Small farmers in Mendocino and Lake Counties dedicate themselves to producing food for the community, but often still find themselves needing help to fund a project or buy new equipment. Though they’re small, these things can go a long way towards helping farmers break even. To address this issue, the Good Farm Fund, a community organization that supports local farmers and aims to increase local food security, is now accepting applications for a second round of farm grants, due October 31.
The GFF, an all-volunteer organization, raised $20,000 in the past year through local food events and donations, which will now go to local farmers for a specific purchase or project. The Fund aims to support local farmers in order to expand access to local food for the entire community, and “increase participation in our community’s food system.”
Grants are awarded with a particular emphasis on farmers who are “using environmentally beneficial farming practices, maximizing production available for local consumption, and providing affordable local food for all community members.” Funding is available in two tiers, from $500 - $2,000 and a larger tier, from $4,000 - $5,000, for qualifying local farmers.
The fund was started in 2015 by farmers, local food advocates, farmers market managers and others in the food industry last year and is fiscally sponsored by North Coast Opportunities. Many small or beginning farmers have very thin profit margins or are in debt, and a little extra funding towards time-saving equipment can go a long way to increase their production. Last year, the Fund was able to give out $7,000 in farm grants to nine local farms, that used the money to purchase fencing, tools, chicken farming equipment, office supplies, and more.
Caroline Radice of Black Dog Farms and Catering received a $1,200 Good Farm Fund grant last winter to purchase irrigation supplies and seed stock for this past year’s production. Now on the grant selection committee, Radice talked about how the funds can help local farmers and increase the sustainability of the local foodshed.
This year, the increase of $13,000 in money raised will allow the Good Farm Fund to offer larger grants to farms who might need bigger purchases for their operations. “I’m very excited about it,” said Radice, “we’re hoping to make an even bigger impact.” The selection committee is partially composed of previous recipients, so farmers who know the process can help identify the best applications.
Radice said the new tier of grants, which creates awards up to $5,000, should go a long way, and she’s expecting a lot of applications. “It’ll make a big difference for people — I’ll be curious to see what people apply for, whether it’s a delivery truck, a greenhouse — they can make investments in infrastructure.” Farmers who apply for the larger amount will be interviewed by the committee about their project as part of selection process.
Radice said the recipients should be announced by the start of the year, so during the winter “farmers can find out while they’re planning whether they’ll have additional funding.”
The Good Farm Fund also raises money towards the California Electronic Benefit Transfer Food Stamp “Market Match” program in Mendocino and Lake County. The Market Match program pays matching dollars up to a certain amount for at farmers’ markets, which also means more money goes to local farmers. Radice said the program was funded for 2016 with federal grants, but additional money may be needed for the program to run year-round in 2017.
To apply for a grant, go here, where applicants can find guidelines. Applications are due on October 31, 2016 and are available in both English and Spanish. The webpage also has a list of last year’s grant awards, so applicants can check out the projects previously selected.
Donations to the Good Farm Fund can be made here, and you can sign up to be a “sustaining member” by donating monthly. “For the price of a cup of coffee, you can make a big difference,” notes Radice. Donations can also be mailed and donors can earmark a specific project to support.