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Business: In the mood for food

Build 25 farms at Silicon Valley corporate sites, making it possible to grow nutritious foods close to where their employees work or live.

Photo of Alrie Middlebrook
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Written by

The California Native Garden Foundation (CNGF)

The First Ecovillage of San Jose

The Environmental Lab for Sustainability and Ecological Education (ELSEE)

How are you connected to Sunnyvale?

  • I work in Sunnyvale.
  • I visit Sunnyvale regularly.

What type of applicant are you?

  • Non-profit

Stage of Development.

  • Idea with demonstrated evidence of impact (ready to expand beyond Sunnyvale)

What problem are you aiming to solve? (100 words)

Reduce CO2 emissions and sequester carbon simultaneously by transitioning to an urban regenerative agriculture model to replace our broken agro-petrochemical non-sustainable farming system.

Tell us more about your climate strategy or solution (500 words)

Globally, Santa Clara County recognizes the urgent need to transition from an unsustainable chemically dependent farming model to an ecologically driven one that utilizes natural processes to sustain human populations while protecting ecosystems services. In simple terms, Regenerative Organic Agriculture allows nature to do the heavy lifting and delivers abundant, healthy food while restoring nature.

By combining efforts with local stakeholder groups, Santa Clara County can affect a global change in current agriculture practices. We can build 25 regenerative organic farms that will serve as world model training and research centers in Santa Clara County by 2024.

This valley can lead in creating a model of innovation that can stabilize world economies by demonstrating that any community, whether rich or poor, can eliminate food insecurity and establish local food sovereignty while training youth, contributing to healthier communities and building new sustainable jobs, locally.

Describe how your solution could be a game-changer for your selected Opportunity Area (100 words)

This method of growing food in the urban environment is the most efficient means to stop climate change because it does two things simultaneously: reduces carbon emissions and sequesters carbon.

It is also connected to stormwater, onsite waste systems, and alternative energy and transportation.

Explain how your idea would be implemented in Sunnyvale (700 words)

The Middlebrook Center with our ecovillage partners has developed a three-tiered approach to the “BUILD 25” initiative. We are convinced that if humans are to replace our broken food system, the ideal place to begin is Santa Clara County, USA.

1. We have created a Steering Committee model of local stakeholders who, by working together, can reach our goals. Our Steering Committee is represented by the following stakeholders:

1) Local government
2) Landowners
3) Corporations
4) Community Organizations
5) Urban and Peri-Urban Farmers
6) Universities
7) Grantors
8) Technical Committee of ROA Specialists
9) Middlebrook Center Ecovillage Leaders
10) Developers
11) Local Nonprofits
12) Media

2. Establishing RAFT (Regenerative Agriculture Farm Training): Simultaneously, as we are designing and building farms, we will work with University Partners, local community organizations and nonprofits to develop training, degree and certificate programs for their students and constituents, utilizing the farms as outdoor learning laboratories, while providing student labor for farm management.

3. Establishing SULRI (Sustainable Urban Land use Research Institute): Working with university partners, grantors, other nonprofits and our technical committee members, we will collaborate with leading scientists to set up research projects at three farm models that will provide data and findings comparing ROA to existing farm models (agro/petro chemical and organic) in categories such as: CO2 emissions, carbon sequestration, soil organic content, water use, ground water contamination, number of natural pollinators, methods and efficacy of insect control, measuring nutrition content of foods, income and expenses, students graduated, jobs created, people served, health benefits of people who eat food grown at local farms, costs of medical expenses, individual mental health surveys of users, etc. Students will assist in data collections, observations, and will work with scientists to fulfill course requirements and share findings.

Working together, in a few short years, Santa Clara County will have achieved a land use model, a training program, and science-based evidence that may contribute to climate stabilization, reduced costs, greater human health and well-being, enhanced protection of ecosystem services, new sustainable jobs and significant supporting data to persuade communities worldwide to adopt these models.

What kind of impact will your idea have? (250 words)

Our idea to build regenerative farm models in urban environments while simultaneously developing a training program to educate young students how to design, build and manage these farms will enable our idea to scale very quickly. That coupled with a research institute that can collect, measure and share data in several categories will help define the success of this model, compared to current farming methods. Regenerative farming, or carbon farming, can produce 7x more food and income than traditional organic farming, while building soil organic content. There are approx 20 different components to a regenerative farm model. Some are no-till, polyculture, composting, vermicomposting, and controlled environment agriculture.

Scale: Describe how your idea could reach a significant number of people affected. (250 words)

A one-acre regenerative farm can provide all the fruits and veggies for 500 people who live nearby. CNGF, with our group of subcontractors, can design and build regenerative organic farms quickly with numerous community partners, representing 12 stakeholder groups.

