Survey: What do local farms need right now?

The purpose of this survey is to determine what kind of resources and assistance are most needed and useful to local farms during the unique circumstances we face this spring, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

How can we help?

Good Farm Fund and our partners would like to provide relevant, timely support based on the current needs of local farms.

Thank you for all you are doing to feed our communities, and for taking the time to share your input!

Please complete this brief survey by Wednesday, April 15, 2020 at 5pm

Eating in Place: How to get local food & support food access for all

by Sarah Bodnar
Co-Founder, Good Farm Fund

This pandemic changes everything about how we live daily life – how we work, learn, shop, and eat. It’s a challenging time, calling us to evolve and think and do differently in the midst of much loss, suffering, illness, and inconvenience. It is testing the fabric of our society and all of the safety nets that support vulnerable populations from the elderly to the children who depend on their school lunch to get vital nutrition.

To me, the rainbow in all of this is the way our local food system has responded with remarkable agility to find new ways to feed us. I’m awed at how organizations like the Mendo Lake Food Hub and FEED Sonoma introduced home delivery of local produce within weeks of the Coronavirus outbreak. By the time we were sheltering in place, our local food infrastructure has pivoted from a wholesale oriented system to set up consumer-direct purchasing and delivery. 

In the face of devastation, local food miracles are happening all around us. Getting food to people is what local economies are good at when they are in their natural state. This is a golden moment where the local food system is better able to respond to crisis than our industrial food system. The upside of sheltering in place is that we have never been better set up to eat in place.

How to get local food

Direct from local farms

Local farms and have organically become first responders and many have been ahead of the curve in terms of public health and safety precautions. In record time, they have launched or expanded their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) boxes (offering delivery or minimal contact pickup), opened their farm stands for additional days, and many are using social media to keep the community informed of real-time availability of food. Some are still attending weekly farmers markets. And of course, this all comes during Spring, the busiest – and cruelest – time of year for our farmers, when they are hustling to plant their crops for the season ahead. This is a working list of farms that are open to the public for direct sales. With availability & schedules changing day by day, we’ve linked to their websites and social media accounts so that you can follow them real-time. If you know of any farms missing from this list, please email us at goodfarmfund@gmail.com


Fortunate Farm (Caspar): Facebook, IG @fortunatefarm

HappyDay Farms (Laytonville): Facebook, IG @happydayfarms

Mendocino Organics/Mendocino Meats (Redwood Valley): Facebook

Mist Farm (Mendocino): Facebook, IG @mistfarmmendocino

Nature’s Tune Farm (Point Arena), Facebook, IG: @naturestunefarm

Noyo Food Forest (Fort Bragg): Facebook, IG: @noyofoodforest

New Agrarian Collective (Redwood Valley): Facebook, IG @newagrarian

Nye Ranch (Fort Bragg): Facebook, IG @nyeranch

Oz Farm (Point Arena): Facebook, IG @villageozfarm

Wavelength Farm (Manchester): Facebook, IG @wavelengthfarm

Woody Ryno Farms (McKinleyville): Facebook, IG @woodyryno

Yokayo Roots Farm (Ukiah): Facebook, IG @yokayorootsfarm

Order through Mendo Lake Food Hub

While grocery store shelves are bare, we have an abundance of local food options available through the Mendo Lake Food Hub. The food Hub is a network of local farmers and producers that has rolled out home delivery in Ukiah and Willits, and is offering pickup locations in Redwood Valley, Willits, Lakeport, and Caspar.

Need eggs, flour, bread, beans, or rice? Or fancy mushrooms and the most beautiful salad mix you’ve ever seen? Order from the Food Hub! Options go way beyond local fruits and veggies – even including spices, olive oil, kombucha, and walnuts. This is like the Amazon of local food for our region, and it’s an incredible resource. You can view availability and order online. Go to www.mendolakefoodhub.com for more info and to sign up.

Additionally, the Food Hub has helped supply local produce like tangerines and sugar snap peas for school lunches to ensure that kids are receiving fresh, healthy options when the usual industrial suppliers could only meet a percentage of the schools’ needs. This is the power of regional food systems!

Shop at Local Farmers Markets

Our weekly farmers markets remain open. Shop at the farmers market to support local farmers and makers if you are 100% healthy, and consider picking up items for neighbors who may not be able to attend. Our farmers markets all offer EBT Food Stamp matching to help subsidize the cost of local food, which is one of the programs that Good Farm Fund supports.

