Posts Tagged ‘interview’


Aquaponics: An Interview with Sweet Water Organics’ Matt Ray

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Nourishing the Planet’s Kimberlee Davies spoke recently with Matt Ray, the principal farmer for Sweet Water Organics, an aquaponics training organization in Milwaukee, about his experience in the field of aquaponics.

Sweet Water Organics uses aquaponics technology to grow food in downtown Milwaukee.

What is aquaponics? How did you become involved?

Aquaponics has been around for centuries. It was traditionally a technique in tropical climates, using floating bamboo rafts with vegetation in fresh water pools. This was simply the adaptation of agriculture to the tropics. The technique has become cutting edge over the last 20 years. We can adapt aquaponics to today’s geographies and culture.

Aquaponics is a blending of aquaculture (the raising of aquatic animals) and hydroponics (growing plants in water without soil). In aquaponics, aquatic animals serve as the nutrition base for the plants. The great thing about aquaponics is that it is a closed system; it doesn’t have to flow in one pipe and out of another.

I saw it begin to pop up in the late 1980s, starting with the Virgin Islands, Australia, and even Asia, where fish are grown symbiotically with rice paddies. Forward-thinking farmers and activists began to develop the practice in non-tropical climates, and academics began researching the field. Twenty years later, we have a lot more people doing it. Scientific data has emerged to support the spread and success of this technique. It’s possible to take the nuts and bolts and adapt them to wherever you are. It’s going to work and it can be replicated.



An Interview with Seth Itzkan: Using Holistic Management to Address Desertification and Climate Change

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By Carol Dreibelbis

In this series, we interview inspiring people that our readers have nominated. These individuals are working on the front lines to improve the global food and agricultural systems. Want to nominate someone? E-mail your suggestions to Laura Reynolds!

Name: Seth Itzkan

Affiliation: President of Planet-TECH Associates, a consultancy focusing on trends and innovations.

Bio: Seth has 25 years of experience consulting with private and public agencies on strategies for success in changing times. He is interested in the mitigation of climate change and is investigating new approaches to the problem, particularly focusing on the role of soils and grassland restoration through “holistic management.”

In 2011, Seth spent six weeks at the Africa Center for Holistic Management in northwest Zimbabwe, the sister organization of the Savory Institute in Colorado. While in Zimbabwe, he saw firsthand the restoration of degraded lands through improved land and livestock management. Since his return to the United States, he has advocated for holistic management to be considered as a methodology to address both desertification and global warming.



Saturday Series: An Interview with Katie Martin

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By Molly Redfield

In our new Saturday Series, we interview inspiring people our readers have nominated. These people are working on the frontlines to improve the global food and agricultural systems. Want to nominate someone?  E-mail your suggestions to Danielle Nierenberg!

Katie Martin of M•CAM/Heritable Innovation Trust (Photo Credit: Heritable Innovation Trust)

Name: Katie Martin

Affiliation: M·CAM/Heritable Innovation Trust

Bio: Katie Martin graduated in 2011 from Christopher Newport University with a BA in history. Many of her classes not only documented world history, but also analyzed oral history and other oral traditions. In 2008, Katie interned for M·CAM’s Heritable Innovation Trust (HIT). Now she is a program coordinator with HIT and travels with the organization documenting traditional practices and processes of communities across Papua New Guinea, Mongolia, and Ecuador.

Can you tell me about the “Heritable Knowledge Framework and the Development of Communal Innovation Trusts” document and how it contributed to the founding of the Heritable Innovation Trust?

The Heritable Knowledge Framework sets out the specific methods for engaging groups that want to work with us. The document states how we should approach communities (they invite us), what artifacts or processes constitute heritable knowledge, and how we should present this knowledge. The document defines heritable knowledge as relating to a continually used item or process that is adapted to an environment or circumstance. Furthermore, heritable knowledge is culturally present through mediums like dance or painting, is valuable to the community, and belongs to not one individual, but the group as a whole. The Heritable Knowledge Framework then tells us what we can do with the knowledge we acquire. With all of our documents we want to respect those who have provided us with their knowledge, honor their traditions, and adjust our actions to their expressed needs.



