25 Innovations in 25 U.S. States

October 24 is U.S. Food Day, a yearly nationwide celebration of healthy, affordable, and sustainable food. Watch our short, fun video about Food Day by clicking here!

In honor of Food Day 2012, Nourishing the Planet would like to showcase 50 state-by-state programs, projects, individuals, and organizations that are innovating to make the nation's food and agricultural system more sustainable. This week, we bring you the first 25, from Alabama to Missouri. Keep an eye out for the second 25 next week, where we will highlight innovations taking place from Montana to Wyoming!

1. Alabama -The Jones Valley Urban Farm in Birmingham, Alabama has been in operation since 2007. Occupying 3.5 acres of once vacant space in downtown Birmingham, Jones Valley Urban Farm grows organic produce and flowers and offers hands-on education to the community about farming and nutritious foods.

2. Alaska - The Fish to Schools program, created by the Sitka Conservation Society, is a school feeding initiative dedicated to serving local and nutritious seafood to students in Sitka, Alaska. As the ninth largest seafood port in the United States, Sitka's economy and community is strongly interconnected with seafood. Through the Fish to Schools program, Sitka youth gain knowledge about local seafood resources by integrating seafood into their diets and by attending educational seminars on marine life and the process of harvesting seafood.

3. Arizona - The Sunizona Family Farms in Wilcox, Arizona started growing cucumbers in 1996. Today, not only do they sell nearly 95 percent of their organic produce, ranging from tomatoes, to kale to beets, to chard, locally, they also use growing methods which rely strictly on plant-based products. No animal inputs are used in any part of the farming process, they make their own fertilizers out of vegetable components, and even use waste pecan shells to create wood pellets, which they use to heat their greenhouse.

4. Arkansas - The City of North Little Rock, Arkansas has been given $1.5 million to encourage healthy nutrition and lifestyles in low-income neighborhoods. The mission is to make the City of North Little Rock a Fit 2 Live community that is committed to healthy eating and active living by creating an environment that recognizes and encourages citizens to adopt healthy life choices.

5. California - In 2011, San Francisco passed the Urban Agriculture Ordinance, amending the zoning code to allow food production for personal and public use, provide guidelines and requirements for urban farms, and regulating the sale of harvested products and value-added products. This law has allowed San Francisco to expand into sustainable urban agriculture and become a promoter of healthy, sustainable diets. Products like jams and pickles, for example, as well as those sold at farmer's markets, are subject to the San Francisco Department of Public Health's guidelines under this law, while agricultural products for personal consumption remain unregulated.

6. Colorado - The Central Colorado Land Link Initiative is a program designed to preserve agricultural land and connect new farmers to retiring or veteran agrarians. The Land Link Initiative is helping to keep retiring farmer's property in farming by connecting them with next generation farmers who are interested continuing to cultivate the land.

7. Connecticut - The Connecticut Farm-to-School Program has nearly 50 farms and 95 school districts participating in its program. It helps provide cafeterias in Connecticut schools with locally grown fresh fruit and vegetables. The Farm-to-School Program is not only developing new markets for local farms, but is also providing Connecticut youth with nutritious food.

8. Delaware - The Delaware Young Farmers Program has been helping young farmers acquire farmland through long-term, no-interest loans since 2011. Designed to give a leg up to young farmers looking to start their own farms, the Program targets Delaware natives between 18 and 40 years old and offers them up to $500,000 in no-interest 30-year loans.

9. Florida - Florida Agriculture in the Classroom, Inc. (FAITC) is a non-profit organization that aims to educate students in Florida schools about the importance of agriculture. FAITC provides grants to teachers and volunteers for projects that teach students the importance of agriculture and the contribution Florida farmers make to their communities and state. The organization holds workshops to train teachers and volunteers and uses the 2013 Excellence in Teaching About Agriculture Award to recognize teachers who find innovative ways to bring agriculture into the classroom.

10. Georgia - In 2011, Georgia Olive Farms (GOF) conducted the first commercial olive harvest east of the Mississippi river since the late 1800s. GOF, an agricultural cooperative formed in 2009, aims to help potential East Coast olive farmers by providing informational resources, market access, and selling young olive trees. They also provide consumers with sustainably, locally produced olive oil, which greatly reduces the carbon footprint for olive oil consumed on the East Coast.

11. Hawaii - On the island of Oahu, FarmRoof grows organic, unprocessed foods on local rooftops. Rooftop farms lower energy costs by insulating the building and help prevent sewage back-ups by absorbing rain water. They also increase biodiversity and promote local food, reducing food miles and energy use.