Choose Local at the Grocery Store

Shopping for locally produced items like wine, beer, bread, cheese, olive oil, meats, and apple juice all help support our local business survive this economic downturn. Every single purchase matters. And be sure to show appreciation for all the measures our local grocers have taken to make shopping as safe as they can, including delivery and curbside pickup.

Support Local Restaurants

Add some variety to your quarantine routine and show your support for local restaurants so that they will be around when the shelter in place order lifts. Many restaurants are offering to go service for meals and even cocktails! Call them to see what their current offerings are.

Forage Wild Edibles

Use this time to get familiar with the nutrient-packed wild edibles that may be growing in your yard to add to salads, cook with, or make tea with. A quick and by no means complete list of things to look for right now:

  • Dandelion
  • Fir tips
  • Miner’s lettuce
  • Mint
  • Nasturtium flowers and leaves
  • Rosemary
  • Wild fennel
  • Wild mustard
  • Wild nettle
  • Wild onion
  • Wild radish flowers

Grow your own!

Now is literally the best time to plant your victory garden. Start where you are, with what you have. Swap seeds with neighbors, pick up some starts at the Farmers Market. Start a compost pile. Check out the Gardens Project online order form for seeds & starts, with home delivery. Contact the local nurseries and see if you can place your order for starts, seeds, and amendments and pay over the phone and do curbside pickup to minimize contact. Some may even provide home delivery options. This is a time to get creative and enjoy having some time to tend our own gardens.

How to Support Low-Income Community Members

At Good Farm Fund, we have always been dedicated to two primary goals: Supporting local farms to increase the supply of locally produced food, and making local food more accessible for low-income community members, especially through the EBT Food Stamp matching program at farmers markets. Even as we shelter in place, there are many ways to support low income and vulnerable populations through time, care, and monetary contributions. 

  1. Offer to do grocery shopping, farmers market trips, or meal pick-up for community members if you are 100% healthy.
  2. Become a community volunteer: Are you a retired or active healthcare worker? If so, please consider volunteering to help your community face the impact of COVID-19. You can register with the California Disaster Healthcare Volunteer website. Or contact NCO Volunteer Network for questions or assistance (707) 462-1959
  3. Be mindful of when you shop. Some stores are having limited access hours for elderly/at-risk populations. Keep in mind that there are certain times of the month that food benefits are issued to them. For the rest of us, let’s avoid shopping at those peak times so that WIC users can purchase qualifying items first.
  4. Contribute to a local organization that helps feed our community such as:
    • Community Foundation of Mendocino County: Has raised close to $300,000 so far and have just released $65,000 from their COVID-19 Relief and Hunger Express Poverty Funds to countywide nonprofits to support food relief.
    • Fort Bragg Food Bank: Provides emergency groceries to low-income residents of Mendocino County, California. 
    • Gardens Project: A network of 56 school and community gardens. Now providing home delivery of seeds & plant starts (order online here) and fundraising to build victory gardens for elders.
    • Good Farm Fund: Providing emergency funding to local farms and providing support for the EBT Food Stamp Matching program in Mendocino & Lake Counties.
    • Mendocino Coast Children’s Fund: Providing crucial support to children and other vulnerable populations on the coast in the form of books, food, gas, masks, diapers and other essential items.
    • North Coast Opportunities: Parent organization to so many important community initiatives including the Gardens Project, Caring Kitchen, School of Adaptive Agriculture, and the Volunteer Network
    • Plowshares: Community Dining Room and Meals on Wheels

Stay home, be well, and take care of each other!

Good Farm Fund celebrates local food at 6th annual Winter Feast

PUBLISHED: December 2, 2019 | The Willits News 


Farmer and co-founder of Good Farm Fund, Caroline Radice, of Black Dog Farm Catering, is one of four chefs planning the menu for the annual Winter Feast held Dec. 10. Photo submitted

The Good Farm is proud to bring the sixth annual Winter Feast to Barra of Mendocino (7051 N. State St., Ukiah) on Tuesday, Dec. 10 from 5-9 p.m. This always-popular event is one of the highlights of the local holiday season and includes a family-style, farm-to-table dinner developed by a team of top, local chefs including Olan Cox from Mendough’s Catering, Bridget Harrington from Patrona, Nicholas Petti from the Mendocino College Culinary Program, and Caroline Radice from Black Dog Farm Catering. The dinner will feature locally-produced cheeses and locally-raised meats, fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, and grains. Local beers and wines will also be available for purchase. A silent auction perfect for holiday shopping, live music from Jason Wright, and of course, great company will help make this a memorable event.

