by Kate Maxwell, Willits News, 1/29/16
“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