After the dust settled from Farm Aid 30, we dove right into our annual grant process, reading and discussing inspiring grant proposals from organizations across the country. In our 30 years, we’ve funded more than 300 groups, giving out nearly $22 million. With a boots-on-the ground approach, these grantees work directly with farmers, institutions and policymakers to bolster the people bringing good food to our Thanksgiving tables.
“Farm Aid was early to believe and invest in our ability to do this difficult, but essential, organizing – for this, we are so grateful!” –Real Food Challenge, Farm Aid grantee
We think of these organizations as not just grantees, but also critical partners—changing the farm and food system. Their range of impact is meaningful and their body of work is as diverse as the geography of this country. We’ve collected stories to show the impact of the work funded by Farm Aid over the past 30 years. Here are just a few examples:
- In North Carolina, the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) received a grant to strengthen their farm advocacy program, which connects farmers with social, legal and financial resources. Last year RAFI’s farm advocates worked with a five-family, multi-generational farm in eastern NC that was facing foreclosure. With some creative legwork, the advocates teamed up with two local financial institutions to leverage the farm families’ existing equity, putting them in a better financial position. The farm is now debt free!
- The Illinois Stewardship Alliance (ISA) in Illinois received a grant to support their local food system through policy work. Last year they helped the Bishop Family, who runs a small, diversified farm in Central Illinois. The Bishops ran into a problem: food safety regulations at farmers’ markets varied dramatically from county to county, creating a tremendous burden for small farmers. ISA worked closely with state policymakers to create a law to make a consistent set of rules and a statewide license that allows farm products to be sold at any farmers’ market in the state. ISA also made sure that implementation of this law stayed true to its intent—making it as beneficial to farmers, like the Bishops, as possible.
- The Sustainable Food Center (SFC) in Texas used a Farm Aid grant to improve community access to nutritious, affordable food. Marquel, a frequent customer at one of SFC’s farmers’ markets, relied on the market’s produce to feed her family. She is a recipient of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and uses SFC’s Double Dollar Incentive Program to turn her $20 in food benefits into $40 of market-fresh goods. This program not only supports community food access, but also creates a much-needed boost in sales for local farmers.
- Cultivate Kansas City in Kansas received a grant to support new farmers in the New Roots for Refugees program, which provides land and technical assistance to refugee women so they can start their own farm businesses and generate income for their families. Sar Mu Na, a refugee from Burma, worked with Cultivate KC to start her own farm. She now grows a wide variety of crops—some familiar to American customers, and some unique to Burma. She values the community that she’s made and how farming helped her family transition to the U.S. Last year, Cultivate KC worked with 28 refugee families and neighborhood residents to start farm businesses. These independent businesses generated upwards of $1 million in economic impact and 198,000 pounds of organically grown produce, which was distributed throughout the city, primarily to underserved and low-income communities.
Narratives like these inspire us. So we’ve highlighted nearly three-dozen organizations by weaving together their stories and photos into a quilt. Stitched together physically and virtually, this quilt is demonstrative of the change Farm Aid has supported over the past three decades, and of the type of change we champion for the future. Many of these organizations are working together, building off of successful programs and learning from mistakes. Our grant quilt illustrates this web—a vibrant network of family farm organizations.
When the larger world feels chaotic and scary, we can focus on the work that our partners are doing—their direct impact creates vibrant, positive change in people’s lives, our country and the food system. This Thanksgiving we are thankful for these partners, bringing people together through food, each in their own way.Check out our grant quilt to read stories from our vibrant network of family farm organizations.