Farming and Ranching

Jennifer Banks: Four farming trends that are gaining ground

JENNIFER BANKS, controller and financial analyst, Scythe & Spade Co., in EagleSeptember 24, 2013 

Jennifer Banks

There are several new trends in farming that are changing the way food is born and delivered.

Farming in the city

In the U.S., almost 80 percent of people live in metropolitan areas, and only 20 percent of farmland is located in or near these cities. The buzz around "urban farming" is gaining volume because it puts the source of food closer to the consumer. Urban farming can be as simple as recruiting residents to plant gardens or easing restrictions on animals within city limits.

Larger urban farming programs are often organized as CSAs (community supported agriculture). These programs consist of an agreement between farmers and consumers in which consumers agree to buy from a local farm for an entire growing season. This arrangement enables the farmer to control costs and manage crops. Idaho has many such programs; you can learn more at idahocsa.org.

Crowd funding

It seems even farmers have heard of crowd funding/crowdsourcing and are taking advantage of the new mediums.

In 2012, crowd funding sites generated more than $2.7 billion, and that figure will almost double to $5.1 billion in 2013, according to the research firm Massolution. There are currently more than 600 projects related to "farming" on kickstarter.com alone.

Sites, such as Kickstarter, enable small business owners to access a wide variety of funding sources that were previously unavailable to them. These sources allow the business owner to generate funds and create awareness without giving up equity in the business.

A supporter who contributes to a crowd funding campaign is rewarded in different ways, depending on the campaign. For example, a chicken farm will provide one chicken each month for a year for contributions more than $250; another farm enterprise will deliver a fresh bouquet of flowers for contributions of $50 or more.

Inmates giving back

The Statesman wrote an article last year about the prison-owned farm at the South Idaho Correctional Institution that grows produce for donation to the Idaho Foodbank. According to the program "Harvest Now," which was started in Connecticut in 2008, almost all states in the U.S. now have similar programs. Aside from providing food for communities in need, the act of farming has been found to be healthy for the prisoners. The work is important in building confidence and preparing inmates for life after prison.

The South Idaho Correctional Institution farm has grown to 10 acres this year and is expected to yield more than 230,000 pounds of food.

Celebrity endorsements

Celebrities have taken to endorsing and promoting the local food movement. In the May issue of O, the Oprah magazine, Oprah Winfrey and Bob Greene talked about the celebrity's new farm in Hawaii.

Almost 90 percent of food on the Hawaiian Islands comes from elsewhere, which adds to the cost and leaves a large carbon footprint. Winfrey's 16-acre farm includes fruits, vegetables, herbs and hens; it was built by a local company with attention to soil and water conservation. It generates almost 145 pounds of food weekly that is shared with the community and may soon be available for sale locally.

JenniferB@agmanagement.com; 893-5333

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