Fleet farming – A brief description
Fleet farming is a mission to increase local food accessibility while creating a healthier and a more connected world, and with passing years many frontiers have started joining the program so as to learn more about growing food. This caused much media concern and many people started growing interest in it all throughout the world. The USDA has developed ‘Farmers Market and Local Foods Promotion Program Grant’ that help fight hunger in the community.
This helped the community to get access to fresh foods from their nearest farms. Fleet farming has grown significantly and in January 2018 local residents came together with community partners to bring food security to the underprivileged community. Every community needs access to nutrient rich fresh foods. Fleet farming is simply to empower the local food system, to educate the next generation farmers and help to create a more connected and a healthier world.
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Fleet farming is a Non profitable Agriculture program of IDEAS For Us who transforms any average American lawn into a bio verse, productive micro farms and edible gardens with a mission of empowering all the future generations to grow food and increase the local food accessibility and for also to create localised food systems which could bring all the communities together towards a healthier and a more connected world in harmony with people and planet.
The program works to provide edible landscaping to schools, community centres, or affordable housing units, businesses and individuals through the farming community initiative and Edible Landscapes garden installation service. The program works together to change the cycle of food.
Fleet farming in USA
The average plate of food costs you to travel 1500 miles which burns 10 calories of fossil fuel energy contributing to about 33% of Climate change. Meanwhile, in the USA, there are 40 million acres of lawn for Agriculture which consumes 800 million gallons of Gasoline and about 30% to 60% of potable drinking water. This made the community come together to influence the local food system to transform the large farms into micro farms and thus FLEET FARMING was created.
In December 2013, the local Central Florida entrepreneur and an urban farmer ‘John Rife’ represented the fleet farming concept at the IDEAS community think+do tank program called “The Hive: Orlando“, and over one month period, John and IDEAS leaders began to organise the concept into an action plan and started implementing the first pilot program in February 2014.
IDEAS For Us is a sustainable and accredited NGO and 501c3 Non-profit organisation which is headquartered in Winter Park. It is an organisation that manages and operates the Fleet farming program in partnership with East End Market and other community partners and supporters.
The revenue generated from the program further goes into other community development and sustainability projects which could expand the Fleet farming program to other districts and cities. Since 2014, the fleet farming program has helped to stop over 10,000 pounds of Carbon dioxide from being emitted into the atmosphere.
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We will learn more about Fleet farming in this article.
Fleet Farm locations in the US in 2022
As of January 2022, there are 47 fleet farm locations in the United States with Wisconsin state having the most number (22) of farm locations which is 46% of all the Fleet farm locations in America while Minnesota and Iowa have16 and 6 Fleet farm locations respectively. There are 51 US states & Territories also which don’t have any Fleet farm locations.
Fleet farming – Towards a Sustainable Future
The University of Central Florida has one area of focus being ‘Ecology and Agricultural Sustainability’ where students get to know the ecological concerns at on-campus Gardens and gain valuable experiences together with the educational researchers and teachers who study these issues with urban farming as a local solution to pressing Global problems.
Fleet farming in partnership with the UCF’s raises awareness about sustainable Agriculture which helps the people to understand that growing food can help them save money and environment both feed farming in the brainchild of ideas for us which is an environment to solution group based in Orlando.
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Fleet farming is a result of a conflict which was caused when one of the local couples was fined for using their front yard as a garden and this made the people of the community aware of their ability to grow their own food. After this conflict, the local ordinances allowed 60% of the residential areas to be used as agricultural production. In 2014, Fleet farming was started with a goal of establishing sustainable and localised Agriculture in both Urban and Suburban communities.
As said by Caroline Chomanics, the Fleet farming Program Manager, “This is our right that we have – to use our land to grow food for us, just as many Americans have in the past. We live in the Sunshine State. We should be having all of our food grown here.”
IDEAS For Us: Solution to Sustainability Challenges
Fleet farming is one of the most successful programs that has emerged from the IDEAS as it focuses on advancing sustainability in the local communities and also in empowering the neighborhoods to contribute to the ecological well-being of the nearby areas.
The biggest threat for sustainability on a local scale is lawns, and in the US about 40 million acres of land is taken up by lawns which use 30-60% of urban freshwater and to maintain these lawns, it needs to fertilise them with heavy Nitrogen and Phosphorus. This maintains the greenery and keeps the plants healthy but it also has a negative effect on the surrounding environment.