We already have projects built and several are teaching farms now. We also have international partners and subcontractors with specific technical skills, including storm water mgmt, ecologists, no-till specialists, controlled environmental agriculturists, nutritionists and social scientists. Planning of farms in Silicon Valley is underway, including private development, hospitals, under-served schools, university campuses, charter schools, and public schools. Our goal is to build 25 ROA farms in SC County that will serve as teaching, training and research farms that will also work with existing farmers, both organic and Big Ag, to hopefully integrate ROA principles into a new farming model that is highly productive.

Feasibility: Where are you with understanding the feasibility of your idea? Describe what you’ve done so far and your plans. (500 words)

CNGF is part of a global movement in Regenerative Agriculture that started in the U.S. after the Dust Bowl. Unfortunately, when phosphate-based fertilizers became available after WW2, no-till Ag was delayed until recent years.

With climate change, we know that Regen Ag is the future model for Ag. We believe Silicon Valley can lead the world in the transition to an ecology-based model for growing food worldwide as it is 7-10 times more productive than current models.

Earlier, we listed several farms that are already being planned or have been built. As an attachment, you will see a detailed proposal of our Build 25 initiative. This includes the forming of a steering committee of 12 community stakeholders.

Representing our political leadership is Sunnyvale councilwoman, Nancy Smith. The Development Community is led by Vince Cantore, Project Manager from Core Companies who is the developer for the Santa Clara Agrihood project, a mixed housing ecovillage with a regen farm, scheduled to break ground in 2019. CNGF has been consulting on this project since 2014. We are also working with SJSU, SCU, UCDavis, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, UCSC, and Stanford students thru our Student Internship program. We write grants with universities and School Districts to fund curriculum development and faculty positions for training programs at the farms, utilizing student interns who work at the farms while learning design, construction, management and community leadership.

As important as it is to build farms using these proven ecological methods with many stakeholders in each community, it is equally important that there be training and research centers as well. To change how we grow food is going to take interest groups working together and learning together, setting up research studies, comparing outcomes and documenting our progress while we share our stories and data with other communities.

As you consider your next steps, what kinds of help could you use? Is there a type of expertise that would be most helpful? (300 words)

We hope to get a commitment from 14 cities and towns in Santa Clara County to each build 2 farms as training and research centers, with the goals of food sovereignty and food security for local communities. To help fund, we need entries to funders/institutions with whom we can forge partnerships for writing grants, introductions to developers, community forums, opportunities for youth to lead, budgets from government and developers, hospitals, jails, underserved schools, low-income and senior housing, community centers, re-looking at innovation and stacked functions in urban land use, including public owned land that may be repurposed, urban Ag incentive zones, parks uses and zoning, building construction codes examined and adjusted to accommodate food and nature being more easily accommodated with innovative design, including controlled environment agriculture, onsite waste management systems, stormwater management systems, grey water, and irrigation innovation utilizing stormwater and grey water.

Are you willing to share your email contact information submitted on OpenIDEO with our partners?

  • Yes, share my contact information

[Optional] Biography: Upload your biography. Please include links to relevant information (portfolio, LinkedIn profile, organization website, etc).

Evaluation results

9 evaluations so far

1. From a range of 1-5, how interested/compelled are you to bring this idea into your own life or into the city?

1 - Not Interested - 0%

2 - 0%

3 - 22.2%

4 - 11.1%

5 - Very interested - 66.7%

2. From a range of 1-5, does this idea provide benefits aside from reducing carbon emissions?

1 - Low co-benefits - 11.1%

2 - 0%

3 - 11.1%

4 - 11.1%

5 - High co-benefits - 66.7%

3. From a scale of 1-5, what do you feel is the feasibility of this idea to work well in Sunnyvale?

1 - Not feasible - 0%

2 - 11.1%

3 - 11.1%

4 - 33.3%

5 - Very feasible - 44.4%

4. From a range of 1-5, what is your hunch about how much this idea will cost the Sunnyvale community to implement properly?

1 - High cost to the community - 22.2%

2 - 11.1%

3 - 33.3%

4 - 11.1%

5 - Low cost to the community - 22.2%

View more

Attachments (3)

CNGF Pitch for 2018.pdf

Why Regenerative Organic Agriculture (ROA)? CNGF’s Mission to “Build 25” ROA Farms in Santa Clara County

BUILD 25.pdf


Alrie Middlebrook_resume.pdf

Alrie Middlebrook's Resume


Join the conversation:

Photo of

Hi Alrie, Your slides/docs have details unfortunately this platform doesn't clearly show. Please post docs/pix on your website and provide link for best zoom-viewing? Thank you!

Photo of Jérémie Gluckman-Picard

Love that this robust idea made it on to the platform alrie Middlebrook My name is Jeremie and I'm working with OpenIDEO to help moderate this challenge. If you haven't connected already I know that Councilwoman Nancy Smith is a champion of this kind of work.

Don't forget to go through other submissions to gain inspiration, comment and provide evaluations. These activities are important at this stage of the process. We appreciate you being involved!

