Artwork for podcast The Good Dirt
61. Fighting Food Insecurity with Jenny Freeman of Community FarmShare
Episode 611st October 2021 • The Good Dirt • Lady Farmer
00:00:00 00:45:22

Share Episode

Shownotes

For today's guest Jenny Freeman, what sprouted as an idea to tackle food insecurity during the pandemic has now grown into a fully registered 501(c)(3) organization that offers individuals and organizations the ability to get involved in the local food movement. Her organization, Community FarmShare, is a community-based initiative that connects food-insecure families with local produce farmers in Montgomery County. This organization works by way of donation and is completely volunteer-run, all of the money is put towards purchasing Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm shares. These shares are then used to purchase weekly bags and boxes of organically grown produce at one of seven local participating vegetable farms. 

CSA programs have recently received widespread attention for their ability to provide unique benefits to communities, environments, and economies. In a nutshell, CSAs directly connect consumers and producers to help create a more profitable and transparent local food system. This helps in reducing food insecurity among families that cannot afford organically grown foods. Jenny is passionate about tackling this issue by providing a solution that links families experiencing food insecurity with local vegetable and fruit growers. Jenny shares this mission with the rest of her community in order to create transformative change in her local community. 

In this week’s episode, we will discuss Jenny’s journey creating Community FarmShare and how you can get involved with her organization. Join us on this week’s episode to find out more about Jenny’s story and learn how you can implement a similar project in your community!

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Podchaser, Simplecast, Podtail, or on your favorite podcast platform.

Topics Covered:

  • What is a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and how does it work?
  • Learn more about Community FarmShare and Jenny’s story as its founder
  • Supporting Afghan refugees in the United States

Resources Mentioned:

Guest Info

Connect with Jenny on LinkedIn.

Follow Us:

Transcripts

[:

You're listening to the Good Dirt Podcast. This is a place where we dig into the nitty-gritty of sustainable living through food, fashion, and lifestyle.

[:

And we're your hosts, Mary and Emma Kingsley, the mother and daughter founder team of Lady Farmer. We are sowing seeds of slow living through our community platform, events, and online marketplace.

[:

We started this podcast as a means to share the wealth of information and quality conversations that we're having in our world as we dream up and deliver ways for each of us to live into the new paradigm, one that is regenerative, balanced, and whole.

[:

We want to put the microphone in front of the voices that need to be heard the most right now, the farmers, the dreamers, the designers, and the doers.

[:

So come cultivate a better world with us. We're so glad you're here. Now, let's dig in.

Hello, Good Dirt listeners. Welcome to this week's episode, uh, we want to let you know that we actually recorded both this interview and this intro just a few weeks ago. So we're talking about summer now cause it's still summer, but when you listen to this it will be. Oh, so just a little heads up.

[:

Hi Emma. It was fun having you at the farm over the weekend. You want to tell our listeners what we were doing?

[:

Sure. So every month inside our online community platform, the Almanac, we have an activity that's related to our seasonal theme and you can do it if you're interested or not, but at some point during the month, we'll get together on Zoom and have a little gathering and talk about it and share ideas about how this activity and the related stuff around it has impacted us in terms of what we're trying to do as a community, which is to encourage people and their desire to slow down and be more intentional in their everyday lives. And just generally move in the direction of a more sustainable lifestyle that's closer to the cycles of nature.

[:

And this month's theme has been 'savor'. So the activity suggestion was to enjoy an end-of-summer meal by savoring the flavors and the time spent together around the table with an emphasis on locally grown food.

So that's what we did over the weekend, we planned a small gathering with our Lady Farmer team members, and everybody brought something and we ate outside in the garden for a lovely golden hour feast. Yes, the food was amazing. It was all from the garden or from our CSA or our local markets, and a couple of items were even foraged.

How'd you like the seasoning on the roasted chicken?

[:

It was really tasty. It was so good.

[:

That was ground spicebush berries. It tastes sort of like allspice. And I found them in the woods just right around our house.

[:

I guess you could say it's pretty local.

[:

Yeah, and no chemicals, no plastic, and no transport.

