Pictured here: Adrea Tencer, a former apprentice at the UCSC Farm & Garden's six-month residential program for training in all aspects of sustainable agriculture.
So, for six weeks beginning in mid-February, I did not take a day off. I was working on three websites: two directly related to today's BIG WONDERFUL & EXCITING NEWS post. I'm here to introduce the "Grow a Farmer" Campaign, a nationwide project to raise $250K for permanent housing for the apprentices who live on the farm during their residential program.
For forty-plus years, the apprentices have lived in tents on the periphery of the farm. Last year, they were told this is no longer an option, and UCSC began accepting bids for permanent tent cabins. One was accepted, and then costs for labor and materials went up—the result being that the bid rose by $250K. The Friends board worked on finding solutions, and in a frenzy of inspiration, the "Grow a Farmer" Campaign was conceived and born over a two-week span in January.
The response has been amazing. Newman's Own Foundation gave $50K, which is their maximum donation. The Obaboa Foundation and Olivia Boyce-Abel have created a $20K matching grant challenge (read more below).
The campaign is asking farm-loving chefs to support the cause in a couple of ways...either by hosting a benefit dinner, as Chez Panisse is doing on May 6 (among others whose number is growing daily), or by donating $10 a day for the Merry Month of May. That $300 will make a restaurant (or any business) a Partner, to be listed on the website.
Businesses like Earthbound Farm and Johnny's Selected Seeds are donors. Other business opportunities include holding "Community Day" and donating (for example) 5% of the day's sales to the campaign.
Non-profits and other organizations who can't hold events still have opportunities to participate, even by merely spreading the word via a mailing list, or making a donation. These people are Pollinators, and will be linked on the website.
There are other ways for individuals—including, hello? you former apprentices—to have fun Growing a Farmer. You can host a fundraising event—a farm tour, a house or garden party—and we'll have materials for you that will help your event succeed.
And then there are yet other creative ways to help this campaign, the most inspiring of which so far is the incredibly generous offering from Chef David Kinch and Manresa Restaurant. Concerned that a "mere" cash donation wouldn't maximize the potential to help raise the funds, the chef instead is offering up two Chef's Special Tasting dinners, with wine pairings. These dinners will be awarded to the highest donors in the Obaboa Foundation's matching grant challenge.
In the words of one of my personal heroes, Beth Benjamin, who co-founded Camp Joy Gardens, spreading the word to a local publication:
This is the website that was just launched for nationwide Grow A Farmer month in May – we are fundraising for permanent apprentice housing at the UCSC Farm and Garden. Living on site is an essential part of the program and the University has given us until June to raise the money to start actually building the shovel-ready project. I have been racking my brains for like minded businesses or individuals that might be able to contribute in any way. I’m sure your organization has subscribers who’ve been trained or inspired by the Farm and Garden or its offshoots, so I thought perhaps you might be one of our business contributors, or maybe write something up about our efforts. Please take a minute and look at our website, as it is a great way to explain what we are working on. If there is someone more appropriate that I could speak to in person, please give me the contact information.
There may be a way you can help by going to a dinner or shopping at one of the participating businesses or restaurants, making a donation, or passing the publicity on to someone else or connecting us with someone who would like to be part of this exciting campaign – please go to the brand new site and see what you think! Events will be added to the website as they are scheduled.
So that's it, in one very large, very aromatic nutshell.
Do these apprentices a BIG favor: use Facebook, Yelp, and Twitter it up! Spread the word, spread the energy, and come on board. I'm counting on food bloggers to help here: we will arrange personal farm tours if you want to come visit. And we'll add YOUR blog to our website, both as a Pollinator and as a Blogging Partner.
Use LocalHarvest for Networking Events
If you're looking for a restaurant near you that supports local farms, start with LocalHarvest.org. Plug in your zip code, and see what pops up. Or contact us on the Grow a Farmer site: we might be able to put you in touch with former apprentices in your area who can hook you up.
If your restaurant IS going to participate, please get a free member listing at LocalHarvest and add your event to the mailing list called "Keep Me Posted." LocalHarvest's newsletter goes out every Wednesday morning to over 45,000 people, and they are the premier website in the world for their niche: guiding people to local food and eating well.
And that's the news across the nation.
Sorry to have been missing in action: this is the biggest project of my life, and by far, the best. Yes, we can!
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: "Farmers are the only indispensable people on the face of the earth." —Ambassador Li Zhaoxing
Thanks for visiting. Will you be a Cultivator?
Oooh, last treat: Check out the website I designed for my friends at TLC Ranch: they're now the largest pastured egg production operation in the country! (Sun graphic on the site by Monika Wolff.)
Happy springtime, everyone!