Small Farms Get a Hand

Family farms of different sizes and generations, as well as non-profit organizations that serve schools and urban and rural lower-income areas,  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.”

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. In its first year of operation in 2013, 5 grants were awarded. This past grant cycle, more than 60 applicants from the west, midwest, and east coast applied and 8 were selected.

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. This year, the Fund also expanded its applicant area to include the Midwest. The 2014 grantees’ farms come from California, Maryland, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Pennsylvania. Their projects range from beehive and bat box installations to the planting of pollinator hedgerows and installation of drip irrigation and hoop houses.

Torrey Gabriel Farm Torrey from Gabriel Farm, CA

Gabriel Farm, CA

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 $5,000 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 begun in 2012.

Black Oaks Center for Sustainable Renewable Living, IL

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.

Black Oaks Center Black Oaks Center for Sustainable Renewable Living, IL

Its $3,570 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.

Woodleaf Farm, CA

Woodleaf Farm, CA

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 $2,252 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.

Bountiful Hope Farms, WI

Bountiful Hope Manual Watering Bountiful Hope Farms, WI

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 $2,750 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.

Lagier Ranches, CA

Lagier Ranches, CA

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 $2,500 grant toward their project to create a model for establishing native pollinator hedgerows in the area, educating fellow farmers and agriculture students. “I can’t thank you at The FruitGuys Community Fund enough! We are thrilled to be a part of such an amazing company as our fellow grantees,” said Havre.

Friends of Great Kids Farm, MD

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.

Friends of Great Kids Farm, MD

Its mission is to educate students about healthy eating, sustainable agriculture, and natural sciences. Its project and $5,000 grant 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.

Clear Spring Farm Clear Spring Farm, PA

Clear Spring Farm, PA

Clear Spring Farm has been in farmer Terry Kromer’s family since the 1930s. The 23-acre farm in Easton, PA, will use the $4,000 grant to 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.

Real Food Farm, MD

Perlman Place, facing NW Real Food Farm, MD

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. Its $5,000 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.

Developing Sustainability Resources

“Resources for small farms for environmental and economic sustainability are not well developed,” says Chris Mittelstaedt of The FruitGuys Community Fund. “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 Community 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.

Melissa Nguyen is a San Francisco-based writer and lover of avocados, golden retrievers, and strong coffee. 

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