Thursday, April 21, 2011

10 Ideas for Donating or Volunteering on Earth Day

I moved to the Northwest for the blueberries in 1975, but it wasn't till 1985, after the first Farm Aid Concert, that my thinking shifted about where the food on my plate originated. Those interviews and videos of farms stayed with me and transformed the way I thought about Earth Day and farmers' roles as land stewards.

I sought out local farms for produce and eggs long before local farmers' markets began sprouting up and each spring and fall I dipped into my wallet for organizations or projects that helped sustain local agriculture and protected farmland.

One spring I gave to Winter Green Farm in Noti, Oregon because they have a CSA program where lower income folks can get a CSA for reduced rates. Last fall I donated to Whatcom County Farm Friends, after attending a fabulous farm dinner at Boxx Berry Farm in Whatcom County.

Now that Earth Day is here, it is time to consider our local farmers. I've saved a bit of money from my $100-a-week food budget, and I can donate more than I could have if I hadn't been frugal. (And it's not so easy to be a frugal locavore as some folks on the Hunger Challenge recently discovered.) You can also consider volunteer opportunities at farm organizations and land trusts in your area.

Here are 10 places to donate to or volunteer for on Earth Day:

1. PCC Farmland Trust was started in the late 1990s when, Delta Farm, the farm that boarded Nash's was divided up for development and offered for sale. Nash had increasingly seen farmland around him swallowed up by development and he'd had enough. When the produce buyer for PCC Natural Markets visited the farm and saw the "For Sale" sign Nash wondered out loud if PCC had the guts to save this fertile farmland. Produce buyer, Joe Haridiman took Nash's request to PCC's board of directors and they quickly set up a nonprofit fund. Donations from many of PCC's customers helped save the farm. People step up to the plate when you ask!

Last spring, I donated 20 copies of The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook (that features Nash in two profiles) to PCC Farmland Trust to help generate more donations.

2. The Greenbelt Land Trust in Corvallis, Oregon is also working hard to protect land in the WillametteValley. I met a representative for this trust when I visited the Corvallis farmers' market to find farmers to profile in my book.

3. Seattle Youth Garden Works is part of Seattle Tilth. This amazing group empowers homeless and low income youths by training them how to grow and market produce. I pass by one of their beautiful gardens and often buy produce from these young entrepreneur farmers at the U District farmers' market on Saturday mornings.

4. Cascade Harvest Coalition publishes the familiar Puget Sound Farm Guide each year. They also send out a monthy newsletter and have a blog that keeps me up-to-date on the latest farm news. I'm grateful for the existence of this organization and this spring I donated a bit of money in memory of my old basset hound Badger who passed away a few weeks ago. I think she was a carrot lover from the day she was born. Also, consider attending this fabulous dinner held at Willie Green's Organic farm in Monroe.

5. Skagatonians to Preserve Farmland works to preserve farmland and support farmers in Skagit Valley--a fertile valley that supplies food for much of Western Washington and seeds to plant around the world.

6. Friends of Family Farmers is a united voice for Oregon farmers' seeking to build more sustainable farms where farmers' are respected as land stewards and farm animals are treated humanely.

7. Tilth Producers of Washington is a division of Washington Tilth Association and they produce a fabulous directory of farms, farm stands and farmers' markets. I look forward to this great resource for local foods every spring. One of my favorite summer farms, Rama Farm always saves a spare copy at the market for me.

8. Rogue Valley Farm to School is a great program in southern Oregon that benefits farms and local schools by connecting school kids, school lunch programs and local farms. I visited one of the farms that participates in this program last summer and was so impressed with Dunbar Farms that I nominated farmer David Mostue for the Growing Green Awards presented by the National Resources Defense Council. Here is another link for Washington farm-to-school programs, if you are interested.

9. Farm Aid--kickstarted my local-focus inspiration and the organization is still going strong after 25 plus years. Thank you Willie Nelson! This great organization offers support for family farms across the country. If you haven't already done so, check them out.

10. American Farmland Trust also supports farmers around the country by working to save fertile farmland from development. In 2008, American Farmland Trust awarded the coveted land steward of the year award to Nash Huber for his efforts to save local farmland. Check out the article! Nash was the first Northwest farmer and the first organic vegetable farmer to win this award.

So, get out your bike instead of your car, pack a locavore lunch and head out to one of the Earth Day celebrations. Here are a few celebrations to check out to check out in Seattle.
My Cooking Assistant eyeing almond butter from one of my favorite organic farms in California.


Joan said...

I love all the information you relay here and in your book about farms and farmers and their craft. Thank you for doing what you can to draw attention to this important group of folks.

Sorry to hear about Badger. Losing them is so difficult for us who loved them.

ddzeller said...

Thanks Joan, there are so many opportunities to help our planet, I admire farmers and people like you who share great garden tips and inspire the rest of us.