Saturday Series: An Interview with Dr. José Daboub

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By Devon Ericksen

In our new Saturday Series, we interview inspiring people our readers have nominated. These people are working on the frontlines to improve the global food and agricultural systems. Want to nominate someone?  E-mail your suggestions to Danielle Nierenberg!

Dr. José Daboub of GAIN (Photo Credit: GAIN)

Name: Dr. Juan José Daboub

Affiliation: The Global Adaptation Institute (GAIN). GAIN  is a non-profit made up of global leaders and climate scientists focused on the urgent need for adaptation in a changing world. By measuring what is at risk and supporting projects that are working towards adaptation, GAIN hopes to save lives and livelihoods around the globe.

Bio: Dr. Juan José Daboub is the Founding CEO of GAIN, as well as Chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Climate Change. Dr. Daboub’s career began in El Salvador, where he became a respected business leader and from 1999 to 2004 he served as both the country’s Minister of Finance and the Chief of Staff to President Francisco Flores. In 2004 he joined Flores in starting the America Libre Institute, a non-profit that implemented projects in Latin America promoting liberty, stability, and growth. From 2006 until the creation of GAIN in 2010, Dr. Daboub was the Managing Director of the World Bank, where he oversaw operations in 110 countries around the world. Dr. Daboub brings his global experience to GAIN, and shares with us his thoughts on the Institute’s work.

How did the Global Adaptation Institute begin and what led to the creation of the GAIN Index?

The Global Adaptation Institute was created in 2010 in order to fill a gap in helping countries, especially those in the developing world, to be more resilient and have a better capacity to adapt to an ever-changing world. We brought together a group of world leaders in both the private and public sectors to encourage organizations, especially private ones, to be more conscious of the urgent need to adapt.

With that in mind, the Institute focuses on three areas that we believe are very effective at helping to save lives and livelihoods:

  1. We need to be able to measure what matters. We need a proper matrix to know whether policies and investments are helping to build resilience. Creating this matrix, called the GAIN Index, is a focus of the Institute. We believe the GAIN Index is the most modern and advanced tool out there for measuring a country’s readiness and vulnerabilities in order to improve their conditions.
  2. Identify what’s going on in the real world and highlight practical solutions that investors can focus on.
  3. Build strategic alliances with organizations such as universities and think tanks that are interested in the subject of adaptation.

What kind of response have you received to the GAIN Index? Have you had much success in convincing governments and private businesses to adopt climate adaptation measures?

Many companies, such as ABM, Caterpillar, Cargill, Pepsi-Cola, and Coca-Cola, are beginning to consider adaptation risks in certain countries and in certain parts of their production lines when making investments and building resilience in their supply chain. Any company that deals with food production, insurance, water, infrastructure, or energy in the international sphere must consider these factors, and many are beginning to do so.



A Home of Love: An Interview with Patrick Odoyo

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By Ronica Lu

Organic farming work being done on the Dago Dala Hera orphanage property.
(Photo Credit: Patrick Odoyo)

Name: Patrick Odoyo

Affiliation: Program Coordinator, Dago Dala Hera Orphanage of Kenya

Biography: Patrick Odoyo is the program director and coordinator for Dago Dala Hera Orphanage in Dago Kaminasuo, Kenya, a children’s center and home offering the services of education, skills training, and room and board for children affected with HIV/AIDS. He is also a guest lecturer on African studies and his life experiences at the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation and the University of Michigan.

What are the day-to-day operations like at Dago Dala Hera?

There are 114 children who attend the day school at the orphanage and 36 girls who permanently reside there during the day and night. The day is a mixture of residential activities centered on the main component of education and schooling for the children.

How successful have your fundraising events in the U.S. been?

Fundraising in the U.S. has been difficult but we have been active in organizing church meetings and creative fundraisers. Due to donor fatigue and the fact that we are not yet a 501k organization, it has been difficult to get people to donate. But our soccer tournament has been very successful—it started in 2008 from the planning efforts of village volunteers. The annual Kick it with Kenya soccer tournament held in rural villages all across Western Kenya, brings vital public health education on HIV/AIDS to its youth, and earns proceeds that benefit the orphanage operations.