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Nitrogen gets converted into nitrites which leeches into the water supply and have harmful effects on humans. On the other hand, Phosphorus washes into the large water bodies promoting the growth of algae which leads to the dying of fishes. Meanwhile, some of the homeowners also use pesticides on their lawns that kill the insects serving essential roles in the local ecological web.
Fleet farming is a solution to all these problems as it converts the lawn space into gardens of edible plants as it is employed in minimizing the need for fertilizers and pesticides and requires less work than maintaining a lawn, providing delicious and nutritious food for the property owners and also for the communities.
Fleet farming – Providing Food & Financial Security
Fleet farming was first adopted in Orlando’s Audubon Park neighbourhood, thereafter, it expanded to 30 micro farms in front and back yards of various neighbourhoods including Winter Park, Parramore and Holden Heights.
The foods that were produced in these micro farms were sold at SNAP-certified farmer’s market and to the local Orlando restaurants.
Fleet farming is less concerned with gardening and is more focused on educating the community rather than Agriculture. As said by Chomanics, “It is our mission to empower all generations to grow food. We can teach people how to do this at home. If we are going to make a difference, everybody needs to be involved. Everybody needs to be farming their own lawn. That’s what we focus on right now.”
Fleet farming helps the children to maintain the Gardens at their local schools and also to harvest food so that they take it to their home to their families and the expertise of the organisation are also available for anyone who wants to better understand and succeed in the gardening process.
They also teach the homeowners how to build healthy soil, how to use the water conserving drip irrigation system and how & when to grow some specific crops. Fleet farming also teaches about Permaculture which is a permanent and a sustainable agricultural installation, to the people who prefer a low maintenance approach.
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According to Chomanics, Fleet farming is a very low maintenance approach and anyone can be the type of farmer who has his own manicured annual garden or fruit trees.
Variety in the Fleet farming Program
Fleet farming focuses on meeting with the needs and interests of everyone who wants to get involved. Anyone who wants to get into the community and improve it, they can give their precious time and effort towards Sustainable Agriculture which is the primary model for helping the communities in the fleet farming program. The lawns in fleet farming are converted to an urban farm land where the gardens are maintained and the food is splitted with the property owners as well.
The organisation of Fleet farming also offers paid service called ‘Edible Landscapes’ which helps in cultivating the food-bearing plants in the resident’s yards. The workers of the fleet farming also build raised beds and plant food forest providing regular maintenance and also educate the property owners about sustainable Agriculture and also about Urban gardening.
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The Fleet farming program runs a mission program called Swarm Rides, where you can support them if you don’t have space for pitching into a garden. The members travel to the farmlettes on the 2nd and 4th Sunday of every month for the purpose of harvesting, seeding and maintenance and monitors the issues surrounding food and Agriculture.
The whole process of bringing food from the farm to the plates creates a lot of Carbon dioxide. About 40% of food gets wasted and that too is taken up by our planet. Fleet farming reduces the issue by minimising the transportation distance.
The mission Swarm Rides also enables the participants to see their neighbourhoods as a source of food and tools for reducing the impact of Agriculture on the climate.
Seeking Local Solutions to Global Problems
Fleet farming has transformed more than 70000 square feet of lawn space into farmettes in a period of 5 years producing about 4000 pounds of food which fed thousands of people in the community but the the main mission and the efforts of the IDEAS For Us is not limited to the garden, the organisation targets the 6000 retention ponds in Orange Country and they are working with the ecological experts in transforming the land surrounding these ponds into restored Lake shores.
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Chomanics has said that, “We plant native plants, where people would typically just mow all the way down to the water’s edge, to provide habitat for animals. We are also working on planting trees.” The organisation IDEAS For Us also directs their efforts in making the urban settlement more sustainable apart from cultivating the natural spaces.
One of the examples is their ‘Solar panel installation pilot program’, which provides hands-on, intensive solar workforce job training where the participants learn how to conduct site surveys, energy analysis and how to install the solar power system. In June 2019, it certified 12 students out of which 4 had immediately gained employment.
According to the ‘Bureau of Labour Statistics’ the Solar infrastructural installation was one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States which had an expected growth of 105% from 2016 to 2026. Urban Agriculture is one of the solutions behind the significant problems of IDEAS For Us.
The Fleet farming approach has enabled people to gain knowledge and practical skills, also involving the manageable solutions to broader issues, contributing towards a healthier and a more prosperous future.