by Holly Madrigal
The Good Farm Fund was organized by a group of farmers and local food supporters who saw that they could take action here in our community to solve some of the gaps in the local food system. The group has become well-known for their wonderful farm–to-table dinners and other events. “We are trying to have events that benefit farmers not just foodies,” says Scott Cratty, Ukiah Farmers Market Manager and one of the fund’s organizers. He adds that the local community is generous and that the Good Farm Fund helps direct fundraising to where it can do the most good. Many farmers have specific needs that, if met, would increase their production. Hunter Flynn and Isa Quiroz of Tequio Community Farm realized that they could triple their food production in 2016 if they invested in seed planting equipment. Tequio provides fresh produce at both the Ukiah and Fort Bragg Farmers Markets as well as to local restaurants like Adam’s Restaurant in Willits, and Saucy in Ukiah. The Good Farm Fund was able to fund that equipment purchase via a modest grant.
There were a couple of contributing factors that led to the creation of the Good Farm Fund according to Scott. Small farms, both here in our community and all across the country, struggle to become financially sustainable. The people who grow our food work long hours with very low wages, leaving little room for business investments. The Good Farm Fund helps connect
a supportive local community with the devoted farmers who are already putting in all of the hard work. Farmers are able to apply for grants to do the projects that are unique to their farms, ranging from investments in seed stock to fencing, to drought-sensitive irrigation equipment. During the first grant cycle, in December 2015, the group awarded $7,000 in grants to nine local farms. Due to diligent fundraising and community support, this year they have $20,000 that will be awarded in Farm Grants. A committee of experienced local farmers, who offer insights and feedback on projects, awards the grants.
The Good Farm Fund also works to help ensure funding for the Farmers Market Match Program. “This program is really a magical thing,” Scott adds. “It takes what were formerly food stamps, now called EBT, and doubles, dollar for dollar, the spending power at the Farmers Market. It takes what is a federal subsidy and uses it to benefit our local farmers and the person’s health. Often food stamps get used for less healthy junk food. The federal government is not going to pay someone to grow broccoli. So this program lets that happen. It is good for the customer, the farmer and our local economy. It is a win-win-win.” Local community action group NCO (North Coast Opportunities) is the fiscal sponsor of the Good Farm Fund as well as the Market Match program.
One of the highlights of the Good Farm Fund’s fundraising this year was the recent Farm-to-Table Benefit at Yokayo Ranch, which raised over $8,000 for the Farm Grant Program. This culinary extravaganza gathered more than twenty local chefs and paired each of them with a specific farm. The partner- ships produced divine dishes such as a chilled green tomato gazpacho from a match between Elevensies Restaurant and Green Uprising Farm. Chefs Liz and Kelvin Jacobs, of Wildfish restaurant created a salmon ceviche with fava bean puree from the Noyo Food Forest. The participating chefs came from around Mendocino and Lake Counties and donated a huge amount of time and effort to make the evening a success.
It was a magical evening that included delicious food, live Cuban music by Marcos Pereda and Kristine Robin, and testimonials from people directly helped by the Good Farm Fund grants including Ruthie King of the Grange School of Adaptive Agriculture.
The Good Farm Fund hosts a number of stellar events throughout the year including the Cinema in the Vineyards, a coastal Harvest Dinner, the Farm-to- Table Benefit, and the upcoming third annual Winter Feast in Ukiah. Check their website goodfarmfund.org for more information. Scott Cratty sums up, “If we can help make that connection between our local farmers and the community that supports them, if we can build those relationships and make their work easier, we all benefit”.