When our year of eating local ended, it was just the beginning of answering a new question: how could we actually make more local food available to more people? Like, normal people and not just some crazy locavores who would drive 150 miles to pick up duck eggs, oranges, or butter.
Gowan’s answer was to buy a farm with her family in Caspar and grow a bunch of food while sequestering carbon through composting and regenerative grazing. My answer was to start a non-profit organization called Good Farm Fund. I actually didn’t set out to start a non-profit, I just wanted to find a way for people to support local farms directly. From my job managing the Mendocino Farmers Market, I saw firsthand how tight the margins were for farmers, and that they couldn’t afford the most basic infrastructure improvements necessary to grow more food.
I also believed that the community wanted to do more than just shop at the markets or farm stands. People love our local farms, and they provide so much more value than just calories. What was missing was a way to actually invest in them. I had been producing farm-to-table events for a couple years, and I simply wanted to start hosting events to raise money for farms.
The problem was that we needed a bank account to put the money in and some farm-appropriate criteria for funding projects…. Thus, Good Farm Fund was born. We created a volunteer-led organization run by people who had a stake in local farms’ success and created a Farm Grant program that minimized red-tap and maximized the impact to small farms. Grants are awarded based on financial need, and the capacity to increase access to local food for underserved members of our community.
When we announce our 2020 Farm Grant Recipients at the end of this month, we will have awarded $250,000 in grants in six years.
This money has funded infrastructure development on farms throughout Mendocino & Lake Counties. We have funded ranching operations, vegetable producers, grain and bean farmers, bread bakers, and mushroom cultivators. We have financed items as small as hand tools and compost spraying backpacks to tractors, greenhouses, and cold storage buildings. Read more about the projects we have funded at www.goodfarmfund.org. These are some snapshots of past grantees:
These projects have had reverberating impacts in the farming community, often with multiple farms benefiting from shared infrastructure. For example, the cold storage building we funded for New Agrarian Collective has been utilized by neighboring ranches, and provided backup refrigeration for other farms during power outages – and even helped store trees that were being replanted after the Redwood Complex Fire.
When pandemic related food shortages hit this spring, many of the farms we have funded were able to provide critical food relief to hundreds of community members in need. Although we have canceled all events this year due to COVID-19, local farming is more essential than ever, as is continued community support. We are a volunteer led organization and raise all of our money locally, through events and sponsorships.
Usually, in the first week of December we host a fabulous Winter Feast at Barra Vineyards in Redwood Valley (pictures from the 2018 event below). This is one of our two major annual fundraisers, and we really miss coming together with many of you to celebrate and eat!
Instead, we invite you to chose a cause very local to your plate and make a gift to Good Farm Fund this #GivingTuesday. A gift to Good Farm Fund is a thank you to local farms, and an investment in a more sustainable, resilient, and delicious community!