And the whole idea of local food relates to another one of our Almanac activities, which is our upcoming book club. This season's selection was All We Can Say, which is a selection of essays about the climate crisis, all written by women from various backgrounds and perspectives like scientists, journalists, farmers, lawyers, teachers, activists, innovators.

[:

Yeah, and it's a really interesting book. You know, we hear a lot of bad news and dire predictions about the climate crisis, as we should. It's pretty dire and it's easy to get overwhelmed and wonder what even the point is and what we can even be doing as individuals that would really make any kind of difference.

So today we're going to talk specifically about one of those things that we really, really can do.

[:

Yes, and this might not be something that immediately comes to mind when you're thinking about climate change, that eating local responsibly produced food is actually a very powerful personal action. According to a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change might have heard this referred to as the IPC, global food production accounts for more than a third of fossil fuels. And so how's that it's from the fossil fuel-derived herbicides and pesticides used in large-scale agriculture and the enormous fuel consumption involved in transporting food hundreds and even thousands of miles. And the fossil fuels used in the production of the massive amount of plastic packaging that transported foods require.

[:

And, of course, the degradation of the soil from the pressure of the chemical inputs that release carbon into the atmosphere. So all this to say that when you choose to eat from your own garden or a garden nearby, or a small local farm that produces food with regard to the health of the soil, you are cutting down the carbon footprint of your food and helping to grow good dirt.

[:

Yeah. Yay, good dirt. And, uh, that's all great. But as we know, locally grown food is not always accessible to everybody and is often, by necessity, more expensive than the cheap mass-produced foods that are shipped all over the planet. And there are lots of neighborhoods and food desert areas where you just can't get good local food.

So what do we do about the inequity of access to these more regenerative and, by the way, more nutrient-dense foods?

[:

It's a huge, huge problem. And it is an equity issue and there is a lack of justice around this problem, around the food system in general. But there are people out there working on creative ways to overcome this, including our guests today, Jenny Freeman, who is also our neighbor here in the Montgomery County Ag Reserve.

about during the pandemic in:

[:

We'll let Jenny tell you the story of how she acted on her idea.

And created what is now become, in less than a year, a successful nonprofit, helping farmers grow their businesses, helping residents tackle the food inequities through volunteerism and financial support, and helping food-insecure neighbors get fresh, nutritious food for themselves and their families.

[:

And as you're listening, consider how you might take action for food justice by seeking out opportunities in your own community for equitable food distribution.

You can support the Community FarmShare directly. And it's just such an amazing, inspiring story. We're so grateful for Jenny for coming on and for the efforts that she has made in our community. And she's really making a huge difference so we hope you enjoy this episode.

[:

Here's Jenny

Hi, Jenny. Welcome to the farm. We're doing an in-person interview tonight, it's Friday night. It's beautiful. Late summer night, and we're just enjoying a lovely evening here, but we have Jenny Freeman with us and I'm going to let you tell us why you're here and what you do and tell us something of your story and how you started your Community FarmShare.

[:

Thank you so much for having me. So it's a great experience to be here, so thank you. So the story with Community FarmShare is, um, really was one of the projects that I did coming out of the pandemic. So, or in the middle of a pandemic, the idea, I mean, seeing so many families facing food insecurity and the whole disruption of the food system and the local food system was something that was just so, so disturbing and to me. Living out here in the Ag Reserve, being your neighbors, and seeing all this food that can be grown, that is being grown both on the farms and people's back yards. It was this idea of well, can we somehow get together and as a community and really make something happen with the food that is growing and, and get it to people in need in Montgomery County to local helping local people.

[:

So I remember when you first moved here, what four or five years ago or something like that. And I think it will set a little light on your background and your inspiration for doing this by describing, I met the year after you've done your first garden. And as I remember, you were like really kind of overwhelmed with the amount of food you were getting.

So talk about that and how you just, like, you were sort of a beginning lady farmer and tell us what happened?

[:

Exactly though, that's absolutely true. So I moved out here. Yep. Five years ago started a pretty big garden. It's like 60 feet by 70 feet or so. And I'd always been a gardener. So even in previous places where I lived, I'd grown food.

