I know I agree, it is alot on our plate. Basically I coordinator the fruit tree sharing project, unfortunately I am only funded until March. The Board of Directors is very keen on gaining their own land. It is a bit dreamy but sometimes dreams come true,right! My job is to help them put their dream on paper before the end of the contract. To establish a stategic plan and maybe implement the first step. Yes, we have one experienced farmer, two master gardners, and one professional arborist on our board. The plan is to get funding for a fruit tree project coordinator, and a farm project coordinator with 2 farm assistants. The prison option is a good idea. I am going to investigate these options a little further. We have the equipment donations for the farm lined up (Home Depot) and a seed company willing to donate the seeds. The problem is that I think our vision is a little too much and we need to look at all options (ie. prisoner garden) and maybe similar projects. One thing that is realistic is that we are planning on only growing a strong low maintanence crops (ie beets). No we don't get hailstorms in Richmond (we are right on the coast, that is a more inland thing), August is hot here. However insects, especially slugs are a problem as well as ocean breeze which can effect apples. I think that you are probably right in terms of the city community gardens. The gardens are not successful, so it probably a dump onto us volunteer organizations. I am meeting with the city this afternoon and plan on getting on paper exactly what they were thinking.
Thanks for all your input Adam, always important to have an outside opinion.
Wow, you have several jobs on your plate here:
Your produce gleaning project is quite fine and sounds like it takes a great deal of coordination to glean over 17,000 lbs of produce for your food bank and community kitchens.
Are any of you guys farmers? Because, "ideally 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)" means that you need a real farmer to make this happen at least more economically than you can buy it. Crunch the numbers and input put all of your food purchases on an excel spread sheet ( with the timing of your purchases, remember this ain't pulling cans off of a shelf.) Figure in the weather ( you get hailstorms sometimes in August, don't you?) insect blights, etc.
Show your plan to some real farmers and an agricultural expert. My guess is, unless you want to be Farmer Brown yourself, you may decide to organize your food purchases a little better, but the set-up costs and maintainance of a self-supporting farm within your program budget may seem a little expensive.
An alternative: My opinion of prison gardens has changed a great deal since I wrote about it last. For the purposes of feeding the hungry in your part of the world, if the government of British Columbia decided that a prison farm dedicated to the raising of x 100,000s of pounds of food a year was a social project that it wanted to engage in, investing moneys for land, equiptment and a secure environment for the farm, it might be a win-win all around.
The prison might be run as a "trustee farm" farmed by inmates on good behavior or little history of violence. The idea that the food was going to feed hungry seniors and families might be a way to rehabilitation, "giving something back." To work well, the program should be voluntary, a privilege.
Your "small farmers market to help raise funds and use the farm/market as a training and educational site for youth/low income individuals" could be expanded as an ex-convict halfway house type program.
Re: "The city has 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?"
My take: The city wants you to deal with the headache of managing their community garden programs and privitize the jobs they had to create to coordinate these gardens by having you do it for "free." Professional community garden coordination is a hard job - think about it
Getting folks in established community gardens to suddenly start to meet the quotas you would need to grow for your food bank/community kitchen might be a non-starter, especially as many grow for their own low-income families. The "grow a row for the hungry" program has provided some food for food banks, but no where near as much as you would need.
Land leasing, purchase, etc is always a challenge. Your solutions would be local. Not to rain on your parade, but it's a problem that community gardeners and not-for-profits deal with all the time. It ain't easy.
Good luck with your plans...hope you prove me wrong.
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. 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). So I have a few questions, does anyone know of any similar projects that we may want to gain some advice from? Also we are thinking that we will have a small farmers market to help raise funds and use the farm/market as a training and educational site for youth/low income individuals. 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? We are also trying to find the best way of attaining the land. Leasing? Donated(wishful)? Any suggestions or contacts would be welcome Thanks!
Richmond Fruit Tree Sharing Project
"teach a person to garden and they will lead a delicious life"
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