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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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, 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.
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
The Good Farm Fund is excited to host its Third Annual Winter Feast on Thursday, Dec. 8 from 5 to 9 p.m.
This year’s farm-to-table dinner will be held at Barra of Mendocino Event Center at 7051 N. State St. in Redwood Valley, and will feature locally raised meat, produce, cheese, grain, beer, wine and cider.
There will also be live music by The Thin Air String Band — known for its jazzy/West Coast-punkgrass style — and a silent auction packed with unique local items ideal for holiday giving.
This dinner is back by popular demand after selling out last year. Attendees proclaimed it a highlight of the holiday season, with plenty of feel-good cheer and an abundance of local food and drink to enjoy at an affordable price.
“This dinner is about celebrating all the hard work that farmers do throughout the year and the customers who support us,” says Caroline Radice of Black Dog Farm & Catering, one of the event coordinators. “The best way to do that is enjoy delicious local food together, while raising funds to help local farms expand.”
Radice and her husband, Jason Pluck, cater the event with the help of many volunteers. Vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free meal options will be available.
Proceeds will go toward the Good Farm Fund’s small grant program for local farms, as well as the Ukiah Farmers Market Food Stamp Match program, which makes nutritious food affordable for all.
The event is sponsored by North Coast Opportunities, Inc., Mendo Lake Credit Union, First Five, Ukiah Natural Foods Co-Op, the MendoLake Food Hub, and Thompson’s Party Rentals.
In its first year, the Good Farm Fund awarded a total of $7,000 in farm grants to nine local farms. Now in its second year of accepting applications, the Good Farm Fund is poised to award $20,000 in grants.
Applications were due in October, and grant recipients will be at the dinner to talk about the critical projects that have been or will be supported by the fund.
Tickets are $30 in advance or $40 at the door; youth 15 and under are $15. Tickets can be purchased at the Westside Renaissance Market, the Mendocino Book Company, the Ukiah Farmers Market, The Spot Coffee in Redwood Valley, or online at www.goodfarmfund.org.
The Good Farm Fund is a fiscally sponsored project of NCO, a 501(c)3 Community Action Agency serving Lake and Mendocino counties.
For more information, to sign up to volunteer, or to donate items to the auction, email goodfarmfund[at]gmail.com.
By Karen Rifkin, for The Ukiah Daily Journal 6/23/16
The warm Cuban music of Marcos Pereda and Kristine Robin fills the air at Yokayo Ranch as people move from table to table tasting dishes prepared by local chefs with food produced by local farmers at the second annual Farm to Table Benefit Dinner for the Good Farm Fund, a nonprofit formed last year to financially support small farmers in Lake and Mendocino counties.
“All across the country, small farmers are struggling to be sustainable financially, and community support is a realistic solution,” says event co-organizer Chef Caroline Radiche of Black Dog Farm and Catering.
Chefs Janelle Weaver and Daniel Townsend, owners of The Bewildered Pig in Philo, are serving a fresh county style pork pâté (Anderson Valley Community Farm) with minimal flavorings—thyme, white pepper, black pepper, salt and a bit of coriander—to keep the taste clean—on a crostini (Fort Bragg Bakery) topped with a choice of red onion chutney or an arugula pesto (Anderson Valley Community Farm).
“We are all about being a farm to table restaurant,” says Weaver. “There’s no other way; this is about taking responsibility for feeding yourself.”
Townsend adds, “Start a farm, grow food, eat it and share with others.”
Chef Monica Almond is putting the finishing touches on lovely little mounds of sculpted Peruvian potato purée mixed with Meyer Lemon Olive Oil (Olivino) topped with a sliver of marinated red onion, a very small square of red pepper and a dot of Ají Amarillo hot pepper sauce. She and her son Hercule cook at Terra Savia and cater for parties and private events.
Chefs Kelvin and Liz Jacobs of the Wild Fish Restaurant in Little River are serving up generous portions of sweet pink Salmon ceviche sprinkled with kale crisps (rub fresh kale with lemon, add chile, olive oil and salt; bake in high oven for 10 minutes; mix in food processor) served with a fava bean purée and a lettuce salad (Noyo Food Forest) with a side of salted tomato marinated in olive oil. The kale, tomatoes, herbs and calendula petals are from Cinnamon Bear Farm.
