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Posts Tagged ‘FarmLink’

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Photo: Owen Dubeck
Stanford sophomores James Kanoff and Stella Delp created the not-for-profit FarmLink to salvage surplus food from farmers and donate it to overwhelmed food banks. Above, Kanoff is seen helping to deliver a shipment of onions.

One of the more troubling manifestations of Covid-19’s impact on the economy is that farmers who no longer have restaurants and large institutions buying their food, unable to afford to transport it to food banks that desperately need it, are destroying much of what they produce.

Two sophomores at Stanford University knew that something had to be done. Sydney Page at the Washington Post has the story.

“Doug Hess spent the last three months staring at a mammoth mountain of potatoes — enough to feed more than 6 million people. The potato farmer in Ashton, Idaho, who sells to commercial farms that supply the food service industry, said the novel coronavirus pandemic has gutted his business. …

“He donated what he could, but the cost to pack the produce and ship it to food banks was too high, especially considering the massive financial loss the family farm, which goes back four generations, was already suffering.

“As Hess’s pile of wasted potatoes slowly started to rot, stomachs rumbled across the country.

“Food banks in the United States are grappling with unprecedented need — a direct symptom of widespread unemployment, as roughly 16 percent of Americans are still without a paycheck. …

“James Kanoff, 21, a sophomore at Stanford University, took note of the troubling paradox: Farms have a surplus of food from canceled restaurant contracts and a shattered supply chain, while food banks are experiencing a staggering surge in demand. …

“So Kanoff and a group of college students from Stanford and Brown universities started FarmLink, a grass-roots movement to prevent food waste while also working to address food insecurity. FarmLink raises money to pay farmers for produce and dairy that would otherwise be wasted, then funds the transportation to send the goods to food banks in the neediest areas around the country.

“Since it started in mid-April, FarmLink has delivered 2 million pounds of produce, including some of Hess’s potatoes, to hungry Americans, in just over a month. That’s roughly 1.5 million meals.

“Volunteers have delivered potatoes, eggs, milk, onions, lettuce, zucchini, cucumbers, salt, celery, carrots and sweet potatoes to communities in 22 states, including Hawaii — with no plans to stop, even after the pandemic ends. …

“Through social media campaigns and word of mouth, the initiative has raised more than $750,000 — mostly from small, individual donations.

“Kanoff grew up volunteering at Westside Food Bank in Santa Monica. When he heard the organization’s food supply was scarce, he decided to test the FarmLink concept by reaching out to a local farm and asking if it had an oversupply. …

“Farmers all around the United States are experiencing a major surplus — from thousands of acres of fresh fruits and vegetables in Florida and California, to millions of gallons of milk and countless eggs in Vermont, Pennsylvania, New York and Wisconsin.

“Once Kanoff and his team secured 90,000 pounds of [onions from Shay Myers, the CEO of Owyhee Produce,] they reached out to Food Finders, a nonprofit food rescue organization that connects donated food to hundreds of pantries in Southern California. …

“ ‘The problem with the government programs is that the farms are not in the business of sourcing food banks,’ said [Diana Lara, the executive director of Food Finders]. … FarmLink is helping to bridge the gap. USDA distributors, including Borden Dairy, have started reaching out to FarmLink directly for assistance in finding food banks in need and distributing surplus product, Kanoff said.

“The burgeoning organization has divided its [100] volunteers into three specializations: the farms team locates farms with excess supply, the logistics team targets hot spots with the greatest food insecurity, and the food banks team connects directly with local pantries across the country to assess demand. The organization also has sponsorships with Uber Freight and Coyote Logistics, to assist with transporting the goods.

“FarmLink’s work has made an impact on some of the hardest-hit regions of the country, including Navajo Nation at the intersection of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah … Nathan Lynch, a site coordinator at Navajo Nation Christian Response Team, … who delivers emergency food boxes to 2,000 homes on the reserve, said the food insecurity in the region is pervasive. ‘FarmLink has filled a big void.’ ”

More here.