So I had that, the concept of it, but I could clearly see how, you know, how connected, you know, people can be to the earth and to grow a lot of food at the same time. And so I grew a lot. I started donating a lot of food to different food assistance providers and food banks and got inspired to do more and really to grow it from really that's where Community FarmShare came out of the idea.

Not just backyard growing, but how can we collect the existing local farmers who are really doing things on a bigger scale? Right? Because here I am doing a small garden and trying to produce food and support local communities. And as much as I can, but on a larger scale, what can the actual local farms do in order to support the people that are in need?

[:

[:

So it started with knowing people, that's what it's about. It's about connections between people, between one person to another person. And once I had the concept of or getting to know the farmers, then the idea I was literally, it was during the pandemic and I was out on another family's farm. There were a couple of us that got together.

Um, we would call ourselves the porchers and we'd sit on someone's porch during the pandemic. And I had this thought about, I know all these amazing, wonderful farmers that are really growing on a larger scale, you know, not just the backyard, but actual farm vegetable farms. Um, and they're growing organically and they're growing, you know, certified regenerative and agriculture, you know, and then there's all this need.

Right. And so the idea, yeah. Huh? Well, what do we need to actually just get the food from the farms to the people? And one of the friends that was sitting out on the porch, she actually asked me one day, she's like, Jenny, I wanted to donate some money and I wanted to contribute to the food system and what should I do?

And it was literally, that was that aha moment actually, where I thought, okay, wait, somebody actually wants to like help and support this on a financial level. And it was almost just like, really? People really want to do that? And it made sense. And so that was the moment where it kind of came together, like, okay, there's people that actually want to contribute to it.

There's farmers that are growing the food. And then there's the people that need it add to this too, is one of my passions not only is just feeding and providing healthy, good food to people in need, but it's also supporting the local farmers because they too have a hard life, as we know from our backyard gardens.

And from real farms, actual larger farms, they need the support as well from the financial point of view. So we, one thing I believe in very much to with Community FarmShare is that we do pay the farmers what they should have for their food that they grow, and that way they're supporting local farms. And then also getting, getting that food to the people that need it.

[:

So how does that work? What is the infrastructure required and how do people sign up for it to receive the food and how do people participate as just donations? Tell us exactly how it works.

[:

There's a website, basically. So the website is communityfarmshare.org and what it is is we're basically we collect in any donations amounts, so it can be any, any amount of it all is welcome.

When we get the donations in, we have seven local farms that are in Montgomery County for them on the Western side of the county. Three of them are on the Eastern side of the county and people can either donate directly to a specific farm if they have an association or a connection with that farm or to a general fund.

And when we get enough funds in, in order to basically buy a CSA share, that share then we have volunteer drivers who bring those to the families in need. I also say we partner in order how we find our families is we partner with existing community organizations, existing food assistance providers, all throughout the county who have been working with families in need a long time, even pre-pandemic or during the pandemic. And in that way, we're able to connect with them, partner with them to understand which of the families are most in need and how we can support them. And so then we have volunteer drivers that go every week, we've got nine different routes.

They pick up the food directly, the produce directly from the farms and bring those to the families who work. Cause most of the families that are receiving the food don't have access to transportation. A lot of them have health issues or obviously financial issues that prevent them from having easy access to get out to the farms, to pick up the food so we do the deliveries too.

[:

That's so cool.

[:

Is the money going to specific CSA and you might want to talk a little bit about what a CSA is? I mean, some people listening might not really understand that, or is it just any farm that wants to get food? How does that work?

[:

We work with specifically with farms that are able to provide CSA, and so what a CSA is a stands for Community Supported Agriculture and a CSA is a weekly bag of produce.

Usually, the bag includes usually six to eight or so different items, which are grown, it's seasonal. And so whatever, basically, the farmer is growing during that season all the way from the spring, all the way through the fall. It varies throughout the seasons. So each week they get a bag. So on one CSA means typically between, varies a little bit, but I'd say between 24 to 34 weeks of weekly bags of produce.

And so they would get probably between 10, 15 pounds of food every week of whatever is available. So in the spring, that might be more of the greens, you know, so more like lettuces and spinach and broccoli. And then in the summer, it's more the summer vegetables in the fall, back to the fall vegetables.