Wild Fish Restaurant has been farm to table for five years serving fish and vegetarian entrées.
“There’s no other way to cook than using our local food shed,” says Chef Liz.
Two of the sisters from Kemmy’s Pies stand behind a table filled with slices of strawberry rhubarb pie made with organic, locally sourced ingredients. The rhubarb comes from Hearts Desire Farm in Willits; the strawberries are from Redwood Valley; and the crust is made from flour from the Mendocino Grain Project. It is a family affair with three sisters, Brenda, Kate and Amy, and their mother Kimberly starting out eight years ago by purchasing a commercial kitchen on wheels intending to make barbecue.
A market in Laytonville wanted their pies and today they work from a remodeled kitchen at the Skunk Train Depot, that used to serve train customers, and sell 1,000 pies a week—that is, on a slow week—throughout Mendocino, Sonoma, Lake and Humboldt counties.
Chefs Radice and Jason Pluck of Black Dog Farm and Catering cook at the Little Lake Grange Kitchen, a community kitchen in Willits.
They have teamed up with Daniel Spiro, student life coordinator of the Grange School of Adaptive Agriculture, to present a plate of millet-based polenta topped with roasted chicken and sprinkled with black pepper chèvre (an acquired taste, to be sure) with a side of kale pesto.
The millet, chicken and pesto ingredients were grown at the school and the goat cheese was made at Shamrock Artisan Goat Cheese, operating since 1983. Co-owner Ana Cox describes the importance of the farm to table movement.
“It’s helping young farmers who are coming into the business; they need all the support they can get.”
Chef Fabricio Giammei of Tango Foods stands behind a large platter of boneless pork (Potter Valley Unconventional Agriculture) and a Leg of Lamb (Magruder Ranch). He uses a sprig of rosemary to top the meats with a splash of traditional Piedmontese sauce and adds a side of beets (Tequio Family Farm).
Event organizers—Scott Cratty, manager of the Ukiah Farmers Market; Sarah Bodner, local food supporter and community organizer; Bridget Harrington, chef at Patrona; Nicholas Petti, owner of Mendo Bistro and college teacher; and Radiche—spent months organizing the 19 chef and farmer pairings serving at the event.
“All the chefs volunteered, and this year we were able to pay the farmers for their produce,” says Radiche.
The Good Food Fund raised $7,000 last year and distributed the money to nine local farms helping them purchase seed stock, drought sensitive irrigation supplies, new hand tools and fencing.
“Last year’s grants were modest—anywhere from $500 to $1,200,” says Radiche. “We’ve been gathering a huge amount of community support and now have $10,000 for this year’s grant cycle. We would like to increase our impact.
“If a farmer needs to drill a well, we would like to be able to fund that. We want to support life changing purchases for these farmers,” she says.
Event sponsors include Sip! Mendocino, Yokayo Ranch, North Coast Brewing, Mendocino Winegrowers Inc., the MendoLake Food Hub and Thompson’s Party Rental.
“At the farm, you always have a Christmas list of one hundred things you want all the time,” said Hunter Flynn, a Willits farmer who started Tequio Community Farm with his girlfriend Isa Quiroz last year.
Flynn and Quiroz met while working for Ecology Action, a Mendocino sustainable farming organization, and now lease and farm half an acre of land from the Church of the Golden Rule at Ridgewood Ranch. Like many new farmers, the two realized that careful planning and hard work weren’t the only things limiting their farm’s growth, and even a few new tools can make a big difference.
“There was so much infrastructure to build, and it was super stressful,” Flynn explained of the farm’s first year, “but it was also a great year. Since our work is highly manual, we realized our labor efficiency was the real limit on doing more.”
Now, thanks to the Good Farm Fund, Tequio Community Farm will be purchasing brand new seeding and planting equipment, as one of nine Mendocino and Lake county farms selected for the first round of grant funding from the new non-profit organization.
