Grow Good: 2017 Community Fund Grants Awarded

The FruitGuys Community Fund is pleased to introduce the 2017 class of farm grantees. In 2017, the project awarded ten small American farms and agricultural nonprofits a total of $42,913 in funding for sustainability projects.

During this year, we awarded an additional $2,750, and we extended our reach, funding farm located in seven states, including California, Oklahoma, Illinois, and Maine. Along with these developments, we also modified the grant application process with an initial request for letters of intent (rather than asking applicants to take the time to prepare a full application right away).

70 Letters of Intent, 20 Finalists

We received more than 70 letters of intent proposing many impactful, sustainable agriculture projects focused on supporting pollinators; conserving soil, water, and energy; extending the growing season, and increasing harvests. Our volunteer review committee selected 20 finalists in line with our Sustainable Farming Manifesto and specific outcomes for community impact, advocacy, and food security. Our passionate reviewers read each of the 20 finalist applications carefully and discussed each grant submission in detail in order to narrow the list to 10 farms.

Meet The FruitGuys Community Fund’s Class of 2017

Urban Tree Connection, a nonprofit organization in the Haddington neighborhood of West Philadelphia, PA, supports community-led land reclamation projects that build capacity for food sovereignty. Its Neighborhood Foods Farm is located on a formerly abandoned three-quarter-acre lot. Since 2010, Neighborhood Foods Farm has grown fruits, vegetables, and herbs without harmful chemical inputs at little to no cost for community members, producing more than 12,000 pounds of food annually. A $2,500 grant will allow them to build an education program for the local community and to start a seed-saving project that incorporates culturally relevant seed varieties.

Chicago Patchwork Farms is a no-till, organic, bio-intensive half-acre urban farm in Chicago, IL. It produces mainly vegetables, eggs, medicinal herbs, preserved foods, honey, and cut flowers, and runs a compost drop-off program. Twice a week, Patchwork Farms hosts a 50-member sliding-scale CSA pickup and a pay-what-you-can farm stand. A $5,000 grant will fund the purchase of an ice freezer, solar panels, and a lean-to structure, as well as extra coolers and compost to support its new Neighborhood Greens Program. This program will bring fresh bunched greens to local convenience stores that accept food stamps. The freezer will aid Patchwork in producing ice on-site to help preserve the greens at peak freshness. The solar panels will generate enough power to offset the use of this freezer, and the lean-to will serve as an outbuilding to protect the freezer. The coolers will be used to stock the greens at local convenience stores that do not have adequate refrigeration space.

Foxtrot Organic Farm, a six-acre certified organic farm in St. Charles, IL, grows more than 140 varieties of diversified fruits, vegetables, herbs, and cut flowers. All produce is sold within 10 miles of the farm through a CSA, farm stand, and sales to local chefs and bakers. A $3,359 grant will allow them to establish a perennial hedgerow for beneficial insects and pollinators, increase soil health by applying organic cover crops and compost, and minimize tillage through the purchase of a tilther, a tool that preserves the topsoil layer and combats weed seeds in the soil, reducing time spent weeding.

Byars Family Farm, a five-acre farm in southern Oklahoma located within the Chickasaw Nation, grows 12 different varieties of vegetables that are sold at farmers markets, at its farm stand, and through wholesale accounts. Byars accepts USDA SNAP benefits for the purchase of produce and seedling plants. Its $5,000 grant will allow the farm to build a hoop house and fund a mulch layer. The hoop house will extend the growing season and provide the physical space to grow transplants for SNAP participants. The mulch layer will increase yields of produce by concentrating heat, water, and nourishment.

Songbird Farm, a 13-acre farm in Unity, ME, produces certified organic mixed vegetables, small grains, and stone-ground flour that is primarily sold wholesale to a distributor, direct to natural-food stores, and through a CSA. A $2,966 grant will allow them to build a rainwater catchment system on a 40-foot barn with a metal roof. The system will provide approximately 1,000 gallons of water for every inch of rain, enough water to irrigate its two 100-foot high tunnels and potentially even more open ground. The rainwater catchment system will help the farm conserve water.

Bertrand Farm is a nonprofit educational farm in Niles, MI, whose mission is to connect people to local food production and promote sustainable agriculture, health, and stewardship of the earth. The eight-acre farm produces a variety of fruits and vegetables that are primarily sold through a CSA. A $4,991 grant will allow Bertrand Farm to establish a perennial food project on a transitioning orchard site. These plantings will work with nature to eliminate pest and disease pressure, increase soil fertility, attract pollinators, sink carbon, and produce nutrient-dense food.

Soil Born Farms, a nonprofit farm in Rancho Cordova, CA, grows 45 different vegetable crops and nine different varieties of fruit on 55 acres. Soil Born works closely with Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services, which distributes the food to its low-income clients throughout the county. Soil Born Farms raises chickens (for both meat and eggs), sheep, and hogs. Its products are also sold at a farm stand, farmers market, through a CSA, direct to restaurants, and at the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-Op. Its $5,000 grant will allow it to purchase a no-till seed drill, which will improve germination rates, decrease the amount of labor required to plant cover-crop seed, increase water retention, control invasive weeds, improve the quality of successive vegetable crops, and increase pasture health.

Marsteller Farm, a family farm on just under four and a half acres in Freeland, MD, produces a wide variety of chemical-free vegetables, from greens and garlic to corn, melons, and tomatoes. Marsteller specializes in lesser-known varieties and heirlooms. The farm also sells pastured eggs and heritage pastured pork raised using a rotational grazing system, which ensures that fresh grass and forage are available year-round. Its $5,000 grant will allow the farm to construct a 30-foot-by-96-foot tunnel that will extend the growing season and diversify crops. Marsteller Farm also aims to encourage home gardening and increase pollinators on the farm.

The Growing Club’s Sarvodaya Farms is a nonprofit educational farming program in Pomona, CA that produces organically grown fruits, vegetables, herbs, and pasture-raised eggs on an acre that is made up of three suburban farm sites. Its CSA currently supports 25 low-income members. In addition, farmer trainees learn to manage the entire farm operation, including nursery planting and maintenance, field plantings, pest management, livestock care, and irrigation setup and maintenance. A $4,996 grant will help establish four California native perennial hedgerows. The funds will be used for the purchase of more than 200 perennials, 40–50 fruit trees, wildflower seeds, and drip irrigation materials to support these plants. In addition, 10 percent of the grant funding will also be reserved for creating educational programming for the Urban Farmer Training Program.

Blackhawk Courts Farm and Garden is a half-acre, community-led organic farm and community garden on the grounds of Rockford Housing Authority – Blackhawk Courts, a public housing property in Rockford, IL. The farm program engages youth and adult apprentices in educational programming and on-site markets. They sell produce from the farm through a CSA; on- and off-site farm stands; and We-Pick Wednesday events, where community members can come to the farm and pick their vegetable selections fresh. At the community garden, Blackhawk Court residents can pick produce at any time for free. A $4,100 grant will allow Blackhawk Courts to carry out soil testing while creating compost and cover crops and planting perennials to help improve soil health and attract and support pollinators.

A small donation has a huge impact on a sustainable small farm. Help us extend our reach by donating just $1! Support more projects that address water conservation, natural pest control, energy efficiency, soil health, or pollination. Here’s the link to our donation page:

Sheila Cassani is GoodWorks Ambassador for The FruitGuys.

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