The Next Level of Food Computing

The OSU Energy Systems Engineers are hard at making growing chamber modifications to our food computer. What started as a conversation with the team about maximizing the growing space inside has now become a reality. This is the first iteration of 2-level design, and we are looking forward to continuing to conduct our energy analyses.

I am constantly amazed with the amount of talent, energy, and creativity that has gone into our controlled-environment growing experiments. We began with an open-source project, via the OpenAg Initiative, and we are continuing to explore the potential that we bring to alternative means of food production here in Bend, Oregon.

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The next level of growing food

Working with OSU-Cascades / Unique Urban Agriculture in Bend, OR

Our Personal Food Computer (PFC) project with OSU-Cascades Energy Systems Engineering (ESE) students was a huge success. Our friends and collaborators at E::Space Labs provided us with a significant amount of project support, and we are extremely honored to have them work with us.

What first began as an idea all tangled in wires, circuits, ideas, and coding, ended up becoming an organized and meaningful approach to learning about our miniaturized automated growing system. It was so great working with the ESE team, and they really worked hard on the project over 2 quarters. They are continuing the work with the PFC, and it's great to see that they want to continue on this road with us.

We're still at it...making our way towards bringing our own unique hybrid version of sustainable urban agriculture to Bend, OR. We are currently having key meetings to address next steps and big goals for this year (and 5-years out). We're really excited about the way things are moving forward, and just like all things, it's one step at a time.

Another great season for our Around The Block Farm

What a great (yet short) growing season this year, and we had another bountiful harvest. It was such a nice experience to gather the lettuces in the warm sunlight, give them a good rinse, and show up on a neighbor's doorstep with a bag of fresh-picked, crispy salad greens. It's always wonderful to see people receive their share with bright smiles, and brimming with gratitude. That's the great thing about running a community vegetable garden...giving it away. That's what our Around The Block Farm is all about - providing access to our crops for whomever desires to pick some veggies to eat.

The lettuces bolted a bit early in the season, but that's the risk we run when the temperatures can fluctuate between extremes out here in this high desert climate. We had some really hot Summer days, and even the shade cloth wouldn't have made much of a difference. Oh well, at least we reaped plenty of greens this year before the plants "did their thing" to survive by flowering.

The red tomatoes this year were excellent, and they were so juicy and sweet. They were so great on sandwiches, in pasta sauces, and even fresh off the vine. The temperatures began to reach freezing in the beginning of October, and that was it for the tomatoes.

The kale was great as always, and Briana was happy to bake her famous, absolutely delicious Kale chips this year. She has gotten her amazing seasoning down to a science, and it really adds so much flavor. I could have been quite fine with just eating my wife's fresh kale chips all day every day. Totally delectable!

 Lettuces, kale, and radicchio...oh my!

Lettuces, kale, and radicchio...oh my!

 Tomatoes rinsed in sunlight.

Tomatoes rinsed in sunlight.

 Smooth leaf kale makes great eats.

Smooth leaf kale makes great eats.

 You just can't go wrong with lettuce.

You just can't go wrong with lettuce.

Around The Bend Innovations as a Key Collaborator

We are very pleased to announce that our primary collaborator, Around The Bend Innovations Inc, is in the process of procuring SBIR funding to develop technology for vertical farming systems. If funded, then this opportunity will enable Around The Bend Farms to gain access to more partnerships through vertical farming channels, and begin to plan for the eventual installation and implementation of it's first vertical farm here in Central Oregon!

Our community "Around The Block Farming" program

The vegetables are thriving and getting bigger every day. With just a little love, water, light, and fertile soil, our lettuces, kale, radicchio, and tomatoes are coming along great! We are in the beginning stages of developing our Block Farming program, and residents in the neighborhood have begun to take notice and stop by to chat and ask about the project. There is great potential in this vision & endeavor - we aim to help reduce cost barriers to healthy veggies, and launch vegetable gardens in neighborhoods to engage community farming. This will help lower overall cost of production, and provide better access to people. Here are some images of the 160 square feet of veggies we're currently growing in our first garden (you may need to click on the images to advance the slideshow). Enjoy!

-Ben

Community Vegetable Garden Program here in Bend, OR

I am so excited to share the development of our community vegetable garden is in full swing! So far, we've built and installed 4 garden boxes, and we're preparing the soil for growing lettuces, kale, and tomatoes for now. Eventually, we will extend the construction to include more bed boxes (including cold boxes for winter growing). We're currently working with a few volunteers to help us out, and Michele and Goldie's help has been much appreciated.