According to Chef Petti, Culinary Arts Management Instructor at Mendocino College and Good Farm Fund board member, “Last year’s event was genuinely heartwarming and truly one-of-a-kind. It’s rewarding to be involved in an event that celebrates delicious, locally grown food and invests in the future of the farmers behind the beautiful food highlighted that night.” This year’s one-of-a-kind feast will focus on the theme of reducing food waste. By incorporating ‘seconds’ from local farms, foods that maybe aren’t pretty enough for grocery store shelves, this year’s chefs will wow diners with a creative, top-quality, dining experience.

The Good Farm Fund will also announce their 2019 grant recipients during the evening. With more than $50,000 in funds being distributed, there will be a lot to celebrate. This is the fifth year the Good Farm Fund is awarding capacity-building grants to local, small farms that are made possible by farm-to-table events like this one, as well as from the generous support of this year’s foundation sponsors: Frey Winery, Redwood Credit Union, Sonoma Clean Power, and Flow Kana.

“These grants have a real, tangible impact for local farms,” says Good Farm Fund Co-Founder Caroline Radice, a farmer herself. “As a kid, I used to go berry-picking with my mom, and then she’d come home and make jam, which is how I learned about food preservation. My parents would stop at the farmers’ market or a roadside farm stand to pick up fresh green beans or corn for dinner. So many of us have wonderful memories like that. The Good Farm Fund is about honoring and continuing those traditions. It’s about creating a community with economic opportunities for small farmers, with thriving farmers’ markets, and lots of delicious, nutritious food easily available to all the people who live here.”

Tickets for the annual Winter Feast are now available online via Brown Paper Tickets (gffwinter.brownpapertickets.com), at Mendocino Book Company and Ukiah Natural Foods Co-op (sliding scale $35-$60 for adults and $15 for kids under 12). Tickets historically sell out, however, if a few lucky tickets are available at the door they will be $45.

Proceeds from the evening will support the Good Farm Fund’s farm grant program and market match program. The event is sponsored by Sonoma Clean Power, Frey Winery, Flow Kana, Redwood Credit Union, Surf Market, American Ag Credit, Ukiah Natural Foods Coop, Harvest Market, KOZT Radio, KZYX Community Radio, North Coast Opportunities, and the MendoLake Food Hub. Through fundraising events like the Winter Feast, the Good Farm Fund and those who support it, continue to help local farms thrive in our community.

Third annual Mendocino County Homebrew Festival happening Saturday, Nov. 2

By Kate B. Maxwell, Publisher  | November 1, 2019

Northspur Brewery, previous Homebrew festival winners and current festival sponsors, had their opening night in Willits in September — Photo by Steve Eberhard

MENDOCINO Co., 11/01/19 — The third annual Mendocino County Homebrew Festival is taking place this Saturday, November 2, the perfect time to sample the newest concoctions from your neighbors and relax after a long week of power shut-offs and wildfires. Organized by the Good Farm Fund, the event will showcase a around 30 local brewers, live music, food trucks, and vote on for the crowd favorite, and help kick off the county-wide Mushroom Feast Mendocino, which begins this week.

The event will be held on Saturday, November 2 in Ukiah from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Ukiah Valley Conference Center; you can purchase tickets in advance here, or at the Mendocino Book Company or Westside Renaissance Market. The beer selected as the “Brewer’s Choice” will be brewed at the Anderson Valley Brewing Company, and featured in a Cultivo “pint night.” Right next door, you’ll also get to enjoy sidewalk sales from the Greater Ukiah Business and Tourism Alliance, and additional offerings from local favorites American Craft Whiskey and Willits’ newest brewery, a former winner at previous festivals, Northspur Brewing.

