I would love to know how you are doing. How are you personally coping? How is your industry being affected? How is your business doing compared to your industry?
While, I have challenging days and moments, I am doing well overall. I am getting more exercise because I am spending way less time in the car (mostly driving my girls to dance, soccer . . . you know the drill). I am feeling less rushed when I have to make yogurt twice a week to comply with my daughter’s strict medical diet. I am getting more time with my sister before she has her baby. I am learning new knitting tricks. I am working for a scrappy organization in a very dynamic environment with a staff who has so much goodness in their hearts and willingness to jump in to new projects with two feet.
It is so interesting to me that even businesses in the same industry can be affected so differently by these current conditions. I just read Michael Pollen’s article In the New York Review of Books about sickness in our food system. He pointed out some of the same things I have been realizing during this crisis. Small, local food systems and the farmers’ driving them, are doing better overall than farmers selling wholesale to restaurants and corporate cafeterias. There is another nuance though within this story because large farms who sell wholesale to grocery stores are doing okay too.
At the community level, people who have access to CSAs and Farmer’s Markets are having their food supply less disrupted. People are cooking more for themselves. At the same time food banks, pantry and meal programs are emptying quickly and seeing a doubling of clients in need of food assistance. The kicker . . . people who eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, who are not experiencing obesity or its related conditions are less at risk of dying from COVID-19. So, all this work we have been doing to support our local food system, support local farming, build community around local farms, farmer’s markets, and growing your own food is proving to be a smart tactic for resilience to the very risks we now face. So now we at Farm Discovery are jumping in to help get fresh fruits and vegetables to those pantry programs too.
Since the beginning of April Farm Discovery has coordinated delivery of over 500 pounds a week of fresh organic produce to vulnerable community members in partnership with 3 agencies, Pajaro Valley Loaves and Fishes, Encompass Community Services Transitional Age Youth program, and Holy Cross food pantry program. Through these food pantry and meal programs we are ensuring that families, farmworkers, foster youth, homeless, and seniors nourish themselves with a diverse, plant rich diet that supports health and resilience.
In late May, we made the decision to offer summer childcare on the farm. We are very pleased to offer families a safe, active outdoor program for kids to be together, be outside, grow food, play and learn together. This program is quite different than the summer camps we have developed since 2010. Kids are in small stable groups for 4-week sessions, we are integrating fewer teens, and offering more extended care. We are doing fewer edible projects, focusing on making things from the farm that minimize the risk of transmission. The program requires more staff and can accommodate fewer kids, so we are grateful to dedicated funders like the PV Community Health Trust and the Leonard C. and Mildred F. Ferguson Foundation for supporting these programs to continue to support families and provision 40% of campers with scholarship support.
Now, as we slide through June, we are starting to understand what the fall landscape may look like. Fall is an important time for Farm Discovery. It is when the labors of the year culminate in the fields, when over 1000 youth and families visit the farm to learn farming skills, nutrition and environmental stewardship. It is also when we gather together to celebrate and support these programs during our Fall Feast.
If Santa Cruz County continues to open up and minimize cases of Coronavirus, we could consider a series of social distanced small dinners to be in a community in this place we love, eating this nourishing food we love and raising support for programs we believe in. Or, it may just have to wait for the spring or even fall of 2021.
Help us gauge your views on small gatherings by answering a few short questions. Survey link.
Whether we can gather this fall to be in community, have a virtual event or simply hold off, Farm Discovery is determined to continue to play its part in developing our community’s resilience through health for ourselves, our food system and the natural world.
We are offering farm walks for quarantined households, safe, affordable access to a special outdoor space to interact with where food comes from, nature and each other, cultivating physical, mental and emotional health during these challenging times. We are working with Santa Cruz County school districts on outdoor education contingencies to support on campus learning in the outdoors this fall combined with virtual opportunities for engaging STEM education. We are prepared to make the farm and especially its outdoor spaces safely available to as many youth and families as we can during these extreme conditions and are dedicated to having trained, experienced staff in place to reopen fully as soon as the county and our community are ready.
A study conducted this spring by the Lawrence Hall of Science (LHS) found, “11 million children at risk of losing access to the educational and health benefits of environmental education.” According to author Robert Sanders, “The loss will be felt disproportionately by historically marginalized groups, particularly students of color and students from low-income families, that are most likely to lose environmental education within their local school districts.” So now, it is as important as ever for Farm Discovery to get our programming to our local schools especially those serving low-income families and students of color. We know, as LHS Director, Rena Dorph said, “The outdoors is a resource for learning, engagement and health, and it should be available to all.” We are hopeful that because, “public health leaders are promoting the value of outdoor learning as safe, engaging, effective and essential,” our programs will be more valuable to schools than ever. We are ready.