12. Idaho - Earthly Delights Farm is a small-scale, human-powered farm growing vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers in Boise, Idaho. The farm uses almost exclusively hand tools and transports their produce on bicycles. Earthly Delights engages the community through their internships, workshops, and unique events like "weed dating" - speed dating where participants spend time learning about plants and weeding while getting to know one another.

13. Illinois - Part vertical farm, part food-business incubator, and part research and education space, The Plant in Chicago, Illinois is converting an old meat-packing building into an indoor vertical garden. The Plant will include a tilapia fish farm, vegetable gardens, a bakery, a brewery, a mushroom farm, and a shared kitchen space. The net-zero energy design hopes to not only produce zero waste, but actually consume more waste than it produces, eliminating waste from surrounding neighborhood food manufacturers.

14. Indiana - What's better than fresh baked goods? Fresh baked goods with a conscience! Marilyn's Bakery, located in Northwest Indiana since 1986, focuses on seasonal items made using locally-grown, farm fresh produce. The bakery sells only fair trade coffee, offers many vegetarian and health-conscious options, and uses 100 percent biodegradable packaging.

15. Iowa - Small Potatoes Farm is a certified-organic, human-scale vegetable farm run by Rick and Stacy Hartmann. Since 2001, Small Potatoes Farm has been selling their vegetables to local chefs, specialty grocery stores, and the community in the Ames and Des Moines areas. Their website includes information on their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), a recipe database, and a Sustainable Agriculture Library of books they loan out to those interested in learning more about sustainable food and agriculture.

16. Kansas - The New Roots for Refugees program helps women refugees start their own small farm businesses growing and selling vegetables in the Kansas City area. The program, run by Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas and Cultivate KC not only provides the women with garden plots at a public housing site, but also financial literacy and English as a Second Language (ESL) classes. The women remain in the program for a few years, gradually becoming more independent until they transition to running their own farm businesses.

17. Kentucky - The Restaurant Rewards Programis an incentive for restaurants in Kentucky to purchase local produce with the "Kentucky Proud" seal. Funded by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, the program helps compensate participating restaurants for the higher costs of buying local foods, helping them lower their food costs while also promoting fresh ingredients.

18. Louisiana - Our School at Blair Grocery is an independent school and education center in New Orleans that gives disadvantaged youth the opportunity to become part of a supportive environment by engaging them in community-development activities. OSAG runs an urban farm that gives students the chance to learn and becoming actively involved in the local food supply chain.

19. Maine - Since 2007, the Maine Harvest Lunch has celebrated and raised awareness about small farmers and the health benefits of their produce. The lunch is a community-building, statewide event that helps connect farmers to their customers and sheds light on the local food system and its importance for environmental health.

20. Maryland - Rumbleway Farm, in the Chesapeake Bay town of Conowingo, combines animal raising, marketing, and community development. The farm experiments with "free-range houses" that provide chickens with more room to move, and with raising rabbits on pastures to boost their Omega-3 fatty acid content. The farm also hosts dinners around once a month, which are open to the public, to boost involvement and interest in the community's agricultural system.

21. Massachusetts - The Worchester Kindergarten Initiative is a farm-to-school program offered in five low-income public schools. The initiative offers in-class food tasting, cooking demonstrations, farm tours and mobile farmers markets.

22. Michigan - Just recently, Michigan State University implemented the MetroFoodPlus Innovation Cluster (MIC) project, with a pledge of $1.5 million to fund research and development for urban agriculture initiatives across Detroit. The project is looking to involve 80 local organizations in hopes of increasing communication between local food creators and distributors, and creating eight to ten state-of-the-art greenhouses to increase the city's agricultural knowledge base.

23. Minnesota - The Women's Urban Farm Incubator in St. Paul improves entrepreneurial and leadership opportunities for underprivileged women by providing them land to train and harness their agricultural skills. The initiative has helped several women to become successful urban farmers.

24. Mississippi - The Eco-Stamp Program allows consumers a chance to get educated on the initiatives in their communities that are tackling hunger, malnutrition, and agricultural malpractices. The program gives consumers a 50-cent credit that can be donated to local programs like Fruits of the City and West 7th Meals on Wheels.

25. Missouri - To get a better return on their investments, the Shepherd family at Shepherd Farms in Cilfton Hill took entire control of their marketing and distribution. The farm focuses on unique markets by producing buffalo, pecans, and gamagrass, a plant whose extensive root system breaks compact soil and helps recycle nutrients.