This year The FruitGuys Community Fund was able to grant a total of $47,534 to 13 small farms and agricultural nonprofits across the United States. As the season has progressed, they’ve been hard at work using their grant awards to help the environment and their communities.
The 2018 grantees are: Fly Girl Farm in Pescadero, CA; Namu Farm/Choi and Daughters Produce in Winters, CA; Refugee Response at Ohio City Farm in Cleveland, OH; Moon Dog Farms in Santa Fe, TX; Radical Roots Farm in Canterbury, CT; Root Mass Farm in Oley, PA; Hope Mountain Farm in Leavenworth, WA; Cattail Organics in Athens, WI; The Roof Crop in Chicago, IL; Doce Lume Farm in Frederick, MD; Canadian Valley Farms in Lexington, OK; 47 Daisies in Vassalboro, ME; and Christensen’s Farm in Browntown, WI.
Sitting on 4 acres in Pescadero, CA, Fly Girl Farm provides young women with the opportunity to experience running a farm. They grow a wide variety of cut flowers, vegetables, and berries. They received a $4,856 grant to purchase photovoltaic solar panels, a charge controller, a battery bank, and an inverter to harness and store the power needed for their small office and intern housing.
They’re incredibly close to being finished with their project. They’ve been able to purchase and install their solar setup. Fly Girl Farm owners Kaeleigh Carrier and Airielle Love say, “It’s so exciting to learn about a resource most people take for granted and don’t know much about: electricity.” They’re thrilled to have electricity for their office space as well as the housing for their new intern, who will be moving to the farm this September.
Namu Farm is a 2-acre farm in Winters, CA, that focuses on East Asian vegetable and herb varieties. They partner with Namu Gaji restaurant in San Francisco, distribute a small veggie box to the local Korean community in the East Bay, and produce commercial seed for Kitazawa Seed Company. Namu Farm received a $3,794.29 grant to purchase infrastructure for a hoop house, nursery benches, multiple-sized screens, shade cloth, and tools for hand processing of seeds.
So far, they’ve installed hardware cloth reinforcement, landscape fabric, and shade cloth within their greenhouse. These additions have allowed the farm to increase its scale of seed saving and supply seed to other farmers interested in commercial seed production.
This season they’ve also been able to offer more hands-on seed-saving classes at their farm school and at other community organizations. Owner Kristyn Leach says, “Thanks to this funding, I was able to support more young farmers and people of color in learning technical skills related to seed saving.”
When refugees arrive in the U.S., their path is often a difficult one: finding work, learning the language, fitting into a new community. The Refugee Empowerment Agricultural Program (REAP), an initiative of Refugee Response, operates at the Ohio City Farm, helping refugees in northeastern Ohio by providing them with employment, education, and training. The program received a $2,780 grant to purchase two new walk-behind tractor attachments. A walk-behind tractor eliminates the need for a barn full of machines while providing the added benefits of exercise and a connection with the earth. This type of tractor also can be fitted with many different implements, rather than requiring the costly ownership and maintenance of an assortment of stand-alone pieces of equipment.
This season, Ohio City Farm has had to work hard to achieve their goals. After seeing a downturn in produce sales to restaurants, they started a 16-member CSA, extended their farm stand hours, and began selling to local bulk retailers and a weekly food delivery service. They also were able to expand their adult tutoring program, helping refugees to learn English and gain confidence talking with others.
Moon Dog Farms, a 17-acre family farm in Santa Fe, TX, received a $5,000 grant to purchase three caterpillar tunnel kits, shade cloths, and a silage tarp.
Casey McAuliffe, co-owner of Moon Dog Farms, told us that the new equipment has been a success. The shade cloths and caterpillar tunnels have allowed them to produce more cucumbers and peppers during the summer, and the tunnels will extend the farm’s growing season. The silage tarps have helped them prepare new crop areas throughout the farm. This summer Moon Dog Farms was also able to host their first on-farm workshop, teaching others about sustainable farming methods. For Casey, one of the best parts was seeing the transformation in the children who attended. She said, “In an incredibly short period of time, young children grew comfortable interacting with nature and learned a slew of real things about the real world around them.” Moon Dog Farms is planning another workshop for this fall.
Radical Roots Farm is a 4-acre family farm in Canterbury, CT, that grows heirloom fruits and vegetables and raises heritage livestock. They received a $4,500 grant to purchase the tools, supplies, structures, and larvae to develop a composting system with black soldier flies.
So far, they’ve purchased black soldier fly larvae, created two breeding chambers, and added some chestnut, butternut, plum, and apple trees. Though they’ve faced some challenges, including sourcing feed for the flies and losing a rental property, they’ve had success breeding the flies. Farm partner Alycia Salvas says this project has also helped them meet new people in the community, which has helped their business.
Root Mass Farm, a 5-acre farm in Oley, PA, uses organic methods to produce vegetables, melons, perennial herbs, and berries. They received a $3,986 grant in order to build a 21′ by 48′ high tunnel and plant it with 21 fig trees.
Despite a busy season and short staffing, they were able to begin the process of erecting their high tunnel and propagating the fig trees. Though they’re not quite as far along as they would’ve liked, they remain enthusiastic about the project. This past winter damaged their existing outdoor fig trees, reaffirming their decision to grow them in a protected setting.
While they aren’t producing figs yet, the response from the community has been excellent. Friends, customers, and fellow farmers are excited about organically grown figs.
Hope Mountain Farm is a 4-acre farm in Leavenworth, WA, that grows certified organic berries and vegetables in addition to keeping bees. They received a $5,000 grant to purchase silage tarps, ground cover, and a Pyroweeder.