More information is at the Homebrew Festival website, and on the event’s Facebook page, where you can find last minute info. Here’s a few more details from the Good Farm Fund’s Scott Cratty: 

“We expect around 30 top home brewers offering over 50 selections including a few ciders and other surprises, plus a range of hard to find bonus taps from our sponsors.  The event will feature live music, a rare beer auction and the opportunity for attendees to vote for the people’s choice winners.  A panel of local master brewers will be on hand also working to select the Brewer’s Choice champion beer which will be brewed at Anderson Valley Brewing Company and featured in their tap room and in Ukiah at a pint night at Cultivo.  This year there will also be a parallel outdoor event put on by the Greater Ukiah Business and
Tourism Alliance that will include sidewalk sales by nearby School Street merchants, games, beer from new brewing company Northspur Brewing of Willits, wine and a tasting opportunity by American Craft Whiskey along with Farm to Table food from local food trucks.”


https://www.mendovoice.com/2019/11/third-annual-mendocino-county-homebrew-festival-happening-saturday-nov-2/

Good Farm Fund grant and loan applications now open, $50,000 available to local farms

By Kate B. Maxwell, Publisher  | September 20, 2019

The pumpkin and winter squash patch of local farmer Ben Wolff. Hard at work is Otis the dog.

MENDOCINO Co., 9/19/19 — Since 2015, the Good Farm Fund has provided over $100,000 in grants to more than 50 small local farms, and now the non-profit is opening its largest round of grant funding yet: $50,000 available in funding to small farms in Mendocino and Lake counties. The non-profit organization works to support the development of our local “foodshed” in part by providing funds for farmers to improve their infrastructure, implement more sustainable practices, and increase production of affordable, locally-grown food.

Know a small farmer that might need some assistance? The grant applications will be open until October 15, with more details included at this link. There’s also a list of past grant recipients to give a sense of what projects have been funded. This year there will be two different tiers of funding for different size projects, as well as a special grant category for Lake County farms.

Much of the funding for these grants comes from local sponsors, and the Good Farm Fund’s two annual local food feasts, and this year’s winners will be announced at the annual Winter Feast on December 10. The Good Farm Fund will also be holding the third annual Mendocino County Homebrew Festival on November 2, 2019.

Good Farm Fund benefit raises $40,000 for local farm grants

By Kate B. Maxwell, Mendocino Voice  | August 12, 2019

The crowd contributed another $10,000 in a real-time crowdfunding event

MENDOCINO Co., 8/12/19 — Just as one small farm can provide food for many people, but it takes a community to support our small farms — and that community came out in their finest summer outfits at this year’s Good Farm Fund summer banquet. Thanks to a generous $10,000 matching grant from the Redwood Credit Union and an outpouring of community support, the fifth annual Midsummer’s Night Feast, held at Yokayo Ranch, raised a record amount of nearly $40,000 in one night towards their small farm grants, while providing a bounty of delicious farm-to-fork dishes prepared by local chefs. 

Happy farmers and chefs serving up food to the crowd.

The Good Farm Fund is a non-profit organization which supports the development of a sustainable local “foodshed” (like a watershed) in Mendocino and Lake Counties, primarily through the annual farm grants, and by increasing access for local food through financial support for the CalFresh “market match” program. The organization has awarded nearly 50 grants since 2015, and this year’s dinner, which more than doubled the fundraising amount from 2018, should ensure an even larger amount of grant funding for this upcoming round of awards, which will open in the fall. The organization also holds an annual winter feast fundraiser, set this year for December 10, as well as the third annual Mendocino Homebrew Festival, happening November 2.

The enthusiasm for small farms and community building was palpable at the July dinner, where attendees took a break from enjoying a multitude of locally produced goodies to run around in a “real-time crowdfunding” event led by local auctioneer Rachel Britton, and raised donations from a number of individuals, from $10 to $1,000, to match the $10,000 contribution from the Redwood Credit Union. The credit union, along with Frey Vineyards and Sonoma Clean Power, is one of the Good Farm Fund’s “Foundation Sponsors,” who provide dedicated support for local farm grants. Redwood Credit Union’s Community Programs Manager Peggy Cleary announced the matching grant at the dinner, noting that supporting local farm was a perfect fit for the credit union movement, which was first started to help local farmers.

Emcee Rachel Britton raises her hands in delight as Redwood Credit Union’s Peggy Cleary announces a $10,000 matching grant.

“We’re thrilled to be here because we really believe in the mission of the Good Farm Fund,” Cleary told the crowd, calling the organization’s accomplishments impressive. He continued, “One of the things we love about the Good Farm Fund is that it started as farmers coming together to help farmers.”

He added that the the 70 year old credit union has the same goal, “It’s part of our mission, we’re about people helping people. We’re part of these communities, we care about what you do, and we invest in organizations that really make an impact on critical issues facing our communities. Food security is really important to us, and we’re just so delighted and really honored to partner with you.”

