2016 marks the year when Ourfoods™ came of age. In only its second calendar year of operation we have solidified our place as an innovative vehicle to rethink how we look at STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) education, vocational training, and job creation in and around our food system. Food has always been the common thread to address such a vast array of issues our world is facing; it is just humbling to see that our vision for ‘food’ has been so readily embraced. None of our successes, though, were achieved alone. Our partners and our people are the spine giving us the strength to stand.
Below are some highlights...
Farm Labs™ @ San Francisco County Jail
The trial program we initiated with our partners (Hunters Point family, Five Keys Charter School, and the San Francisco Sheriff Department) evolved into a permanent program. We are entering our 12th semester and have matriculated 289 student inmates. Some of those students earned a High School diploma with credits from our class while in custody. Some of those graduates have been released and qualify to enter our paid workforce development program (Farm Labs™ ) which is in the construction phase right now. We are planning to hire some of those graduates in the coming months.
The White House
The White House (Office of Science and Technology Policy) published a fact sheet that recognized our Farm Lab program as a means to provide technical training to meet the demands of modern farming. We were further honored with an invitation to present the model to the USDA at their kickoff event for America the Bountiful along with several notable guests in attendance from CA and from Washington DC.
We had the honor to present our Farm Lab™ training model to Secretary Scott Kernan at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation office in Sacramento. We are confident that our county jail program will find its way into the State Prison system.
Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library Learning Garden
We installed an innovative garden project (both technically and socially) in North Long Beach, in partnership with Vice Mayor Rex Richardson’s District Nine, Uptown Business District, Long Beach Fresh, and the Long Beach Public Library. This highly water-efficient, soil based garden has precision irrigation and fertigation and has provided incredible yields. In just the first 2 months, over 200 lbs of produce was harvested. All food is picked by the community for the community at no cost with on-going educational opportunities throughout the year.
Food for Thought
In a continued partnership with USC’s Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies, we entered the 2nd year of their Food for Thought program with a renewed grant from Boeing. Thus far, the program has trained 10 interns in aquaponics who are responsible for site maintenance and training at the various K-12 school sites. Outcomes of year-one include STEM engagement through the lens of aquaponics with 27 teaches, 815 students at 6 schools, and 3 of the interns have joined the Ourfoods team.
Stoneview Nature Center
We are excited to participate in LA County’s newest park- the Stoneview Nature Center in Baldwin Hills. In partnership with Shawna Joplin Regional Park Superintendent, we will be installing an aquaponics system that complements the array of interpretive exhibits already in place. The intent is to tell the story of water-efficient food production in a drought- stricken State.
Farm Labs™ @ St Michael's
The Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles decided to convert a 3 acre church property in the City of Riverside into an example of best practices of sustainable living and design. In a collaboration with Escher GuneWardena Architecture, Seeds of Hope, and Ivette Soler Gardens, we are planning an oasis for learning and training in both modern farming (Farm Labs) and indigenous traditions, to grow as much food, with the least impact possible.
Farm Labs™ @ City of Hope Medical Center
Working with the team at COH has been an inspiring experience. The vision for our ‘food is medicine’ program has expanded. What began as a ‘simple’ idea to implement a Farm Lab program at the hospital as a vehicle for nutrition education, was broadened (with the generous support of Hilton Foundation) to include multiple conferences, workshops, and medical research. The mission is to document and perpetuate easy, practical solutions to prevent and reverse chronic diseases through the consumption of fruits and vegetables.
Bishop Paiute Tribe Aquaponics Training
It was a privilege to spend a week with the Bishop Paiute Tribe and their Food Sovereignty Program. We conducted an Art & Science of Aquaponics workshop and assisted them with some redesigns of their existing aquaponics greenhouse. As they continue to expand the vision of being food independent, we look forward to providing ongoing technical support.
Farm Labs™ @ UC Riverside
We are also thrilled about a deepening partnership with the California Agriculture and Food Enterprise (CAFÉ) at UC Riverside. Through a number of initiatives involving prospective Federal, State, and Foundation support, we are planning the future of Urban Ag in the City of Riverside.
Farm Labs™ @ Fremont High School
In a renewed collaboration with the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust, we are developing an expansion program to compliment their existing efforts in the Fremont Wellness Center and Community Garden in South LA. After a tremedous push, their greenhouse is nearly complete. We look forward to providing trainings in best- practices of aquaponics, as a vehicle to not only teach STEM, but also to plant seeds for a more resilient, healthy community.
Outreach was on the agenda and we found plenty of opportunities to share our vision at several events and conferences where we had a presence. Ranging from the Global Ag Innovation Network (GAIN) event (with Larta Institute), to the Green Festival (where we were a Community Award finalist), to the WORLDZ/ PTTOW event with Erik Oberholtzer and the Tender Greens team, to the Abbot Kinney Street Festival, we found ourselves surrounded by people eager to learn about the future of food. One unlikely event stood out at the American Planning Association conference in collaboration with Perkins + Will, LA Food Policy and the San Diego Food system Alliance. On a sleepy Sunday 8AM time-slot, our panel had a surprising turnout indicating the growing interest in urban agriculture as a fixture of urban design.
Diving into media
A look ahead:
Hundreds more students connecting to STEM education through urban agriculture
Dozens of career oriented future farmers trained
Several new hires in the field and in the classroom
Several new Farm Lab program sites operational
Expanding and strengthening our Board of Directors
Ourfoods is a small organization with big dreams, which are coming true. As our programing expands, we face the perpetual reality of paralleling capacity to meet the demand. We believe that everyone directly benefits from our work, even if not directly engaging in our programming. As such, please consider a donation to our 501C3.
Thank you to our partners, our Board, and to the people we work with each day.