Hope Mountain has successfully transitioned to no-till production. While this transition has come with some challenges, it’s been a great success so far. Farm owner Susan Curtis says, “Our squash and pumpkin planting on ground cloth is producing record yields, and time spent weeding that section is a fraction of what it was in years past without ground cloth.”
Another big success of this season was being able to double the amount of produce donated to local food banks compared with the previous year!
Cattail Organics, a 5-acre farm in Athens, WI, produces a variety of vegetables, cut flowers, herbs, and maple syrup that is distributed directly to CSA members, restaurants, small groceries, and schools, plus donated weekly to local food banks and shelters. They received a $5,000 grant to purchase equipment and seeds.
So far they’ve acquired a range of hand tools, a walk-behind tractor, landscape fabric, and floating row cover material as well as cover-crop seeds and a beneficial-insect seed mix. These items have helped to reduce the farm’s reliance on tractors and move toward a system of minimal tilling. The landscape fabric has reduced the time they spend weeding, and it can be reused for multiple years, unlike black plastic. Owner Kat Becker says she is amazed by how well the floating row cover keeps pests off their potato, cabbage, and winter squash crops. The beneficial-insect seed mix was established this year too. “We continue to have a huge diversity of pollinators,” Kat says, “and used the test plot to decide to put in two acres of habitat over the next two years as part of a federal cost-share program.”
Despite a busy summer season, Cattail Organics also hosted several summer events teaching others about their projects. A large focus has been on the benefits of row cover, minimal-tilling techniques, and weed management with small tools.
The Roof Crop is an urban farm in Chicago, IL, that produces edible flowers, vegetables, herbs, and apples. Their growing area now encompasses 30,000 square feet of rooftops. They received a $1,950 grant to purchase three bee hives to add to their flagship farm.
So far, the beehives have been a huge success. Hannah Perron, the farm’s sales and operations coordinator, says the bees are doing an excellent job of pollinating the crops, and two of the three hives are performing above average.
This excellent performance meant they were able to harvest 48 lbs of honey, which was immediately sold to one of their partner restaurants. It also gave interns and staff members an opportunity to be directly involved in processing honey.
The three hives have been such a success, The Roof Crop plans to add additional hives to their other farms next summer.
Doce Lume Farm, a 2-acre farm in Frederick, MD, grows certified organic herbs and vegetables for wholesale. They received a $1,735 grant to build an 8’ by 92′ low tunnel, to extend their growing season, as well as establish a compost system.
Unfortunately Doce Lume faced flooding and crop losses this summer, which led to some setbacks and changes in their plans. Rather than building a single large hoop house, they will build two smaller ones that can be moved as needed. Producer Janice Wiles is enthusiastic about getting to work on the hoop houses this fall. She hopes to use them to provide the public school with fresh, local food during the cold season. This summer they were able to have their compost tested and are happy with the results.
Canadian Valley Farms is an 80-acre family farm in Lexington, OK. They produce chemical-free heirloom vegetables, honey, and meat products from heritage breed livestock. They received a $5,000 grant to further diversify their farm and add disease-resistant apple varieties and blackberries.
So far, they’ve been working to prepare their orchard area for a fall planting of bare-root trees. They’ve established intercropping in their orchard and this year grew pumpkins in between the spaces where the fruit trees will be. This method will allow them to keep the area in production while the trees are growing.
Even though the trees aren’t planted yet, they’ve begun discussing with Cleveland County Conservation District the idea of hosting a fall class. Owner Andy Wooliver says, “We are excited about the possible impacts this could have for our local food economy, as well as the impact of having a place for people to come and learn about orchard care and maintenance.”
47 Daisies, a 12-acre agricultural nonprofit in Vassalboro, ME, grows vegetables, fruit, and mushrooms, which they distribute through retail outlets and 47 Daisies Food Access Programs for low-income individuals, seniors, and children. They received a $2,500 grant to plant an orchard of peach, pear, and plum trees as well as to add native wildflower plantings, bat boxes, and bluebird houses to their farm.
47 Daisies has had a lot of success with their projects. This season they were able to plant 72 fruit trees, which are growing nicely. They also installed 5 bat boxes and 10 bluebird houses. Executive director Dylan N. Dillaway says, “We were able to install the bluebird houses early enough to get tree swallows and bluebirds nesting earlier in the season.”
They also added wildflower plantings, which have been attracting pollinators and beneficial insects to the farm. They plan to continue these plantings for years to come.
Christensen’s Farm is a 7-acre family farm in Browntown, WI. They produce more than 100 varieties of fruits and vegetables in addition to keeping laying hens and bees. They received a $1,463.50 grant to increase their number of beehives and add an observation hive for an educational curriculum.
So far, they’ve purchased seven new hives; five more bee boxes; a new bee suit, veil, and helmet; and a hive tool. Plus they added a pollinator-friendly planting of wildflowers. They decided to hold off on setting up their observation hive until this fall. Their new bees and gardens have been thriving this season. They’ve also been hosting workshops for those interested in small-scale agriculture. For many attendees, it was their first time working with bees. Owner Katy Dickson says they’re planning to offer more workshops this fall and winter for local students and 4-H groups.
The 2018 grantees will share final highlights from their sustainability projects at the end of the year. Do you know a small independent farmer? The FruitGuys Community Fund will open the 2019 grant cycle in December. For more information, visit: fruitguyscommunityfund.org/apply.
Want to get involved? Volunteer for our Annual Grant Review Committee! You can help decide which projects get funded in 2019.
Jordan Charbonneau is an organic farmer and writer from West Virginia. She holds degrees in ecology and environmental humanities from Sterling College in Vermont.