The dinner itself was a living example of community involvement, including more than 20 different local farms paired with local chefs, coordinated by more than 32 volunteers who helped with organization, parking, set-up, and more, as well as a variety of local sponsors from local businesses and community organizations, all contributing towards a community feast. Guests enjoyed sampling a wide array of different dishes created by local chefs, paired with local farmers, as well as refreshments ranging from kombucha to coffee to locally distilled liquors, and many lingered as the sun set to ensure all the treats were eaten before heading home.

Local farmer Alex Nielson of Cinnamon bear Farms spoke about how his three grants have helped him grow his business.

Alex Nielson, of Cinnamon Bear Farms, a three time grant recipient and local farmer, gave a brief speech about how important the grants have been for his farm: “The Good Farm Fund has been instrumental for our farm…having us backed by the community, it’s been amazing. They’ve provided us tools that have helped us grow, and provide more food for the community. It’s amazing to see all the faces, and see a lot of people that I see at the market, coming up and tasting our food, and thanking us, it’s really a blessing to see. This is a business that’s not easy to move up in, and having the capital backing from the Good Farm Fund has been immense….without it, we wouldn’t be here right now.”

More photos of the event are included below. You can learn more about the Good Farm Fund’s work at their website, and the next round of small farm grants will open in the fall. The organization’s next events are the annual Mendocino Homebrew Festival, on November 2, and you can check out a video for interested brewers here, and the winter feast, scheduled for December 10.

Over $100,000 in farm grants to Mendocino and Lake county farms have been given out.

Good Farm Fund: Everybody Eats! Article in Real Estate Magazine

Good Farm Fund aims to help make local
food more affordable for everyone, and to
supply capital for needed equipment and
projects on small farms

 

The Fate of the Small Farmer
The American dream of forty acres and a mule has perhaps
never been more unattainable—or more necessary—
than it is today. Here in Mendocino, farmers are certainly better off
than in many parts of the country with our clean air, largely
uncontaminated soils, ample water supply, a relatively temperate climate with a long growing season, and a strong ethos of support for the small farm. We also have a uniquely varied climate suitable for producing a range of crops.

 

REM_GFF_Article_10_2018

Good Farm Fund awards grants to 14 Mendocino County farms

by Erick O’Donnell, Ukiah Daily Journal 12/23/16

The Good Farm Fund, an agricultural grant program sponsored by North Coast Opportunities, awarded $20,000 worth of grants this week to 14 small farms throughout Mendocino County.

The grants will fund small infrastructure projects that will allow farmers to increase food production and, hence, revenue and profit, helping them to overcome steep economic obstacles on their way to self-sufficiency, said Caroline Radice, who sits on the program’s steering and grant committees.

With high land prices, farmers face a high barrier to entry, and the cost of investing in capacity-building projects can further impede the ability of small farmers to establish themselves in the capital-intensive business of agriculture, she said.

The Good Farm Fund will fully bankroll some projects and partially fund others, with matching grants or financing from other sources, she said.  Members of the grant committee were reluctant to let any projects go without financial support, so they decided to spread funds over as many projects as they could while ensuring other funding sources would cover the shortfalls, ultimately approving grants for 14 out of the 16 projects, she said.

Fortunate Farm in Caspar will get $3,000 for a new, larger greenhouse, a piece of infrastructure that that can dramatically increase a farm’s yield and which farmers have shown more interest in this season, Radice said. The farm is participating in the Food Hub, another NCO project that helps farmers sell to a local wholesale market, and a larger greenhouse will enable it to meet its production goals and satisfy retailer demand through that network, she said.

Cinnamon Bear Farm in Ukiah will get $1,242 for a low-tunnel hoop house, a long, cylindrical, transparent structure that works like a greenhouse but is placed over a row of crops in a field. That piece of equipment will allow the farm to grow a greater variety of crops earlier and later in the season, she said.

Carson & Bees, which tends hives of honey bees throughout the county, will use its $1,500 award to buy honeycomb frames and use them to divide its growing hives, establishing new colonies. The hives produce honey and are also used by other farmers to pollinate their pear and apple orchards.

The project submitted by Russian Creek Farms is an excellent example of beneficial community impact, one of several criteria used by the grant committee to evaluate applications, Radice said. Owner Ben Wolff supplies the corner store with fresh produce, creating an oasis in the “food desert” of Potter Valley, which lacks a grocery store, she said.