[:

So are the CSA that the contributors are giving money to?

[:

So anybody who would donate into community farm share, yes, is actually they donate the money into Community FarmShare, and we then pass the full amount onto the farm. And so then the farm actually gets paid. So for example, the average, again, each farm has a different pricing situation, but the average price of a full share of the CSA, so that would mean the whole like 24 to 30 weeks or whatever, the amount of time is, would be about $700.

So that means $700 provides three seasons, you know, 24 to 30 weeks of food every single week to the family. So yes, the seven local farms that we've work with are all CSA farms, which means they are able to provide the diversity of the food because otherwise a lot of farms might only produce maybe two or three different types of vegetables, but it's important for the CSA farm to be able to provide larger variety of food.

[:

Right. Okay. Yeah. That was what I was wondering. So these are farms with CSA programs.

[:

Yes, exactly.

[:

And FarmShare gives them the full amount of the share. It's not like you're asking them for the donation. So the farmers are getting fully compensated for each share that is being donated, by Community FarmShare.

[:

Yes, that is correct. And that's important because one of the things, especially in Montgomery County here, but I'm sure that it's relevant for everywhere, I suppose, is that farmers. The food that farmers produce really needs, I mean, it's something I believe in so much needs to be really valued and it's a lot of work.

And especially again, in our area, the price of meat, of getting farms to be able to be profitable or the amount of work and the cost to make a farm profitable is tough in this area. You know, whether it's land cost is high or labor costs are high, or just generally the cost of living in Montgomery County is rather high.

So to be a successful financially successful farmer here is challenging. So that is something we believe in is to pay the farmer the full amount of the shares.

[:

So how do you, from like a business infrastructure perspective, is this completely volunteer for you? Do you run it? Like who built your website? It just, it sounds amazing.

[:

Thanks. Yeah. Um, I've had volunteers help. So right now we are completely volunteering putting myself. Wow. But the hope is that we actually big news is that as of today we just got our nonprofit status. So we applied on April 1st and this morning I got the, um, the approval for being a 501C-3. Super, super excited, which means that going forward, I'm hoping that we can then apply for grants to fund the actual operations because that is critical in order to make it sustainable for the long-term.

Um, so this first year I did, I, it's something I'm passionate about, I believe in is so much so. I'm going to figure out a way to make it happen, even on a purely volunteer level. But I do believe, and I hope maybe hire staff too and actually grow the organization because there's a lot of potential to expand.

All we need to do is simply bring in the donations, get them to the farmers and then have people bring the food to the people. That's it.

[:

And I'm thinking people who are listening, who might not be local, but thinking about like replicating this in their area, was it a model that you had seen that exists already? Or is it something that you guys kind of made up?

Yeah, I guess just for the person who's listening, who wants to do something similar to what would you tell them?

[:

Oh, gosh, be in contact with me. I would love to, I would love to share. I actually didn't have a model on it and it was really just sitting there, like I said, out on the porch, thinking about it.

Okay. Let's just figure it out. That way to bring in, in the donations, have the connections with the farmers and to bring the food where it needs to go and the connections with the food assistance providers.

[:

Computer, even like, even with just what we do. I can't imagine. Like, that seems kind of complicated, like making it all, but you have people helping you.

[:

Yeah, no, I do have a bunch of volunteers and we have aboard.

We've got a board of directors already, fantastic group of people too that I just absolutely love working with. And yeah, it's, it's not too complicated. Really. Okay. It's really I have a spreadsheet. I keep track of them, you know, funds that go in. I know which farm it goes to cause sometimes people do prefer a lot of people who have existing CSA is with these existing seven partner farms.

They might want to donate a share. So basically it's a good share for your own family. And then you can buy a share or a part of a share for someone else. And I should just emphasize too, that there's no need to donate the full amount. It can always any amount is welcome to yeah.

[:

I think one thing that's real important about this whole thing is that there might be a assumption out there that regenerative agriculture, organic food farm to table food is inaccessible to certain segment of the population, that is sort of a thing of privilege.

And you have really leveled the field here by opening it up to anybody, anybody who needs it.

