Developing Sustainable, Natural Farming Techniques to Implement a Farmer’s Market and Educate Underserved African American Communities
We spent the months of February and March creating a program curriculum and recruiting volunteers and program participants. Recruiting participants was done by word of mouth, networking with other community organizations, creating a Facebook page, and posting flyers around different neighborhoods. Most of the program participants came from networking with other community organizations and face-to-face communication with people in other community programs.
We have also offered workshops to participants in the following areas: organic farming; nutrition; photosynthesis; native plants (2); pollinators, solid waste management and recycling.
The first round of funds ($ 3,714.00) have been used to pay the Community Liaison, partial payment to Program Director, and labor. Additional funds were used to purchase tools, equipment, soil/compost, delivery, seeds, and seedlings. In addition, we have used funds to pay for printing, soil, locksmith, bobcat work, delivery costs, and internet services.
RESULTS OF PROJECT AND LESSONS LEARNED SO FAR
The project is ongoing, so I am sure that there are more lessons to be learned; however, there are several things we have learned up to this point.
Ten participants were recruited into the program. Participants were required to attend workshops, plant and maintain their vegetable beds. Participants took pre-assessment surveys in order to ascertain their knowledge about nutrition, how plants grow, and the roles of native plants.
Obiagele Lake, Program Director, facilitated workshops on the importance of organic farming, photosynthesis, and nutrition. Some of the participants have never planted seeds or seedlings before, so the planting workshop was very informative. Food for PeopleKC instructed participants how to plant seeds and plants and how to care for them once planted. Participants planted their seeds and seedlings in raised beds and also planted melon seeds in other locations on the farm.
Post Assessment results indicated that participants gained knowledge about the benefits of pesticide-free faming, planting techniques, and the nutritional value of consuming fresh vegetables.
Participants attended “Go Native,” an event sponsored by the Discovery Center in Kansas City, Missouri, where they received free tree plants and other native plants for their own gardens. There were also workshops where children learned about the kinds of Missouri native grasses and flowering plants. They also learned how to make “planters” out of newspaper and how to make seed balls with clay and native seeds.
Participants attended a Recycling workshop, presented by Mid-America Regional Council (MARC). They learned the importance of recycling as a way to preserve our natural resources and how methane produced in landfills contributes to harmful climate change. We all learned more about what items can be recycled and what materials needed special recycling sites.
The lessons learned by Food for PeopleKC (FFPKC) were of a different nature. Although FFPKC staff and volunteers also learned valuable information from the workshops and events, we also learned about labor, cost of materials and equipment. While we did hire laborers for ground preparation, finding good workers was, and continues to be, a difficult task. The cost of hiring labor from well-established, larger companies would be prohibitive, which forces small organization like ours to hire individuals from on-line sources or from face-to-face contacts. Some of these workers have been helpful in preparing the field, but others are unprepared to do the jobs for which they were hired. But we are forging ahead and are organizing a pool of reliable laborers who will be working for us in the near future and next year.
Another problem is the nature of the funding. Because we are receiving grant funds in installments, we are prevented from purchasing larger equipment or structures when we need them. For example, we need a shed at the farm and were not able to purchase one because of insufficient funds. We now keep our equipment in a shed not located at the farm site, which makes it cumbersome to bring tools to the field if a truck is unavailable. If one of our workers is without a truck then we have to rent a truck, which takes money away from other items. A shed in the neighborhood where the farm is must be a strongly built one in order to minimize the likelihood of break-ins.
WORK PLAN FOR 2017
The work plan next year:
Retaining a portion of the urban farmers from this year’s program and recruiting new participants to learn about growing pesticide-free food crops and the importance of native plants and pollinators.
Continue to network with the following organizations:
The Discovery Center offers workshops and camps that inform participants about native plants, native trees, and beneficial insects.
Bridging the Gap offers workshops on native gardens, butterfly plants, and the importance of providing habitats for bees and other pollinators. These workshops include the role of native plants in sequestering pollutants from the air and the soil.
Mid-American Regional Council will provide workshops and share information on air and water quality, recycling and recycling resources in Kansas City, Missouri.
Urban Neighborhood Initiative has been helpful in providing a platform for meeting other urban farmers and naturalists and a setting where we can share ideas and successes.
- Develop more effective strategies for recruiting volunteers to help with farm work and public relations.
- Focus on herbs, edible flower production, and developing existing native plant/pollinator habitat.
- Seek additional grant funding for website development.
- Build a farmer’s market stand and Highland Organic Farm signage.
- Acquire organic certification as funds allow.
Some of our events were shared via email and our Facebook page.
Different numbers of people attended FFPKC events this spring and summer (2016). During the field days there were approximately 20 to 25 people who served in various capacities, including new urban farmers and their family members, neighbors, community workers, and volunteers, and staff.
Next year we will continue to share our information with immediate community members via face-to-face contacts. We will also disseminate information via the internet (Facebook, Instagram, and email newsletters). We will continue to actively interface with other farmers, volunteers, and community organizations where we will exchange ideas and best practices.