It’s Time to Support Future Organic Farmers

I have been honored to be the Executive Director for the UNFI Foundation since its inception in 2012. Early on my board asked me how we could bring together like-minded Foundations to make a larger impact in our priority areas, together as a community.

I began holding monthly calls with other funders who supported organic agriculture and we all coalesced around the idea of fostering new organic farmers. We were concerned that the average age of the US farmer was over 65 and we knew that organic farming provided a clear path to prosperity.

When Cathy Calfo from the CCOF Foundation joined those funders’ calls she immediately resonated with the idea. How could we make a difference and grow the next generation of organic farmers?

With the CCOF board fully embracing the idea, Cathy and her staff developed and implemented the Future Organic Farming Grant Fund.  This one of a kind program provides financial support for organic education from kindergarten through college.

Why is this Fund so important for the UNFI Foundation?

The UNFI Foundations’ focus is to expand organic acres and increase the number of organic farmers in the U.S. We want to support organizations that serve our local communities with organic food and farming projects. Simply stated we sustain projects that address our priorities to:

  • Increase organic agriculture by significantly increasing acreage.
  • Provide research and science to develop organic farming practices.
  • Protect the biodiversity of our seed supply and the stewardship of genetic resources of organic seed.
  • Teach organic farming practices.
  • Foster the next generation of organic farmers by increasing the number of organic farmers.

The Fund directly impacts the last two of our priorities to teach organic farming practices and foster the next generation of organic farmers. One could argue it has the potential to impact all of them indirectly.

Why is this Fund so important to me?

To date the Fund has made 247 grants to students and teachers of organic agriculture, totaling $400,000, which has thus far surpassed my wildest dreams.

That means that teachers in kindergarten through 8th grade classrooms are teaching children the basic components of organic gardening and eating.

Students in grades 7-11 who are Future Farmer of America members are implementing Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) projects that follow USDA organic production standards.

Young adults enrolled in vocational training, junior colleges, and bachelor’s undergraduate degrees are taking courses to enhance their careers in organic agriculture.

Teaching our youth about the importance of organic agriculture and its benefits to society, our health and the environment is one of the most important endeavors we can pursue. It is the next generation of eaters, farmers and activists who will take organic agriculture to the next level.

When organic is the norm and not the exception we will be well on our way to healing the planet and feeding our hungry. Supporting the Future Organic Farmers Grant Fund pays this vision forward.

If you want to get the word out to hungry students and teachers please share this flyer.

Won’t you consider supporting the Fund? Do it for our youth and for the planet.

The fundraising campaign for the 2018 Future Organic Farmer Grant Fund is open until May 15, 2018. To learn more, please visit www.ccof.org/foundation and email or call Madelaine Baer at mbaer@ccof.org or 831-346-6259.

This piece was originally published on CCOF’s Blog page 

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