After a three-year break, we enjoyed a productive and enriching day sharing ideas, networking, and exploring the challenges and rewards of our local farm community. Among the top topics – what are the strategies to make local farming and ranching viable? Also, round tables on selling to Farms to Schools; farm business check-in, recruiting & maintaining farm labor, medicine & full circle herbalism, restorative yoga, and more!
Thanks to all who helped organize, volunteer, present, and attend. It was a great day!
Ukiah Natural Foods has designated the Good Farm Fund the recipient of September’s Round-up at the Register program. When you shop at the Co-op you have the option of rounding up to the next dollar amount. Your change will help support local organic farms through grants and the Market Match Program. See you at the Co-op!
Ukiah, CA – Good Farm Fund, a fiscally sponsored project of North Coast Opportunities, awarded eight grants to Mendocino and Lake County farms for fire readiness and resilience.
With generous funding from Redwood Credit Union’s Community Fund and California Fire Foundation, the fire-safe grants will provide critical equipment and infrastructure supplies to small farms.
The grants illustrate that a relatively small amount of financial support can go a long way in assisting small farmers to find success in fire-prone areas. Averaging under $5,000 each, the grants will be used to purchase items such as water storage tanks, generators, chain saws, solar chargers and portable fencing.
“With hotter, drier, and longer fire seasons, small farms in Northern California must undertake measures to improve wildfire readiness,” said Caroline Radice, project coordinator of Good Farm Fund. “These grants will help local farms stay viable as weather patterns shift, and will also improve overall farm efficiency,”
Farms receiving grants are Cerro Negro Farm, Coming Home to Country Farm, Folk Life Farm, Headwaters Grazing, Inland Ranch Organics, Irene’s Garden, Rancho Mariposa & Cinnamon Bear Farm, and Wavelength Farm.
Radice adds, “We are very fortunate to have the support of Redwood Credit Union and California Fire Foundation. Both organizations have demonstrated an ongoing commitment to local agriculture.”
“The focus of Redwood Credit Union and the RCU Community Fund has long included the provision of meaningful support and immediate relief for our communities after natural disasters,” says Matt Martin, senior vice president of community and government relations at RCU. “The funding we’re supplying here helps proactively take that commitment to the next level—planning ahead to help prepare for these types of challenging times. And we’re honored to be able to help in this way.”
The grants were evaluated in coordination with the Mendocino County Fire Safe Council.
Jeannie Elizabeth Kelly of Coming Home to Country farm in Clearlake will use the grant to replace fencing destroyed during the Sulphur Bank Fire in 2017 and remove burned trees that are falling on existing fencing. “Two years after the Sulpher Bank Fire burned through my property, I was still struggling to get my head above water when the Covid-19 pandemic hit,” shared Elizabeth. “Had it not been for the Good Farm Fund grant to provide the big boost I needed, I don’t know how my farm would have survived.”
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Good Farm Fund is a fiscally sponsored project of North Coast Opportunities that aims to provide direct support to small farmers and increase local food security for underserved members of our community.
Stay tuned for details on our upcoming farm-to-table summer party, coming soon!
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 email@example.com
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:
Nasturtium flowers and leaves
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.
Offer to do grocery shopping, farmers market trips, or meal pick-up for community members if you are 100% healthy.
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.
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
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.
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.