about issues of food justice and sustainability.” Growhaus calls itself “an interactive
urban farm and marketplace.”
Another program, launched by the Chicago Botanic Garden, is now in its
eighth season. The Green Youth Farm ( www.chicago-botanic.org/greenyouth-
farm/) provides summer jobs for high school students and teaches them the value
of eating healthy and locally grown organic food. The organic gardens are located
in the city’s food deserts. Students gain skills in areas besides gardening as well,
say Green Youth Farm organizers. They learn about teamwork, communications
and career options in green industries, and they have the chance to see the im-
pact of their work on their communities.
The Green Youth Farm,
positioned in several Chicago
food deserts, provides summer
jobs for high school students
and teaches them the
value of eating locally
grown organic food.
An upswing in gardening in general is leading people to more deeply understand the connection between the soil and food. Michelle Obama has helped
spread the organic message by establishing the first White House organic garden.
Victory gardens are back, she says, “except make them organic.” Over the last few
years, the organic sector of the lawn and garden (L&G) market has experienced
significant growth, and major garden centers are expanding the shelf for natural
and organic L&G products. Market research firm Packaged Facts in January 2009
estimated that the organic L&G sector reached $460 million in retail sales in 2008,
a gain of 12 percent over 2007.
Young Farmers Lead Us Into an Organic
As local CSAs, farmers markets and
community gardens have proliferated,
a new trend also has emerged, one
that is making organic farming more
attractive to a younger generation.
While the trend is too new to quantify, USA Today reports that there is an
emerging movement in which young
people, “most of whom come from
cities and suburbs,” are taking up organic farming on small-acre farms
throughout the country as an “
honorable, important career choice.” Today,
the USDA estimates the average age of
the American farmer is 57, with more
than 25 percent over age 65, so a return of young farmers is a promising,
and needed, trend. To make local and
organic food more accessible, it’s time
to revive the small and midsize farms,
which have been disappearing at
alarming rates from the landscape, says
the Organic Consumers Association
(OCA) in a recent newsletter post, and
that is exactly what a new generation of
young sustainable farmers is doing.
“I’m seeing an enthusiastic group
of young people all across the country
who want to get into farming,” Fred
Hunger in the U.S.?
How does organic reach the 15 percent of U.S.
households with low or very low food security? Food security is defined as “having access at all times to
enough food for a healthy, active life for all household
members,” says a 2010 study published by the USDA
Economic Research Service.
Hunger is unfortunately alive and well in the United
States, with Los Angeles County leading the nation. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times on March
24, 2011, more than 1.7 million Los Angeles County residents struggled with hunger in 2009. The research was
conducted by Feeding America, the nation’s largest network of food banks. The study found that there are people in every county in the nation who live with food
insecurity. At nearly 17 percent, the rate in Los Angeles
County was about the same as the national average.
Through the Women, Infant and Children Program
(WIC), low-income mothers had been able to purchase
organic products for their children with government as-
sistance. The WIC program provides federal aid to more
than 8 million low-income pregnant, breastfeeding and
non-breastfeeding postpartum women, as well as in-
fants and children under the age of 5 who are deemed
to be at nutritional risk. However, in February 2009, the
state of Washington removed organic milk from its list of
approved foods reimbursed by the WIC program. And,
according to the Organic Consumers Association (OCA),
a little-known fact is that slashing organic fruits and veg-
etables from WIC-approved food lists for “reasons re-
lated to cost” is being practiced in almost every state.