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Photo: Thomas Newman
Jennifer Sharrock, left, is a beginning farmer in Palmer, Alaska. When she needed land to expand, she was matched with land owner Jan Newman through the Alaska Farmland Trust.

I’ve posted a few times about beginning farmers and, in particular, Letterbox Farm in rural Hudson, New York (here). Sandra’s niece and her partners at Letterbox Farm are perfect examples of a hopeful trend in farming: young people getting serious about agriculture and bringing in new and sustainable approaches. It’s incredibly hard work, but they love it.

Today’s post is also about young people getting into farming and is part of a Christian Science Monitor series on the topic. Reporter Sarah Matusek addresses young farmers’ need for land and creative ways older farmers can provide it.

“Jan Newman became an accidental alpaca farmer. She took up knitting in the 1990s at home in Palmer, Alaska, to supply her first child with natural-fiber clothing, and one thing led to another. She innovated again in 2013 when she founded Grow Palmer, a public food program that plants edible gardens around town. These days, Ms. Newman is pondering retirement. …

“Jennifer T. Sharrock is just starting out. She left an insurance career this year to pursue market farming and permaculture full time through her Seeds and Soil Farm. The beginning farmer began teaching permaculture design three years ago, but her popular classes quickly outgrew her space. Buying more land wasn’t financially feasible.

“So she placed an ad in Alaska Farmland Trust’s FarmLink program, a kind of ‘dating service’ for land seekers and owners. When Ms. Sharrock received an answer to her ad, her heart skipped a beat. She saw it was from Ms. Newman, whom she’d met through Grow Palmer. They also turned out to be neighbors.

“ ‘It’s a match made in heaven,’ said Ms. Sharrock, who has started on four acres of Ms. Newman’s property.”

The two women’s agreement is unlike other FarmLink arrangements.

” ‘There’s actually no money changing hands,’ says Ms. Newman, who calls the younger farmer’s regenerative agriculture plan ‘the best stewardship possible.’ …

“Land-link pairings like the one in Palmer represent one possible step toward solving a nationwide puzzle – how to help experienced farmers exit out of agriculture while building an on-ramp for new producers.

” ‘I get a sense there are more young people who don’t necessarily have farm backgrounds, who are taking agriculture entrepreneur courses, and they are starting to jump into farming,’ says Jim MacDonald, an economist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Along with access to capital, access to land is one of the greatest hurdles faced by beginning producers in the United States. One sign of the barriers to entry: The average U.S. farmer’s age has taken a long-term climb over the past several decades, now reaching 57.5, according to the USDA’s latest census figures. While there has been some increase in the number of producers under age 35 – partly due to how the census now defines them – this group remains vastly outnumbered. …

” ‘As someone retires, that’s an opportunity for two or three other young people. There’s no shortage of people that want to farm,’ says Michael Langemeier, an agricultural economics professor at Purdue University in Indiana. …

“In Alaska, 46% of the state’s producers are beginners – the largest share of any state. Amy Pettit, executive director of Alaska Farmland Trust, says the demand for more locally grown food is one of the factors pulling new farmers north. …

“But buying land for many new farmers remains out of reach. … Land availability is another concern. ..

“ ‘There is a sense of urgency,’ says Tim Biello, who coordinates the Hudson Valley Farmlink Network in New York. ‘The history of our use of agricultural lands suggests that we’re not getting more.’ …

“Launched by the American Farmland Trust, Hudson Valley Farmlink Network is among the most active, with 175 matches since 2014. Mr. Biello, the network’s coordinator, attributes the success to individual attention and relying on the localized expertise of 17 partner organizations. …

“Mr. Biello says that matches shouldn’t be the only metric for measuring a land-link program’s impact. He points instead to the trainings, events, and one-on-one assistance that have reached more than 10,000 farmers and farmland owners. …

“Ms. Newman hopes the new farmer will remain on the land long term.

“ ‘I just can’t wait to see this evolve,’ says Ms. Newman. ‘It’s the most exciting thing that’s happened on the property since our alpacas left.’ ”

More here.

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