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Help Build the Heart of the Sharing Farm

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Help Build the Heart of the Sharing Farm

In part 2 of our two-part blog series, learn about the Sharing Farm’s efforts to raise funds for a new building - the "heart of the farm."

Last week I blogged about the amazing Sharing Farm in Richmond, BC. If you haven’t checked it out yet, you’ll be blown away by what this feisty nonprofit is doing to help feed Richmond’s families.

I’ll give a brief recap: two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit the Sharing Farm and speak to James Gates (pictured above, showing me the crops in his greenhouse) and marketing and communications manager Gretchen Frazer. They told me all about their incredible programs and events, and impressed me with how they’re changing the notion of food bank food by supplying fresh, organic, sustainably grown vegetables, and even tailor-growing to the demographics of the population.

But they also told me something else: the Sharing Farm desperately needs help to construct a new building, which they dub “the heart of the farm.”

Ongoing challenges

Registered charities require community support and funding to survive, and the Sharing Farm is no exception. Like other nonprofits, they face many ongoing challenges.

  • The need for meal programs and food banks seem to be increasing, which they see as a sign of deeper societal problems and a lack of federal or provincial governmental support. When that support doesn’t exist, Frazer notes, “We have groups like us that try to come in and create these social safety nets.”
  • They’re not able to reduce costs and labour by using chemicals on their crops (as they grow organically).
  • They have a small, part-time staff of six and rely on volunteers for the rest of the work.
  • They require capital to run the most basic operations of the farm. Gates explains the situation well when he says, “Now if you can imagine this, if you’re a farmer and you give away 60 to 70 percent of what you grew, where would your income come from? We’re giving away our income, so we need help to run our operations, to grow money for the food bank.”

Because of these challenges, they haven’t been able to expand their fields as far as they’d like, even though they technically have the space to expand. As Gates explains, “We have to balance the land base with what we can actually manage.” He estimates that if they were able to reach their full potential in terms of productivity, they could quadruple the amount of food donated.

Going without the heart of the farm

Although the Sharing Farm was used to dealing with those ongoing challenges, they were hit by an unexpected blow when a reassessment revealed that the garage they had been using as a multipurpose building had to be torn down—right at the beginning of this summer, their busy season.

As Frazer states, “There wasn’t any way around it, it wasn’t anyone’s fault. The building was just done.” This building was essentially the lifeblood of the farm; it was where they kept equipment, where they stored some of the harvested crops before being donated to the food bank, and where the volunteers checked in before heading out to the fields or greenhouses. Losing the heart of the farm means lost efficiency. Without the building, Gates estimates that he spent “about 100 hours this summer moving things around, just finding temporary storage locations here and there. All that was lost labour.”

To build a new structure costs about $170,000, which is a massive cost for a small nonprofit. As Frazer states, “That’s our entire annual operating budget … it’s tough when you’re trying to do normal fundraising to keep going, and then all of a sudden you have to do double what you normally do.

How we can help

Gates and Frazer are overjoyed with the support they’ve received so far from groups, companies, and individuals alike, but admit that they still need much more help. Here’s how we can contribute.

  • Donate, on their website.  According to Frazer, “All the donation amounts really, really help. We’re used to stretching a dollar, so we know what to do.”
  • Offer skills, tools, or materials, if you’re able. For example, they’ve had contractors offer their skills, and companies donate drywall or windows. Gates notes that they’re not sure which materials they’ll need, as they may choose to go with a kit option, but expertise, labour, and tools are always needed. Feel free to get in touch with them and ask them what they need.
  • Talk about it! Share this blog post on your own social media channels, chat about it in the lunchroom with your coworkers, or mention it to your family and friends. Even if you’re not able to financially contribute, someone you know might be.

Of course, the end goal for all of this fundraising is to further the Sharing Farm mandate of growing food to feed Richmond’s families. Gates reminds us: “a building would help us centralize our operations. All that translates into helping more people. That’s our message.”

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