Photo of Alrie Middlebrook

Thanks, Jeremie. I will review the other submittals and look for ways to build synergy, provide evaluations and inspiration. We will continue to update and hopefully improve our contribution. I am in touch with Nancy and working closely with her and others in Sunnyvale to scale our model. We are excited to be working together! Thanks again for reaching out.

Photo of

This is an outstanding idea! It is a parallel to this one:

Photo of Alrie Middlebrook

Hi Shawn,
your idea and in the mood for food compliment each other. Our farm model is plant based and will increase the number of food plants available to 250.. we employ polyculture plantings and rotations. The soils are never fallow.

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That's incredibly impressive sustainable farming! We should convert all SV's empty lots into plant-farms!

Photo of Alrie Middlebrook

Yes SCCounty can lead the way for a global revolution in local food sovereignty, Each local community can use these methods to take back their food system. Right now the global food system is NOT sustainable. With these methods, any community can feed themselves. While reducing CO2 emissions, holding carbon in the soil, cleaning the air, preserving clean water, promoting biodiversity, building healthy soils and eliminating food deserts. Big farms are not efficient and are responsible for 30% of CO2 emissions worldwide and 40% food waste, while destroying our planets bio-diversity. Ours is an ecological model, based on new evolutionary biology. It’s time for SV leadership to emerge as innovators in ecological land use and begin preserving our air, water, soil and biodiversity and creat this path for change and embrace our role as innovators for global health and stability. What are we waiting for?

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Outstanding! Sustainable organic farming is much more important than everything else combined. SV should prioritize this and cancel all carbon generation developments.

Photo of Alrie Middlebrook

Hi Shawn,
i can see that you get it. Will you be part of our leadership to make SV the change maker to begin this regen farm revolution? We are going to need folks like you to help people understand why this ecological approach to growing food near where most folks live is the single most important step our community can do to solve the climate change crisis.
are you on board???

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I gladly support your awesome idea!

Photo of Isabella Rosado

Hi alrie Middlebrow - This is quite an ambitious and inspiring idea! I love the details you have provided and would love to hear more in order to make this proposal a reality.
For instance:
- How do we encourage restaurants to grow their own food?
- What resources would we need to implement this idea?
I located this link which strongly relates to this proposal and can provide inspiration!

Photo of Alrie Middlebrook

These farms are already a reality in many locations all over the world. A 220M low income and affordable ecovillage with a regen farm will break ground in 2019 across the street from Valley Fair. The Santa Clara Agrihood! We already have two teaching regen farms 2000’ from where Google is building their 20k workers campus in downtown SJ.
We are asking Google to build these regen farms on this campus now so our community can experience a model that grows food ecologically. We use principles of forest ecology and new evolutionary biology to produce 7-10x more food while eliminating our climate change crisis by cancellation of 30% of CO2 emissions and holding more carbon in the soil simultaneously. Instead of farm to table, let’s call it “forest to table” cause this method of growing food will preserve our forests and teach children about wild nature in the heart of a city. Isn’t it about time to change agriculture after 10K years of destroying top soil and working way too hard with back breaking work??Isn’t it time to work with nature as stewards, protecting our planet while gaining more wealth with less work for more communities by mimicking how nature renews itself?
This beats destroying nature which is the model we are using to grow food now!

Photo of Green Ops Homestead

Hi alrie Middlebrook -Thank you so much for sharing your concept! I'm curious to learn more about where we would plant these gardens (unfortunately, the pictures that you shared appear to be a bit blurry). We have a possible idea Rooftop gardens in Sunnyvale and we saw Urban Agricultural Internships & Design Program and thought that you might be interested in exchanging ideas or collaborating. Sarah 'Satya' is also exploring ways to implement gardens in Sunnyvale and it would be interesting to see if the two of you could collaborate to think about where we could plant these gardens. Looking forward to hearing more from you soon!

Photo of Alrie Middlebrook

I filled out a comprehensive report on line in this platform. It tells a lot. Pls contact Nancy Smith and come to our teaching lab at 76 Race St in San Jose for a visit and tour. We are teaching the ROA methods right now!

Photo of Alrie Middlebrook

Yes, we are all for building collaborations with all who wish to work together to bring food sovereignty and food security to all residents of Santa Clara county. Ourecovillage mdel and ROA Farm model allows people to meet their life cycle needs, reduce their carbon footprint,, grow healthy food and promotes health and well being for all economic levels. All communities can be responsible for food security if these ecological farming methods are learned by the regen farmers of the future. In our county we can work together with organic farmers and Big Ag farmers to preserve our soils, our water and our air.

Photo of Alrie Middlebrook

Hi Sarah,
one of our components for utilizing buildings to grow food is controlled environment Ag. This includes building aquaponics farms on roof tops or aeroponics farms inside buildings with special lighting and fertilizers for growing food indoors. We have been working with student interns to provide opportunities for future farmers to learn these technologies. We think it’s time for businesses like Google to start building farms on their campuses to feed their employees and provide opportunities for college interns and research scientists to improve these ecologically appropriate farm systems.