How does intensive organic farming benefit the Dago Dala Hera?

Through organic farming we teach ways in which students can be self-sustaining. Planting Moringa trees benefits residents because the trees provide immense medicinal and nutritional value in addition to water purification properties the seeds provide. Our vegetable nurseries provide nutrition and nourishment while at the same time saving the residents money. Instead of buying produce from vendors or the market, residents of the orphanage can grow them out of their small garden, sell the excess, and make money at the same time. The money is also used to pay for their schooling beyond the 8th grade, which comes at a fee for children in Kenya.



Saturday Series: An Interview with Rowen Jin

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By Seyyada A Burney

In our new Saturday Series, we interview inspiring people that our readers have nominated. These people are working on the frontlines to improve the global food and agricultural systems. Want to nominate someone?  E-mail your suggestions to Danielle Nierenberg!

Rowen Jin is a Project Manager for World Water Relief in Haiti. (Photo credit: Rowen Jin)

Name: Rowen Jin

Affiliation: World Water Relief

Bio: Californian Rowen Jin recently graduated from Swarthmore College as a Biology major and an English minor. She immediately fell in love with Haiti during her first visit in the summer of 2011 for  earthquake relief work. After making a career change from research to health-related development work, Rowen returned to Haiti in 2012 as a Project Manager for World Water Relief.

She speaks fluent Chinese and is conversational in Haitian Creole and Spanish.

Almost one-sixth of the world’s population does not have access to safe drinking water. How are World Water Relief’s projects alleviating this deficit?

In 2009, Kevin Fussell, MD, one of the founding members of World Water Relief and our current Board president, personally witnessed and recognized a need for safe drinking water in Batey Siete, Dominican Republic. Bateys are communities of largely Haitian sugarcane field workers throughout Dominican Republic. Many of these batey communities are underdeveloped and underfunded by the Dominican government because they are predominantly Haitian. We’ve been working ever since 2009 to help the situation on the island of Hispaniola. For most of our projects, we implement the school model of water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH). We construct drinking and hand-washing stations at schools, improve sanitation facilities, and conduct hygiene education courses. Through this approach, we hope to bring more comprehensive changes to the communities where we have projects. The key to our success is that we recognize our limitations and know our strengths.  We know we can have a positive effect on small communities and school populations if they meet a set of criteria that we have established, including community support for the project, a source of water, school administrators who want us to be there, etc.  We bring an understanding of the culture and language (all of our project managers speak the language of the countries we are serving) and a respect for the opinions of the people.  This is our formula for success.  We don’t necessarily look at the whole country’s population. We focus on those we know we can help. The specific areas where we are working have no voices other than among themselves.



Saturday Series: An Interview with Kari Hamerschlag

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By Emilie Schnarr and Carly Chaapel

In our new Saturday Series, we interview inspiring people that our readers have nominated. These people are working on the frontlines to improve the global food and agricultural systems. Want to nominate someone?  E-mail your suggestions to Danielle Nierenberg!

Kari Hamerschlag, Senior Food and Agriculture Analyst of the Environmental Working Group. (Photo credit: Kari Hamerschlag)

Name: Kari Hamerschlag

Location/Affiliation: Environmental Working Group (EWG)

Bio: Kari is the Senior Food and Agriculture Analyst at the Environmental Working Group. Her work focuses on food and agriculture policy for local, healthy, organic, and sustainable options. The agriculture branch of the EWG is best known for its extensive farm subsidy database and its voice for strong environmental health standards within agricultural policy.

In your opinion, what is the best way for the public to become involved in Farm Bill decision-making processes?

First the bad news: It’s unfortunately not easy to get involved since so much goes on behind closed doors in Congress. The good news is that you should get involved anyway, because if people don’t, we’ll get more of the status quo, and I think we can agree that the status quo is failing us. Here are four easy ways to jump in:



Saturday Series: An Interview with Bruce Melton

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By Olivia Arnow

In our new Saturday Series, we interview inspiring people that our readers have nominated. These people are working on the frontlines to improve the global food and agricultural systems. Want to nominate someone? E-mail your suggestions to Danielle Nierenberg!

