New Funding Resource for Small Farms

SAN FRANCISCO — Family farms of different sizes and generations, as well as non-profit organizations that serve schools and the urban and rural poor, are among the recipients of the 2014 The FruitGuys Community Fund small farm sustainability grants.

“We’re very excited about the broad range of projects, both geographically and environmentally, selected for our second year of grants,” said Chris Mittelstaedt, founder and board chair of The FruitGuys Community Fund, a fiscally sponsored project of Community Initiatives. “In addition to the great projects that have been approved, one unexpected result of the Fund’s establishment is that many small farmers tell us they are inspired to develop sustainability initiatives on their own, whether or not they receive a grant.”

More than 60 applicants from the west, midwest, and east coast applied for the 2014 grants, up from 15 in 2013, the Community Fund’s first year of operation. Eight recipients were awarded a total of some $30,000 in grants based on scores for 2014’s areas of focus: pollination, pest control, soil health, and low-income food access. In 2014, the Fund expanded its applicant area to include the Midwest. The 2014 grantees’ farms come from California (3), Maryland (2), Wisconsin (1), Illinois (1), and Pennsylvania (1) and projects range from beehive and bat box installations to pollinator hedgerows and drip irrigation and hoop houses.

“I can’t thank you at The FruitGuys Community Fund enough! We are thrilled to be a part of such amazing company as our fellow grantees,” said Casey Havre of Lagier Ranches, an organic citrus, cherry, almond, and berry farm in Escalon, CA.

The FruitGuys Community Fund was founded in 2012 to provide small grants (up to $5,000) to small farms and NPOs for small sustainability projects that have a large positive impact on the environment, local food systems, and farm diversity.

“Resources for small farms for environmental and economic sustainability are not well developed,” says Mittelstaedt. “We are excited about introducing the idea of developing sustainability projects for small farms as a way to make America stronger, both economically and environmentally, by supporting the people who feed us and are stewards of the land we all share.”

The Fund evolved from The FruitGuys Farm Steward Program, which donated funds for small farms’ sustainability projects from 2008–2011. The FruitGuys is a national office fruit delivery service that has been family owned and operated since its inception in 1998. Donations to The FruitGuys Community Fund are accepted via fiscal sponsor Community Initiatives.

Grant recipients will report on the results of their projects in December 2014. The Fund will issue its call for applicants for the 2015 grant cycle in January 2015.

Torrey and Lucy Olson run Gabriel Farm in Sebastopol, CA, a 14-acre certified organic farm known for its stellar Asian apple pears. They host a farm to school program and popular you-pick program that brings thousands of visitors each year. Long active in sustainable pest management practices, their grant will allow them to build and install a bat belfry and bat boxes along the perimeter of the farm to help control the destructive codling moth, a night flier, as well as monitor the effectiveness of this strategy. Neighboring farms will be included in moth management education. They will also extend a pollinator hedgerow project that began in 2012.—$5,000

Black Oaks Center for Sustainable Renewable Living, a non-profit organization led by founders Dr. Jifunza Wright & Fred Carter, is a farm and eco campus in the historic African American township of Pembroke, IL, and a learning center and CSA in Chicago. Their grant will fund a model 3-acre blueberry patch with beehives for pollination and honey production; expansion of a compost biowaste system that enriches their sandy soil; and installation of cabbage moth screen netting system and bat boxes. Black Oaks focuses on youth education of environmental sustainability issues and skills and training the next generation of African American farmers. —$3,570

Woodleaf Farm in Oroville, CA, has been certified organic for 30 years. Owners Carl Rosato and Helen Atthowe are leaders in farm design that suppresses pests and soil management practices that improve plant health. They grow apple, pear, and stone fruit trees as well as vegetables. Their grant will allow them to scientifically document “proof” of their own experience that their agro-ecosystem approach to organic orchard management leads to decreasing use of chemical fertilizer and pest control methods and reduces labor costs. They will document the biological and economic sustainability of their approach and share their findings on the research site eOrganic. —$2,252

Bountiful Hope Farms is a Monroe, WI non-profit organization with a 3-acre farm that serves the poor in rural areas where fresh produce donation to food pantries is low or non-existent. Founder and project manager Melissa Burch donates 100% of their produce to 7 Wisconsin food pantries. Their grant will allow them to transition from manual watering with stream water to a drip irrigation system (from a newly completed well) and construction of raised planting beds and hoop houses to extend their growing season. —$2,750

Lagier Ranches is a 4th-generation family farm with 80 acres in Escalon, CA. Certified organic since 1997, the ranch grows almonds, citrus, grapes, and cherries. Owner/operator Casey Havre will install a quarter-mile long pollinator hedgerow made up of plants native to the Northern San Joaquin Valley along the border of a newly planted 39-acre almond orchard. They will use the project to create a model for establishing native pollinator hedgerows in the area, educating fellow farmers and agriculture students. —$2,500

Friends of Great Kids Farm is a non-profit organization that raises funds for Great Kids Farm, a 33-acre working farm owned by Baltimore City Public Schools. Farm produce is used by city schools and sold to local restaurants. Their mission is to educate students about healthy eating, sustainable agriculture, and natural sciences. Their project is to plant a nursery orchard of low-maintenance, schoolyard-growable fruit trees, brambles, vines, and shrubs to supply current and future school garden sites with raspberry, blackberry, fig, seckel pear, apple, gooseberry, and grape stock for planting. —$5,000

Clear Spring Farm has been in farmer Terry Kromer’s family since the 1930s. The 23-acre farm in Easton, PA, will install beehives to increase crop pollination, provide honey for their CSA, and implement educational opportunities for local students and visitors on the importance of honeybees in agriculture. —$4,000

Real Food Farm is a non-profit farm and project of CivicWorks, Baltimore’s urban service corps, and an Americorps program, that strengthens communities through education, skill development, and community service. Their grant will be used for soil remediation and development, installing pollinator habitat, and seed cover crop in a new 1.5-acre urban farm site converted from a vacant lot. Figs, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries will be established along with wildflowers in a new community garden and education space. —$5,000

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