Sustainable America Blog

Oprah’s New Venture…Farming

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Photo Credit: looseends via Compfight cc

Few people outside of Hawaii know that the island state imports 85-90% of all the food consumed there. This means that food is expensive and comes with a large carbon footprint. It also leaves the state’s food supply vulnerable — if there’s a natural disaster or other disruption to the shipping industry Hawaiians could run out of food in a matter of days.

Many engaged citizens and famers in the islands have realized the unsustainable nature of the situation and are working to build up local food supplies through promoting local farms and local food consumption. But there is still a long way to go to ease the islands’ dependence on imported food.

An unlikely celebrity is now helping to shine a spotlight Hawaii’s local food movement. Mega media mogul Oprah Winfrey purchased a 60-acre farm estate on the island of Maui in recent years. Last year, she and her friend and health consultant Bob Greene decided to set aside 16 of those acres for growing food.

As they explained in an article in this month’s O Magazine, “We realized if we could grow delicious food ourselves, we could share it. So we designated 16 acres for farming, and last summer, with the help of a brilliant natural-resource-management group called Bio-Logical Capital, we planted a single acre with more than 100 species of fruits, vegetables and herbs.”

Winfrey’s farm is already producing about 145 pounds of fresh food each week, and the star has yet to figure out what to do with it all. In addition to donating food to local restaurants and charities, Winfrey wrote that “We’re still figuring out the best way to make use of our bounty, but for now I walk down the road with bags of lettuce, going, ‘Hi, would you like some lettuce? I grew it!’ I feel like I can’t waste it.”

Winfrey may start selling all that extra produce “fairly soon,” Greene said in a video interview with People magazine. Last year, she registered for trademarks for “Oprah’s Organics” and “Oprah’s Harvest” and registered Oprah’s Farm LLC as a business, according to Pacific Business News.

Bio-Logical Capital, a sustainable investment and development company, is also working on acquiring a 4,500-acre farm in Hana, Maui. For Winfrey’s farm they used a regenerative farming approach that increases yield, increases nutrient density, and conserves water and energy. Additionally, they have the farm set up to recycle organic waste into compost, and Winfrey has chickens that supply her with fresh eggs.

Sustainable America aims to lessen the interdependence of our food and fuel systems. One of the crucial ways to achieve this is to increase local food production, which decreases the amount of miles food has to travel from farm to plate. We hope that Oprah Winfrey’s efforts on Maui will inspire more people to grow food and eat locally produced food in America.

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By the Numbers

Currently 50 million households suffer from food insecurity, meaning that family members cannot always meet their basic food needs.

10 million people a year could be fed through the recovery of just one-fifth of food waste.

Only 2% of food waste is composted or otherwise recycled—62% of paper is recycled.

Consumers throw out about 40% of the fresh and frozen fish they buy.

The U.S. produced 208 pounds of meat per person in 2009—60% more than Europe.

Low income commuters spend a much higher proportion of their wages on gas—8.6% versus 2.1% at $4 per gallon.

Food prices rose 35-40 percentage points between 2002–2008.

Americans consume 25% of the world’s produced oil, but our nation holds less than 3% of the world’s proven oil reserves.

The International Energy Agency says greenhouse gas emissions rose 3.2% last year, with a 9.3% increase in China offsetting declines in the US and EU.

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