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Re: land options

Erin wrote:

Hi Folks,

I work for a nonprofit organization in Richmond, BC(Canada). Just to give you some background: We are a nonprofit organization that finds people/farms that have surplus fruit and vegetables and matches them with volunteers who have the time and energy to harvest it. All of the produce goes to the food bank and community kitchens. This year we have harvested over 17,000 lbs.

Not to put a horrible damper on things, but your gleaning project looks quite successful and is providing a *very* needed service. Personally, my advice would be to put your efforts into maintaining volunteers and signing up more growers to your project -- support your local growers by letting them what they do best and give the food they grow, but can't sell a must needed outlet.

Most growers WANT to donate food they can't sell because they hate to see it go to waste, but all their energy is poured keeping the farm going. There are several international societies involved in gleaning (the St. Andrew Society is the one I know the most about, although Chester County, PA has a huge secular emphasis on gleaning and USDA has some nice pieces of advice on their website -- I can't think the Canadian government has anything less as they regularly seem to do better than USDA.) that you might want to join if you feel your project lacks "stature" or you need help getting your message out.

We have a vision for next year of attaining our own land to grow food for the food bank. Ideally we would like to see us growing the 100,000 lbs of produce that the food bank distributes each year so the food bank no longer needs to buy it(part of this would consist of a small orchard, we would like 1-5 acres).

I think, and I am speaking as a small grower myself, that you are stark raving mad and that unless your name is Jim Call (I really don't know how he does it!), you are biting off WAY more work (and need for vast amounts of funding) than any group of volunteers can be reasonably expected to do.

Getting people out to harvest is FUN. Getting people to irrigate during a drought or to weed after the rains hit ON A REGULAR BASIS is near-impossible. And, if you ain't going to do it with volunteers, you're going to have to pay a grower. And that requires serious funds.

So I have a few questions, does anyone know of any similar projects that we may want to gain some advice from?
I am quite serious. There are a number of very reputable gleaning organizations. Work with your strengths, get some advice from these organizations (they have youth programs also!) and if your primary goal is to provide food for the food bank, GO WITH WHAT IS WORKING FOR YOU!

Also we are thinking that we will have a small farmers market to help raise funds
Join the Market Farming list and read the archives

>Get the list FAQ at: http://www.marketfarming.net/mflistfaq.htm

and use the farm/market as a training and educational site for youth/low income individuals.
All the research mentioned on this list (available on the archives) has shown that this projects are NOT self-sustaining and require steady influxes of outside cash. They can be noble and valuable training tools, but they DO NOT make a profit.

The city h! as also approached us to act as stewards for their community gardens. We would like to see this happen, if people in the gardens grow a small portion for the food bank, is this unrealistic?
Good heavens, no. Our community garden has required the Biblical Tithe (10% of your harvest) to folks in need since it started in 1991 and as a result, we are the primary source of in-season fresh produce at our local food bank (the Chester County gleaning stuff goes to West Chester and Coatsville because they have hungry people, but don't have us! ;-)) Most people LOVE having an outlet for their produce so that they can have all the fun of growing it, feeding their family and NOT having to can tomatoes in August. Go for it! Ask for a small contribution (10% is Biblical), have the food bank state what they really want (ours has a standing order for as many tomatoes as folks can haul in there) and then let folks donate what they want. The folks who live to grow will donate 75% and those just learning will be incredibly proud of the 10% they manage to eek out of the soil in their first tries. Much more reasonable than *trying to grow it yourself*!

We are also trying to find the best way of attaining the land. Leasing? Donated(wishful)?
I think having your own land and growing your own food for the food bank is beyond wishful if you don't have some very serious funding in hand.

Any suggestions or contacts would be welcome Thanks!

My e-mail is above -- anyone who want to flame me is free to do so! ;-D I am just especially grumpy after getting 4 inches of rain for the month of October after dealing with NOTHING for July and August. Weeds, I got. Fall crops? What fall crops? :-P :-P :-P :-P :-P :-P :-P :-P :-P :-P :-P :-P :-P :-P :-P :-P :-P :-P :-P :-P :-P :-P :-P :-P

Dorene Pasekoff, Coordinator
St. John's United Church of Christ Organic Community Garden

A mission of
St. John's United Church of Christ, 315 Gay Street, Phoenixville, PA 19460

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