Often I mistrust measuring success by the numbers, but these say a lot about what we did in the farms and gardens this year:
in 2016 we hosted 130 workbees at Loutet Farm and in the sharing gardens and 1000+ people toured our farms & gardens
We shared 6000 lbs. of food with the community: 4615 lbs harvested in sharing gardens, 1295 lbs. donated through the grow a row, share a row program.
At Loutet, our social enterprise farm, we generated $60,900 in revenue and grew 10,290 lbs of produce!
We logged 6531 volunteer hours and worked with 576 volunteers last year (about 200 of those are helping us out regularly.)
Now, let me zoom in on sharing the bounty in specific.
I was listening to a podcast recently and was reminded by Beatriz Beckford of WhyHunger:
“celebrate the wins we have in this work even if they are minor, because in celebrating them, we celebrate each other.”
Well, we have a lot to celebrate from last season–sharing beautiful produce with our community is just the starting point. Growing food is a tangible way to share something good in our community–sometimes it feels like a small win when Nick Saul, my food movement hero says point blank: “food alone can’t solve hunger.” And I have been thinking about how often when I am working in the garden with folks, we get lost in that tangible goal: can we squeeze in another timeline of spinach before season end, how come those beets aren’t sizing up, should we wash the cut greens? But it’s rare when we stop to celebrate: we are not just growing vegetables in these gardens, we are sowing change.
Let’s celebrate changing lawn into a dynamic space for growing food–we invite neighbours into the garden spaces and chatting about a flower or bird creates a connection, a smile that lasts the day. Sometimes in those spaces we do things a little differently–in one garden we filled a bed with flowers, habitat to invite beneficial insects and then we watched our aphid-infested favas literally vibrate with wasps and ladybugs in a feeding frenzy. Most folks would look at those aphids in panic and yank it–we let nature bring back balance. And we didn’t see aphids the rest of the season because we made space for the good bugs too–success! (& that’s not the way agriculture usually does it–change.)
Let’s celebrate our market table at the food hub. Our produce this season was beautiful–we are bringing in higher quality, streamlining our systems for keeping it fresh, getting our timelines and successions right to have 20 bunches of a single crop weekly, and using the shoulder season to expand how long we bring food to market. That is a huge amount of learning for our volunteer gardeners over the last few years. But it doesn’t just provide food. A visitor to the foodbank this year said: Wow! Fresh greens, seedlings –it changes the energy of the space, changes the whole experience of walking in the door.
Let’s celebrate the act of sharing–that in itself turns the way the world works upside-down. Our gardeners give the best of the harvest away to folks they have never even met. They give their time, accept sore backs and knees without complaint, harvest in the rain and cold (and let me tell you, dunking your hands in cold water to clean lettuce in late October is not super fun). We are committed. But it’s not just that we love being in the garden, we want to make change and we do it in a way that seems tangible and clear. We do it because we believe everyone deserves access to freshly harvested and delicious produce.
and here’s what our harvest team had to say about their highlights: