by Wolfram Alderson

This week, we invited Wolfram Alderson from Full Circle Farm (this year’s NVIDIA Santa Clara Project Inspire recipient) to write about the farm and their work.

NVIDIA recently announced that Full Circle Farm – a community-operated farm in Silicon Valley – would be the recipient of its annual Project Inspire grant. This means that some $300,000 in materials, equipment and volunteer support will be used to improve our infrastructure.

Earlier this summer, over 120 employees from
NVIDIA’s VLSI team came out to the Farm for a
teambuilding event.

Full Circle Farm is unique. Our venture includes a community garden, a 100-member Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, 300-tree orchard, farm stand, chicken coop and educational services — all on one site. In short, we offer a complete “seed to table” experience. We aim to create a healthy, fair, environmentally sound, and economically viable food system that can serve as a model for other farms in the region.

In December 2011, more than 1,000 NVIDIA employees, friends and family members will donate their elbow grease to help Full Circle Farm make the various infrastructure upgrades that are needed to transform Full Circle Farm into a fully sustainable farm – both in terms of the environment and finances. They will work the soil and provide new irrigation to improve crop production. The NVIDIA volunteers will also build a new farm stand, greenhouse, packing facility, and an outdoor teaching kitchen (which we use to educate thousands of children and adults about where their food comes from). This hands-on, “seed to table” experience helps us teach people how to eat healthily.

With the Project Inspire grant, Full Circle Farm
will double the number of kids they educate each year.
Photo courtesy Full Circle Farm.

Our immediate goals are to increase crop production and improve our supply chain so that we can sell up to 300 CSA subscriptions — the “magic” number that will keep the farm sustainable and allow us to run on our own cash flow. From there, we can expand to other communities.

While Full Circle Farm’s goal is to offer fresh, organic, great-tasting food to the local community, we are also on a mission to address a pressing health concern in California and the rest of the nation. About one-third of U.S. adults are obese. Approximately 17% (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents aged 2-19 are obese. Obesity rates in the US doubled among children and tripled among teenagers over the past three decades.

Despite California’s reputation for healthy living, the statistics surrounding obesity in the state are sobering. Adult obesity rates in the state have more than doubled since 1990. Childhood obesity rates have also skyrocketed in California. Thirty one percent of adolescents aged 12- to 17-years old and one-in-three California children aged 9-11-years old are at risk of becoming or are already overweight.

Locally, rising rates of overweight and obese youth pose an urgent public health problem in the County of Santa Clara. The results of the 2007-2008 California Healthy Kids survey revealed that nearly one-in-four 7th, 9th and 11th graders in the County’s public schools were either obese or overweight.

Full Circle Farm is also partnering with Kaiser Permanente, which has moved obesity to the top of its clinical priority list, to address this obesity issue by engaging people of all ages in real-life situations that involve healthy food, education, and most importantly, fun!

We’re impressed that Project Inspire is what NVIDIA employees do in lieu of the lavish holiday parties that Silicon Valley was famous for in the dot com era.