Wow, how everything has changed in a few short weeks.
As I write, real and pressing concerns rear up from all sides. I find myself thinking about you, as well as the kids who are home, trying to access their learning. How are you doing?
My husband and I are learning to balance work, helping our kids come to terms with the new conditions we find ourselves in and making joy in our cozy space. What is your shelter in place situation like? Where are you finding joy amid the fear and uncertainty?
I am so proud of how Farm Discovery’s staff and board of directors have come together to continue navigating the dynamic developments of our counties’ school closures, then shelter in place orders, the extension of school closures and shelter in place, and just this week the news that schools will not reopen before the summer holiday.
All the preparation we have done for students and families to experience spring and summer on the farm, may only be experienced virtually. Live Earth’s CSA is going gangbusters and Farm Discovery is having to make some quick changes.
Farm Discovery’s programs have been completely shut down beginning with the cancellation of our Sheep to Shawl Fiber & Maker’s Faire on March 21st. We have now lost all of our spring program revenue (up to $100k) and we are preparing to do whatever we can to salvage summer programs. This will depend on what the County Health Department determines, as well as the needs of the community.
While, the pandemic created some financial and program havoc, we are managing for now, thanks to a 4+ month reserve and so grateful to all be healthy. We have asked all of our staff to reduce to .75 FTE and have paused our benefits stipend, so that we can make sure to come out strong on the other end of this. Based on the quick response we made to evaluate our financial position, we are confident that we can make it through very lean programming at least until fall. In this scenario, we will be able to steward our current reserve for the next 12 months. While we may have taken less drastic reduction in staff hours, this move now gives us some cushion in case the effects of this are felt into the fall.
Our dedicated staff are committed to providing the best programming we can in a virtual capacity for the time being. We are still growing food, we are still raising chicks, laying hens and goats. We are making plans for getting that food into the kitchens of those most in need of this local, organic nutrition. You can access our virtual programming through a variety of social media channels, please share it far and wide.
The hardest loss thus far has been the hold on our burgeoning Intern Program. We had just completed the hiring process and had chosen a promising young woman from a Salinas farming family. Giving her the news that we would have to cut this program, at least until June, was difficult.
While it seems wholly appropriate to focus on the needs right now, to marshal the resources necessary to meet coronavirus’ peak in Santa Cruz County and the nation more broadly, it is also imperative to invest in resilience. We build resilience by connecting people to the ecosystem and food system that we steward.
Resilience is about learning new skills and habits as tools for resourcefulness and adaptability. Shoulder to shoulder, kids of all ages learn to prepare healthy meals from what’s growing on the landscape surrounding them. They learn cooperation, teamwork, and creativity, essential characteristics of adaptability. Farm Discovery attends especially to leadership, recognizing that everybody has gifts and a vision that can be harnessed for positive change-making. We have scaffolded our programming to offer ever-expanding ways for young people to engage in learning, to grow, and to lead. Now, we must invest in making this programming accessible in a newly socially distanced reality.