Russian Creek Farms will use the $3,200 it was awarded to erect a fence, creating acres of usable pasture and farmland for growing vegetables, Radice said. The increased production will enable Wolff to contribute about 50 percent more produce to the local food economy, she said.

A farmer’s commitment to a local community generates “layers of community impact,” said Scott Cratty, a co-founder of the grant program and general manager of the Mendocino County Farmers’ Market Association. Substituting a local vegetable for one picked and shipped from abroad keeps money in the local economy, sustains a local farming job, provides the community with healthier produce, and helps cut down on carbon emissions from freight vehicles, he said.

It also helps preserve the rural character of Mendocino County, Cratty said.

“You’re also preserving the only way we can keep open, beautiful space around us,” he said. If, “you want to live in a rural area with beautiful open space, you need creative ways to keep farmers farming.”

The farmers, food vendors and local-food advocates who run the fund are hoping to make more substantial investments in community agriculture in the future, Radice said. The program this time had about three times as much money to disburse as last year, its first, and organizers are hoping that its reputation will lure more donations for 2017, enabling it to award grants of between $7,500 and $10,000, she said.  With grants of that size, farmers could make much more significant capital upgrades, drilling wells, buying tractors and building structures for processing their food, Radice said.

Hard work and elegance at the Good Farm Fund’s Winter Feast

By Sarah Reith, The Mendocino Voice, 12/14/16

MENDOCINO Co. 12/14/2016 — Textures ranged from crunchy to creamy at a local farm to fork extravaganza last week. The roasted veggies, from seven local farms, provided a rainbow of flavors and hues. The salad dish, from Floodgate Farms, was a delectable color study, with its warm yellow flowers and mix of cool green.

And then there was the slow-roasted pork, which may have been a fierce-looking boar just a few days prior to its appearance at this elegant event. Now it got along most agreeably with thick green chimichurri sauce and heirloom corn polenta, which was flavored with apples, honey, and mushrooms both wild and tame.

The Good Farm Fund winter feast on December 8 at Barra Winery in Redwood Valley had something for everyone, from foodies to survivalists.

Guests belly up to the bar

The event was a fundraiser for grants for small farmers and the CalFresh match program. The first program, the Good Farm Fund, helps bring the food to the market, and the second helps to sell it, providing between $15 and $30 in matching funds to CalFresh recipients who shop at local farmers markets. Scott Cratty, president of the Mendocino County Farmers Market Association, explained that this program was “so cool and good, the government started to support it.” He added that the match program is “the best thing since sliced bread.”

That sliced bread would probably be farm fresh bread made with flour from the Mendocino Grain Project, since Cratty is also the co-founder of the non-profit Good Farm Fund, which is set to give out $20,000 worth of grants to local small farmers in the coming year. “If you grow broccoli, you get no subsidy,” Cratty explained. “But if you grow corn syrup” to make sweetener for unhealthy beverages, “you get a big subsidy.” Given the high land prices in Mendocino County and the lack of subsidies for broccoli-growers, he said, “at the end of the year, you’re probably on food stamps yourself.”

The Thin Air String Band

The dinner, with 160 ticketed guests, sold out a full day in advance. The menu read like a who’s who of local cuisine and small organic farmers, from small-scale operations to larger business efforts. Baguettes made with flour from the Mendocino Grain Project, near Ukiah, were adorned with chicken liver pate from Sisters’ Ridge Farm in Redwood Valley, cheese from Pennyroyal Farm in Boonville, and onion jam from Irene’s Garden in Laytonville. The Grange School of Adaptive Agriculture provided pumpkins for pies made by Kemmy’s, and North Coast Brewing Co. donated beer.

Bridget Harrington of Patrona’s

Bridget Harrington, co-owner of Patrona’s, a farm to fork gourmet eatery in Ukiah, told the crowd that supporting local farmers was an easy decision in uncertain times. “Help farmers grow, help the county grow,” she reasoned, adding that locally grown organic produce appeals to foodies, who are interested in produce that is “at the pinnacle of flavor,” as well as survivalists, who worry that “sooner or later, those trucks from Safeway won’t come up the 101 — there are three fundamental needs, and food is one of them.”

By Monday, Cratty had rough numbers from the event, which has grown each of the three years it’s taken place. He estimated the net take at about $12,000 or $13,000, though he still had to make his way through a few invoices. Thompson’s Party Rental supplied 200 plates, but with the 160 ticketed guests, plus kitchen staff, volunteers, and band members, he said, “we blew through the plates and had to feed the band and a few other people out of to-go boxes.” The recipients of the coming year’s grants have not yet been decided on, but for next year’s winter feast, Cratty hopes to announce the winners at the event and highlight their accomplishments.