Bruce Melton interprets and delivers climate science to the public (Photo credit:

Name: Bruce Melton

Location: Austin, Texas

Bio: Bruce is an independent civil engineer focusing primarily on environmental issues and climate change awareness.

How do you effectively communicate climate science to society given its complexity and future uncertainty?

I focus primarily on outreach—giving environmental leaders and the public information about climate change. I try to insert science into everyday life using unconventional methods at times. I have a band called Climate Change and have made several documentaries. I’m also currently working on a television series called Climate Change Man.



On the Frontlines: An Interview with Peter Hammerstedt

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By Marlena White

Name: Peter Hammerstedt

Affiliation: Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

Bio: Peter Hammerstedt is a regular cast member of Animal Planet’s “Whale Wars,” which covers the anti-whaling efforts of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. He will also appear on “Whale Wars: Viking Shores,” premiering Friday, April 27, at 9:00 PM (ET). The series will focus on Operation Ferocious Isles, the Sea Shepherd’s campaign against whaling in the Faroe Islands of the North Atlantic. Peter is passionate about animal rights and has often put himself in harm’s way to protect them. When he is not working on Sea Shepherd campaigns, he is pursuing a degree in Media and Communications at Stockholm University and actively campaigning with the Swedish Animal Rights Alliance.

Peter Hammarstedt can be seen on Animal Planet’s “Whale Wars: On Viking Shores.” (Photo credit: Animal Planet)

How did the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society become involved with whaling in the Faroe Islands?

Sea Shepherd has a long history of both bringing attention to and intervening in the pilot whale slaughter on the Faroe Islands, known as “The Grind.” Captain Paul Watson launched two ship-based campaigns to oppose the hunt in 1985 and 1986 and again in 2000. On all three occasions, no pilot whales were killed while Sea Shepherd patrolled the islands. In 1986, Sea Shepherd brought a film team from the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) to the Faroe Islands in order to capture the cruelty of the hunt, resulting in the award-winning documentary Black Harvest. The film captures a dramatic confrontation of when a Faroese gunboat pursues the Sea Shepherd’s vessel and attacks them with tear gas, in an unsuccessful attempt to seize the ship and arrest the crew.



Growing Agriculture: An Interview with Susan Varlamoff

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Name: Susan Varlamoff

Affiliation: Director of the Office of Environmental Sciences, University of Georgia

Bio: As Director of the Office of Environmental Sciences (OES), Varlamoff promotes the College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences’ environmental research, teaching, and extension programs and seeks funding opportunities and collaborations for faculty working on natural resource issues. She also maintains a database of environmental programs for the College, writes the environmental report and E-Newsletter, and seeks collaborations with entities on areas of College expertise, especially water and local food.

 Location: Atlanta, Georgia 

Photo credit: University of Georgia

What was the food system in Atlanta like before urban agriculture started to take root?  How has it changed?  

Urban agriculture has picked up speed in the last five years due in part to the recession.  Currently the unemployment is greater than 10 percent, homelessness has increased, and there are many foreclosures. Some neighborhoods have been decimated—drugs are a problem in these rundown neighborhoods, half of Atlanta is a food desert, and Georgia ranks #2 in childhood obesity.

Public and private partnerships are working to improve access to fresh food by establishing farms and community gardens, and stationery and mobile food markets in underserved areas. Through these initiatives we are seeing the potential that urban agriculture has to transform the city, neighborhood by neighborhood.

How have nearby residents reacted to the new urban gardens? How have the gardens impacted these communities?

When well-managed, urban gardens are transforming neighborhoods. The best example is an area in the lower 4th ward where drugs and sex traffickers abound. A low income housing development was razed and in its place is a robust garden/farm that is now growing collards, broccoli, and cabbage. Rashid Nuri, founder of Truly Living Well, has hired 40 people to help him farm 6 urban farms and gardens.  And the Atlanta Mission, the city’s largest homeless shelter, now boasts a community garden where the men cultivate vegetables year round to supply the mission’s kitchen with fresh food.