[:

Well, I would say that it is it's still is inaccessible generally. So she is making it accessible. So what's interesting is that it is sadly that this is even needed, right. That we have to like do these connecting.

So it's cool. Like it's really cool that you would do it, but I don't know if I would say that it makes it totally accessible all across the board. Like this is one way to do. But it's still people have to know about this and yeah. And the truth, the bottom line here is the underlying problem that it is too complicated to get good food to people and, like, why? What are the structures that are in the way of that? And that's kind of like what we talk about all the time on Lady Farmer and what this whole thing is about.

[:

Yeah, it's true. There's so many obstacles costs being one of them, because if you pointed out it's cost a lot of money for a farmer to do really good food, really food that's, it's good for the soil and nutritious, and that's going to be super nourishing and nutrition-dense and all of that.

It just is not a cheap thing to do.

[:

Yeah, absolutely. It's, it's one of the things that, I'm what I've talked to our clients, our families that we're supporting. First, I want to say too, that are volunteers that are bringing the food to people. It's not, you just drop it off at their door and people are getting to know these families.

I've done a lot of the deliveries myself, especially in the very beginning. I wanted to get to know the families and that's what they said. I've had people say to me, Jenny, I haven't had this food in two years.

[:

Wow.

[:

I, I, you know, yeah. I mean, it's, it's an amazing thing to know that it really is making a difference.

I've had another family. Then the mom says to me, she said, this is the first time I felt like the community actually cared that I'm here.

[:

Wow.

[:

And it's, so there's a caring. I wanted to bring that into because it's, we are an organization that is connecting people of all different backgrounds, of all different ethnicities, all different languages.

And we're bringing them through the one common culture of good food, which is healthy for people. And another one of our partners too, they have a program, um, it's called Community Cheer and their program has it's called food is medicine and it's, uh, we partnered with them because it's about bringing healthy food to people who have diabetes, have other health issues and same thing.

You bring them, this food in there and they are just absolutely amazed as they, they don't have access to it. I mean, they have access to, and, and they have access to other, you know, pantry items and things like that, or, but frozen foods, but not fresh. Like you said, this fresh, organic, healthy, it's the best food that Montgomery County is producing and we're bringing it to these people. It's beautiful.

[:

That's amazing. So you said the woman who said I haven't had this food in two years, meaning she hadn't had garden food. Is that what you, yeah?

[:

Yeah. She used to have be able to go to a farmer's market and then due to her health issues of obviously getting out of the house and also the financial situation, she just can't even afford that anymore.

[:

That makes me think of two things. I remember our first, the first year we had the Lady Farmer retreat, we had a few people come who, I don't know how they found us online or do you know, just kind of randomly, like, they just kind of stumbled upon Lady Farmer that, oh, Hey, I need to be there that weekend.

But for whatever reason, the food part, like for us, we realized the food is like the most important part of the weekend cause we're like we're sourced super locally. And it's like probably our biggest expense too, honestly, speaking of cost. But for whatever reason, these women that came, they were more drawn to the workshops and the community or whatever. But what's so interesting was they were so surprised at the food.

Do you remember this, like having this conversation, especially with this one woman being like I've had stomach issues for, so like, I don't remember a time not having a stomach ache after I ate and just all of the food this weekend has been so nourishing to my body and just like being able to interact with someone who like in real time was experiencing the difference of this real food that she wasn't expecting. I don't think she was expecting that.

And she's like, I'm going to walk away from this weekend. She's like, I thought I was getting something out of this weekend, but it's really going to be the food, the food. Yeah. That's like so special. I will always remember that.

[:

Yeah. I think there's a difference between good food as in like deliciously prepared, fancy recipes and stuff, and just you know, the good food and this course.

[:

And I think a lot about too, when I, cause I am lucky enough, I belong to a CSA and I don't actually find myself like cooking complicated recipes that much because you don't have to do that to your point, mom, you don't have to do that much to the, when the food starts out so good. Right. Kinda like heat it up, add some olive oil. Like that's like all you have to do.

[:

I know lately I've been on the way home from the CSA, just reaching in and grabbing those peppers, red peppers and they're so sweet and just munching them in like, oh, these are so delicious. And they're like, oh, but the other thing that you said that reminded me was haven't you been doing some work recently with the refugees?