 

Good Farm Fund accepting grant applications from Mendocino and Lake counties’ farmers

By Erick O’Donnell, Ukiah Daily Journal 10/12/16

A local grant program whose fund has almost tripled in its second year is on track to draw modestly increased interest from local farmers seeking to expand their operations amidst daunting economic challenges, according to a representative from the fund’s fiscal sponsor.

North Coast Opportunities, the sponsor of the Good Farm Fund, has so far been fielding inquiries from prospective applicants at a greater rate than last year, said John Bailey, NCO’s representative and a member of the grant committee. The application period opened Oct. 1 and will close at the end of the month.

Bailey attributed the greater interest, from both donors and prospective applicants, to the success of last year’s program, which awarded a total of $7,000 to nine small farms across Mendocino and Lake counties, enabling them to acquire drought-sensitive irrigation supplies, a computer, and a chicken brooder, among other equipment that helped farmers to scale up their operations. The organization has up to $20,000 to award this year.

By funding small capital purchases, the program’s founders and organizers hope to provide local farmers with a foundation on which to build a more productive, economically robust engine for local and environmentally sustainable agriculture. The fund’s leaders ultimately envision a self-supporting regional community of growers, vendors and consumers who can feed themselves while preserving its resources and supporting jobs.

Small-scale farmers hoping to grow their operations face a number of obstacles, including the high cost of land, stiff competition from larger growers, unpredictability, lack of expertise, and—crucially—limited access to capital, said Bailey and other people involved in the fund. Finding a lender willing to invest in a farm with only a few acres and little equipment is among the biggest hurdles to reaching a level of self-supporting profitability, they said.

“As far as I know, you just can’t do it,” said Michael Foley, whose Green Uprising Farm received $785 from the fund last year to purchase hand tools. The farm, which uses the tools in a “no till” method of farming that prevents soil erosion and preserves helpful organisms living in the soil, would not have been able to find a lender to finance the relatively small investment, at least on reasonable terms, he said.

“It’s just too small scale,” Foley said. “You can get a loan, but the interest is pretty steep.”“Not a good idea if you’re trying to minimize costs on a little bit of farming,” he added.

Nor can small-scale farmers get the investment capital they need solely from revenue, which makes community organization and self-support necessary, said Scott Cratty, a co-founder of the fund and the general manager of the Mendocino County Farmers’ Market Association. The Good Farm Fund is meant to lift farmers out of a “Catch-22,” in which the problems of inadequate capital and minimal revenue reinforce one another.

“The more a farm has to offer, the better they do, but you can’t offer more unless you have a bigger customer base giving you more money,” Cratty said.

Local farmers’ markets have struggled to attract more customers and have failed to increase their market share in recent years, Cratty said. With a stagnant revenue base, independent farmers struggle to make a living, let alone invest in greater production, he said.

“No matter how hard you work as a food farmer—as opposed to an intoxicant farmer—if you’re pretty dang talented at it and good at marketing, you can make a living, but just a living,” he said, adding that many local farmers rely on food stamps.

Fund officials aspire to catalyze a network of small-scale, sustainable food production and distribution in which the costs of and opportunities for doing business are aligned with the community’s nutritional, environmental and economic needs.

The mainstream food economy heavily favors large growers, and capitalizing independent farmers is a hopeful step toward fostering a community with strong personal ties between farmers and the consumers whose nutritional and environmental interests they would be trusted to safeguard, the fund officials said.

In the mainstream national food market, varieties of produce are selected not for their nutritional content but for their ability to stay fresh while hauled long distances, Bailey said. In a more locally oriented market, growers and consumers could focus on other priorities, he said.

“Small farmers will be able to give us a broader diversity of nutritious and flavorful food,” Bailey said.

They would also be better stewards of the land than many large-scale agricultural operations, Bailey said. In a distribution network where vendors hold their local suppliers to environmental standards, farmers would have a greater incentive to practice crop rotation, rotational grazing, and other methods that leave the soil intact, he said.

Bailey contrasted such environmentally conscious farmers with some vegetable and fruit growers in the Central Valley who, driven by ruthless economic pressures, repeatedly plant a single crop season after season, depleting the soil and leaving it vulnerable to blow away