It is so rewarding to see how positively the neighborhood has responded to the developing garden construction. I hope that we will get to a point where we can expand our operation to other neighborhoods in and around the vicinity of Bend. Who knows...maybe we'll be able to drift into a neighborhood in another state!

Our efforts are primarily supported by donations, and all donations are tax-deductible, as we're a non-profit corporation. If what we're doing resonates with you, and you're able to offer your support, then you can donate to our crowd-funding campaign. Thanks for reading our post!

-Ben

Well...things are continuing to come together! New Associates Store, Assembling the Research Team, Volunteers, and Funding.

Spring is finally here, and it's a time for "planting new ideas" and providing the rich "soil" that will help them to germinate and grow. As the days have been unfolding, there have been great opportunities for exploring ways to continue to grow the company. Day by day, the vision is materializing. I'm passionate about helping people, being a part of a sustainable practice, and widening the scope for building connections with community members.

As the vision has been growing & grant opportunities continue to emerge, the time has come for us to begin to assemble out first research team. Not much can be accomplished by sitting wistfully about in the sunlight, dreaming about what could be. I have decided to "grow more roots" in the process of expanding the team that will become the "seed" for how our business model grows. One great thing that has come about (as I've been talking to applicants), is that offers for volunteer work have sprung up. This is great, because it gives me so much excitement to see how interested people are eager to help us to develop our community ties, hone our marketing strategy, and focus a bit more on developing products & services for consumers. 

We have finally begun our first iteration of our online store. We've decided to partner with the world's biggest online store, because it seemed to make sense to tap into gardening & micro-farming product lines that are often difficult to access in many local stores & markets. Additionally, we can explore creative ways to bring in money to expand our marketing efforts & eventually offer more products to people. Down the road, we will be offering our own products online, and that's a really exciting thing!

I am so fortunate to be a part of a such a great community here in Central Oregon, and I really look forward to continually expanding our team, building the solid support structure of passionately driven folks, and being steadfast in our strong desire to serve people and sustain our planet.

-Ben

Website Redesign, Grant Efforts, & New Innovation

I am constantly amazed and humbled by the immense talent that I have encountered and have been privileged to work with out here in Bend. The upgraded appearance of the website couldn't have been done without the great works from Lynn & her staff at WebProdigy. I wish to thank them for working with me in the design of our website at Around The Bend Farms, Inc.

We are currently in the midst of the federal and state grant research and application phase, and while it has been rather exhausting work at times, the efforts have been replete with learning and fulfillment. I wish to personally thank Greg of Transaxtion for being the solid backbone in getting the grant proposals and applications squared away for us.

A surge in the tide for the future of our company has allowed for the creation of Around The Bend Innovations, Inc. The idea and plan is to create innovative designs & engineered structures and equipment that will be used in the " sustainable farm of the future." Upon sufficient funding, I will work with federal & state institutions, as well as local engineers and innovative people, to contribute to the positive impact of sustainable agricultural & economic development in the region (and hopefully other communities across the United States).  

-Ben

Happy Holidays

This Christmas Season is a great time for many to run frantically around in preparation for this time of giving, and for some it may be a rather difficult time for personal reasons. I have been fortunate in my life to have been able to spend the holiday with family and friends in the spirit of love and giving, and I always reflect on the holiday with pleasant memories.

As I sit here writing this post, I am thinking about how Around The Bend Farms could one day be the type of organization that welcomes families near and far to participate in the spirit of joining together in unity, enriching each others' lives and sharing experiences. I am wondering about how we might work together to spread the message of our common desire to bring people together as we forge ahead through the challenges we face in our country and the world at large. A questions that comes to mind is, "What does peaceful community partnership look like to people?" I guess, more importantly the question I should consider is, "What does peace look like to me?" I have seen enough unrest and instability to know what peace does not look like, and I often wonder if it is a reality that can materialize in our world forever. These are important questions that I should consider as I work with others to develop the design & organizational structure of Around The Bend Farms, Inc., not just because it's just a good paradigm, but because I have seen a possible way to establish a balanced system that reflects the peace that I experience daily.

I hope that you all have a very peaceful Christmas and a Happy New Year!

-Ben