$7,000 Grant to Offer Support to Local Organic Farmers
In January, 2007, Culture’s Edge, the nonprofit educational organization founded and staffed by Earthaven members, received its first grant: $7,000, from the North Carolina-based resourceful Communities Program.”We applied for the grant to help Culture’s Edge develop into a more effective, capable organization,” says Earthaven member Tracy Kunkler, fundraiser for Culture’s Edge. “So it can more effectively serve the basic needs of people at Earthaven and in the neighboring counties for clean air and water, abundant wholesome food, and sustainable livelihood.”
Culture’s Edge was founded in 1995 to help catalyze healthy, sustainable, and regenerative culture at Earthaven and in the bioregion. In the past, Culture’s Edge has organized public classes and workshops at Earthaven in permaculture design, natural building, and other topics to teach and demonstrate a more sustainable way of life. Encouraged by Tracy, a nonprofit administrator who joined Earthaven in 2006, Culture’s Edge began seeking grant and donation money last November to undertake a different strategy, and they decided to focus at the heart of any region’s culture: its food.
“This is seed money, like a ‘flint spark’ to get our programs going and develop our ability to seek more funding in the near future, thanks to the Resourceful Communities Program,” says Tracy. “They wanted to help us build our capacity as an organization, because they see we meet their ‘triple bottom line’ for environmental stewardship, social justice, and sustainable community economic development.
“Both Rutherford County, the county in which most of Earthaven’s property lies, and neighboring McDowell County, are economically depressed. Families and younger workers in these counties often have to commute outside the area for work or leave the area entirely if they want to have decent livelihood. Small family farmers are especially hard hit. Paradoxically, there’s a huge demand for locally grown organic produce, dairy products, meat products, and biofuels in our region–more than local farmers can supply right now. We want to help them, and our own farmers at Earthaven, such as the Gateway integrated agricultural project, to build sustainable farms and connect to these markets. There’s a lot of connecting-up we can help facilitate!”
Culture’s Edge would like to offer local organic farmers and growers meeting space, office and administration services, and staff time to research how local farmers can develop their entrepreneurial–and ecologically sustainable–plans. Part of the grant money will be used for Culture’s Edge to rent office space at Earthaven for several months and pay for staff time to develop a database of potential funders and donors, potential workshop participants, and local organic farmers. The grant will also support board development, to find and train more Culture’s Edge board members. (Current board members are Paul Caron, Arjuna da Silva, and Suchi Lathrop, as well as Channing Ayers, a neighbor from nearby One Stone intentional community.)
Grant money will also pay for staff time to establish relationships with and promote other local organizations engaged in similar work: to make connections with Foothill Family Farms, a co-op of farmers and growers practicing sustainable agriculture in McDowell County; the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA); Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP); McDowell County Cooperative Extension Service (Tracy recently gave its director a tour of Earthaven); and the Alternative Technologies Program at Appalachian State University.