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Every day more people are being diagnosed with diabetes and other health-related illnesses due to food accessibility. Less and less people are having access to fresh food options, and grocery stores are closing in droves. This isn’t some foreign third world country we are talking about; this is happening each day in the United States. Food deserts are destroying communities, bodies, and humanity. This issue hit home for me when I noticed that a grocery store down the street from me closed, another less than 20 minutes away from that one closed as well. Two different chains, two different locations, and many different employees that have lost their jobs and it’s residents, access to fresh food. There are a few racial, geographic, and socioeconomic impacts on food deserts, which are all but coincidences. In my city of Atlanta, Georgia, there is a clear unspoken racial separation which has continued to plague us. Take this race map of Atlanta, notice how there are large populations of the same races living together.
The majority of the northern areas have better resources not only as it pertains to fresh food options, but schools and shops as well. This map although interesting isn’t the shocking part. This map has a direct correlation with the map about to be shown about the location of food deserts in Atlanta. Before looking at this map, pay close attention to the black, Hispanic and Asian neighborhoods. Specifically the city of Clarkston, located in the Eastern part of the map. This area is called the most diverse square mile in America.
Do we see the correlation? You don’t have to be from Atlanta to notice the racial disparity between the two areas and the high intensity of food deserts. Many of them are located in South Atlanta, specifically Southwest Atlanta along with much of our city’s failing schools and decreased resources. The USDA notes that the national average for very low food security is 4.9%. That number of Hispanic people is 5.8% and even higher for black people at a whopping 9.7%. Nearly 1 out of every 10 black people has very low food security. Black people are 60% more likely to get food-related diseases like diabetes than white people. This is crazy! However, it has a lot to do with the way we eat, and what we eat is determined many times by the affordable and convenient. However, this issue isn’t just racial; it’s geographic. People that live in the South have 5.4% very low food security rating according to the USDA. This national average again is 4.9%. Before completing this research, I initially believed higher agriculture areas to have fewer problems with food deserts. I was extremely wrong, the very low food security rating for nonmetropolitan areas is 6.6%, higher than that of principal cities at 5.9%. This next map will truly shock you. This is a map of farm lands in the US. However, most of the food deserts located in the US are in the South and Midwest.
We can’t deny the shrinking farmland in the US, and it’s undeniable to recognize that there are farmers who work hard every day, many who can’t sell their crops to the rising number of fresh food markets because they don’t meet the requirements to be organic. Lastly, the issue of food deserts is all about status and the way we live. Single mothers have a very low food security average of 10.5%. Again, 1 out of every 10 single mothers in this country can’t even feed their kids healthy, fresh food options. This number for women living alone is 6.7% and for men living alone, 7.5%. Households living below the 185 percent poverty line have an average of 13.3% according to the USDA. People are dying, so what do we do? The simple answer is education; this blog will try our hardest to promote agriculture awareness within the city and to get the word about food deserts out there. In the city of Atlanta, there is a plan which was proposed by former Mayor Kasim Reed to get healthy food within a half mile of 75% of Atlantans by 2020. We are on our way, to a healthy, happy, and growing population. Remember agriculture is NEVER just black and white.
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As societies change, businesses change with it. We have begun to see more countries focus on the way they use their land, natural resources, and labor force. Of course it hasn’t always been this way, until people started focusing on people, planet and profit, otherwise known as the triple bottom line. This is the focus on not only the health of the company, but the environment it affects and the people it employs. The triple bottom line grows business, helps to preserve the environment and makes for a happy employee.
To understand the success of this system, we need to look at example of companies that have employed these systems. We can see the enormous difference between companies with and without these measures in place. Patagonia is one of these companies that has employed this system by not using any chemicals in their production processes and donating over $70 million to community based environmental organizations. We can also look at many tech companies such as Facebook and Apple who are incorporating a healthy work environment into their offices. Things as simple as sleep pods and lounging areas for employees creates a healthy work environment and their use of solar energy at their headquarters tremendously helps the environment.
Many may still ask, “What’s the importance of an environmentally friendly company?” Besides the main benefit of helping our earth last a bit longer, the Energy Collective, states that companies that employ these methods create a better quality of life and have a lower cost to create their products. For a company to be considered environmentally friendly it can use many different methods. For example, building a LEED certified headquarters, donating money to environmental causes, and even something as simple as making all of the lightbulbs in your building CFL’s. Many critics may argue that these methods initially cost more and that doing these things take away from the original bottom line which was simply just profit. However, they are only partially correct, initially these projects do cost more. In the long run, they cost much less and have been known to decrease cost within 2-10 years. The critics that say it takes away from the bottom line may not know much about the way society is moving, businesses are increasingly becoming more and more adaptable to the world around them. We can see that with companies like Adidas who are coming up with methods of creating 3D printed shoes to lower environmental impact. The future is green.