Yeah. Okay. Can you tell us about that?

[:

Yeah, that's a new program. I mean, based on the numbers of people that have been coming into from Afghanistan into the United States, most of them are coming in through Dallas. A lot of people then will be resettled in other states, but probably there's a really rough estimates.

It's hard for me to give a real solid number right now, but there'll be several thousand new people that will be living in, in the DMV area alone. And so what Community FarmShare wanted to do also is to help support these people. So many of the Afghans that are coming, I mean, they were the ones that have been supporting the US for all these years.

And now when they come here, some of them have a special immigration visa status, which would give them some access to some basic. A lot of other people that are coming though this month right now in September are more on our asylum seekers and they pretty much would have almost none of these benefits, um, when they come in.

So right now the state departments working with three of the local resettlement agencies that are in the DMV area who are helping to find permanent housing in the area or helping them resettle in other states. So what Community FarmShare wants to do is to support and help to bring winter shares. We have several farms in Montgomery County who are able to provide, um, shares all winter.

They have greenhouses and are able to grow food even there in the winter. So we have a couple of farms that we'll be able to grow and we'll provide 10 weeks of fresh vegetables in the winter to these new arrivals, to our country, to help them get connected with us and to build community here and to help settle into their new homes.

[:

Where they now?

[:

Many of them are in temporary housing or hotels or BnBs as they are getting processed and finding more permanent homes. A lot of them will be resettled either all over in the area, but primarily in DMV county. And that likes Andrea and summit Montgomery county too. But temporarily until they have their apartments, they're usually in hotels for about 20 days or so. So there's other organizations that have really stepped up to bring them cooked food and other basic needs and living in a hotel.

[:

Yeah. What are they do on a daily basis?

[:

You can do with like vegetable, besides eat them wrong. What is that program called?

[:

It's a program for supporting Afghan refugees for Community FarmShare. So what we are doing, we're going to step in once the families get resettled to their more permanent homes, like the apartments that are going to get set up for them, then we would be able to step in and start bringing them the same thing like before the weekly bags of fresh vegetables.

So in the meantime, while they're at the hotels and other organizations, just helping them with their basic needs and then we'd step in. Probably it would start mid-October all the way through mid-January and it would start all the way through May. So we have two different farms that would support, um, where we would buy the CSA shares from the farms and bring them to people once they're living in their actual homes.

When they're in the hotels, it's hard to really cook much or anything. So we'll bring it to them once they get to their permanent homes.

[:

Well, I imagine there'll be needing household goods and stuff too, huh?

[:

Yeah, absolutely. And there's definitely organizations that are helping to support with that too.

Helping them get to apartments, helping them, any household goods that they need. Like you said, there's other organizations that help with getting access to whatever transportation needs or to, you know, getting into generally simulation into our area.

[:

So do you have the support financially to help support all those families?

I imagine it would be like a bigger ask or I don't know, I mean, are people feeling especially generous or do you have to go fundraise for that?

[:

Starting a fundraise, definitely starting to fundraise.

[:

Now that you're a 501(c)(3).

[:

Exactly. Now there were five months of three and this all is happening very fast.

And so definitely the fundraising piece is big and is urgent. And we're trying to get the word out and trying to spread the word and would love for anybody who's listening to help spread the word to that extent. There's definitely need each of the, I should say the shares. It's a different pricing than for the summer and the larger shares, because this is just for the winter share. So one 10 week share for this program on average is about $325 for 10 weeks. So it's kind of like $30 a share and that's how much vegetables they get enough to really provide for the families. A lot of the families are larger families, kind of average size of the family that's coming in is around five or six people in the family.

So the need for food is significant. Some of the families, when they come in with the SIV, this special immigrant visa, they are given I think it's like a thousand dollars per person for three months and then that's it. So they do have a small amount of money to start with, but any bit of support, you know, that can help them is so needed.

And then the second group that are the asylum seekers, they, like I mentioned before, they will not even have that level of benefits at all. So any food that they, or any supplies that they need is they're basically completely dependent on whatever organizations, you know, faith-based organizations, nonprofits, community organizations are able to supply.

