interested in taking them of his hands.

Blany accepted with alacrity and planted the vines in his backyard. Soon, they had spread across the terrace and about a year-and-half after planting them, they began bearing fruit. Ever since, the delighted gardener has harvested 25 to 30 kgs of red grapes every year. Today, Blany grows nearly 100 varieties of fruits and vegetables on his terrace, with his latest experiments revolving around growing jackfruits and lychees in a pot. He doesn’t use any chemical fertilizers or pesticides in his garden, instead preferring to use a neem mixture to control plant diseases and insect infestations. Interestingly, all his fruit trees provide a yield throughout the year!

“We’ve not bought vegetables from outside markets in the last eight years!”, he told Hindu Business Line.

In 2015, Blany became a household name among the garden-loving citizens of Mangalore after he helped a couple of his friends set up their terrace gardens. Thanks to amazing word-of-mouth publicity, he was soon setting up terrace gardens in houses, schools, and other institutions across the city.

Blany designs plans for families (according to their area, budget and specific requirements), helps them set it up and provides the expert guidance required for their maintenance. As part of his initiative — ‘Grow Your Own Veg’ — he also visits schools/colleges to teach students about home-based horticulture while inviting them to visit his thriving garden.

“It is not a business for me. I want more and more people to grow vegetables and fruits on the space available to them. It brings happiness to me,” says the man who has set up more than 100 terrace gardens in different parts of Mangalore.

For further guidance on terrace gardening, contact Blany D’souza here.