The triple bottom line isn’t just about the green, environmental aspect, it’s about the health and wellness of employees. Many companies have begun to employ methods of keeping their employees happy whether it’s paid time off for having children or more vacation days. My mothers company has mastered this by allowing their employees one work from home day a week. Simple methods such as these are key to ensuring that employees want to remain employed by their company. A happy employee is one that works harder and several studies have shown it. Some critics argue that an employee will stay at a particular company simply for the financial benefit. In fact a study by Metlife shows just the opposite, 36 percent of all U.S. employees said they hope to be working for a different employer in 2011. If companies don’t get serious about benefits for their employees, their employees could be the next to quit.
This entire system ties into profit, which comes first in the minds of the many. Proponents of this triple bottom line will be the first to tell you that this system will not take away from a companies profits, in fact it’s almost guaranteed to increase them as aforementioned in the earlier paragraphs. If a company is serious about growing it’s profits, having a low employee turnover rate and creating a better environment for us all to live in, they will employ the triple bottom line.
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      Every day farms are popping up all over our country's biggest cities. From Detroit to Philadelphia, urban farming has changed not only the way we get food but, the communities that sustain urban farms.  According to the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA), the average American meal travels 1500 miles from farm to table. To put that in perspective, 1500 miles is the distance from my Atlanta home to Denver, Colorado. In that journey, we waste over 50 gallons of gas and 100% of our time when there's a much better way to do things, and that is urban farming.        Urban Farming is the act of producing food in the midst of a densely populated area. This isn't a new concept, in fact; the Incas used urban farming over 500 years ago and created a system to use waste water and terraces to grow their food not too far away from home. This concept isn't foreign, in fact, it's made its way to our great nation. In Detroit for example, a city that has seen massive parcels of land vacated and has had its fair share of financial ruin is now being reborn through agriculture. A city that once filed for bankruptcy is now home to the world's largest urban farm, Hantz Farms which is now being used to educate and grow for the people of Detroit. Vacant and abandoned property has now been given a new life that wouldn't have existed without one bright idea.         So, why do we need them? Why can't we just get our food from 1500 miles away? Urban farming isn't simply about convenience; it's about our health and our right to a healthy meal. We've all heard the excuse,"Healthy food is too expensive" or "There isn't a farmers market in my neighborhood." With urban farming, we eliminate that problem. Finding food closer also means cheaper because it doesn't have to travel 1000 miles or be packaged for extended periods of time. We decrease our global footprint and save a few dollars. Then we will be less prone to eat fast foods from our all too common food deserts, especially in low-income and minority areas. Not only is urban farming healthier, but it also has tons of educational benefits. If someone told me ten years ago that I could be a farmer and grow my food, it would've opened my mind to a world of careers I didn't know existed.         Urban farms aren't just for convenience; it's about educating our future, becoming a healthier individual and eliminating food deserts. There are many schools and organizations such as CUESA that are educating people on the benefits of urban agriculture. Why don't you do your part and help change the world? Learn more about urban farming, share a link and continue to grow in knowledge. Always remember agriculture is never just black and white. 
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Welcome to Get Dirty USA! 
  Thank You for embarking on this journey of knowledge with us! This blog was created to show the world that agriculture isn't all black and white. In fact, agriculture is an art carried out over thousands of years by humans and animals. I create this blog to show that the art of agriculture isn't dead, it just isn't discussed as universally as it should be. Growing up in the city, I never knew about the opportunities in agriculture, in fact, I knew I wanted to be a veterinarian but, I never knew how I would get there or what animals I would work with. It wasn't until I traveled 946 miles away from my Atlanta home to Ames, Iowa, that I truly got a chance to look at agriculture firsthand and decided that I wanted to work with cattle. Not to only work with cattle, but to educate others in developing nations on the best farming practices to prevent further extinction of key mammalian species in their regions. A lofty goal indeed but if it weren't for my 946-mile journey, I would've never challenged myself to reach for the stars. 
  In this blog, I will challenge you to do the same. We will have plenty of question and answer session as well as a few interviews with professionals in agriculture. However, it will all be for the goal of growing and molding minds young and old, for a career in agriculture or a sustainable lifestyle. Continue to read, continue to grow and always remember that agriculture is never just black and white. 
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