Focusing on small awards to small local farms, the Good Farm Fund closed their first round of applications in December. This month, the Fund issued grants between $350 – $1,200 to assist local farmers improve their operations, with requests including irrigation equipment, seed supplies, chicken farming equipment, fence expansions, and more.
The Fund was started in 2015 with fiscal sponsorship from North Coast Opportunities as a coalition of farmers and local food advocates “to address some of the most glaring gaps in the food system.” The Fund focuses on increasing access to fresh and locally produced food, supporting small farmers, and supporting programs such as the “Market Match” program which doubles the EBT dollars used at local farmers markets.
For the farming grants, local farmers and advocates created an application process, which will vary with each grant cycle as previous recipients provide input on the selection methods and serve on the Farm Grant Committee, which is composed of local farmers with more than one year experience. The aim is to keep the funding selection connected to local farmers’ needs and to keep the process flexible, explained the Fund’s Sarah Bodnar.
This round, Mendocino and Lake county farms could apply for up to $2,500 in funds if they could demonstrate environmentally beneficial farming practices, maximizing food for local consumption, and providing affordable food for all people in the county. Applicants were required to have decision-making power, at least one year experience with local commercial food production, and be farming on less than ten acres.
For Tequio Community Farm, the new equipment purchased with the funds means Flynn and Quiroz are looking to double the area in production this year. The farm sells at the Ukiah and Fort Bragg markets, to local restaurants such Adam’s Restaurant, Patrona, and Saucy, as well as to Ecology Action and through the MendoLake Food Hub.
Although they began using half of their leased land, Flynn is confident they can begin working the entire half acre, and hopes to triple food production in their second season. He hopes to see a jump from $25,000 in market sales to $75,000 in their second year.
With the grant money, the pair plans to purchase a Jang seeder, which will help them direct seed crops with much greater efficiency and accuracy, and a “Puttiputkis” tree planter that will allow faster and easier transplanting. “I’m really excited about both of these things – they will save our backs and make us much more efficient,” said Flynn, who already began planting several weeks ago and plans to seed weekly through August. For a small farm with a three year lease, any equipment that saves time and back aches makes a big difference. “I already feel like we’re starting a hundred times ahead” of last year, Flynn elaborated.
Another grant recipient, Caroline Radice of Potter Valley’s Black Dog Farm, explained that she applied for irrigation equipment and seed stock to continue production in 2016. After farming in Mendocino for ten years —five in commercial production—Radice said she selected what equipment to apply for “out of necessity, because it was incredibly obvious what we needed to proceed with the next steps for our farm” to maximize local food production.
Radice, who also works with the North Coast Opportunity Food PREP program and with the Good Farm Fund, said she felt there was local support for local farmers, and the real challenge was assisting small farms to increase their scale of food production.
“The demand for fresh, locally grown food is very high, with farmers market customers, restaurants and grocery stores all interested in purchasing as much as our farm and other local farms can grow,” explained Radice. “We all need to be able to scale up to provide for this demand.”
Additional Good Farm Fund grant recipients include: Bob Gates Organics (Redwod Valley), $1,000 to purchase deer fencing and expand fields; Covelo Organics (Covelo), $1,200 for office equipment; Grange Farm School (Willits), $350 for chicken processing equipment; Green Uprising Farm (Willits), $785 for hand tools; Milagro Bean Collective (Upper Lake), $500 for seed stock; Noyo Food Forest (Fort Bragg), $350 for greenhouse equipment; Red Giant Farms (Fort Bragg), $1,000 for chick incubation equipment.
A fundraiser for the Good Farm Fund will take place Saturday, February 6 from 5:30 – 10 p.m. at the Little Lake Grange in Willits, 291 School Street. Musicians Sean Hayes with local favorites Charlie Crockett and Gary Traywick will be performing, with all proceeds going to support the Good Farm Fund. Tickets are $22 through Eventbrite and are available at Mariposa Market and other locations around the county.
Additional fundraisers at the Little Lake Grange will be held in March, to support the next round of small farm grants and the Market Match program.
More information about the Good Farm Fund can be found at goodfarmfund.org or on Facebook. More information about Tequio Community Farm and Black Dog Farm can be found on Facebook, and at grownlocalmendolake.com