[:

Wow. So you have come such a long way in this. This is, has been the first season, right, of Community FarmShare. Yeah. Wow. What would you say have been the biggest challenges of getting this thing off the ground?

[:

I think that's probably the biggest one. Um, Yeah, I think, I mean, two is the part that is that the networking fundraising piece, that's definitely a challenge because I think that helps to be established in the, in the area and have the connections and having a nonprofit status in this so that's been one challenge, but otherwise I really think that it's been an absolutely completely amazing experience. When I think about people coming together, my own personality, I have a problem. I think I can just do it all and I can do everything. And I've had to just learn. No, just ask for help. You know, and people have told me that she just ask for her. Oh, really?

That's all you do. You just ask people. And so I started doing that, you know, actually you heard it here.

And it worked and it has been so completely beautiful. The volunteers that are been connecting and have started to do the driving or they'll review some things that I'm writing, just to check that it makes sense and whatever is absolutely phenomenal. So that connection of people coming together and asking has been wonderful.

I mean, that's not a challenge but the opposite of a challenge, but I just wanted to share that cause I'm so grateful for the volunteers that have been here so far and to donors, I mean, people who have just outright had faith that this is actually working and then this can work. And, you know, I've had people not only from our area donating, but I've had some people from like Pennsylvania or, you know, or Frederick county and people who just heard about it from word of mouth.

Cause mainly we've been spreading the word through just people who know each other and through community organizations and connections. So it's been the connections are wonderful.

[:

So would you say though, back to challenges, is it besides your like mental health and your sleep? It's impressive. The amount that you've been able to raise so far and sustain, just like the generosity of people, but I would assume that money is one of the issues, right.

Just like, get that constant. And then you've sort of talked me down from the I'm like the infrastructure that seems the logistics that seems complicated, but that, that doesn't mean. Too big of an issue. Yeah.

[:

The logistics actually seems to work out well. I mean, especially at this scale, one of the things I would figure out as we grow is to develop infrastructure idea.

I guess, concept, you know, whether that's having vans, it would be able to do more of the deliveries or something like this, but right now, the key piece is that are those volunteers that are doing it and they love doing it too. Everybody's been super happy to help out, but going back to the financial part, yes, we have, we raised in the first year about $45,000, which was really wonderful for us to be able to buy these shares. So we, again, we paid the farmers full price, my goal at the time sort of interviewed and talked to the farmers to see how much would they be able to grow for the program? I had feedback that we be able to get to like 120 shares or something like that.

So we didn't quite make that, but I'm glad because that first 50 shares was our pilot year. You know, we learned a lot, we learned how we could be able to scale it up in the future, but understanding that yes, I would be super grateful for any contributions at all, especially right now for the special Afghan project, which is really on an urgent level cause again, we pay the farmers upfront because for our CSA, the farmers need to have the bunny in the beginning of the season, in order for them to have inputs, to be able to buy the seeds and plant everything or any inputs that they need or for paying their staff, obviously. So that's an important piece too.

So it's not like you pay every week separately for each share, you pay the bulk upfront. So if it's, you know, 325 dollars for the winter share that would actually be paid up in October so that they could pay during the winter.

[:

Yeah. Did you say there were seven farms involved this year? Are you hoping to increase that as you go?

[:

Would love to any farm in the area is absolutely welcome to participate with Community FarmShare.

I would love it, the key is being able to provide a CSA bag, meaning that they do need to be able to produce enough different variety throughout the season to be able to provide let's say competent CSA bag. So if they only produce, you know, one or two different vegetables, maybe they could team up with another farm who produces a couple of other different vegetables and they could combine, you know, to make one CSA.

But that is important that they you know, produce a variety so that when we bring it to the family, they, they get this, you know, six to eight different types of food.

[:

That's really cool that that's a significant increase in each of those farmers customer base.

[:

Exactly. Yeah. And the farmers are loving it because farmers, they want to provide food for all eaters.

Yeah. They do. They, and they understand that. Yes, there is a certain demographic. Yes, they do. They do, but they want to feed everybody. I mean, absolutely. Every one of the farmers that's in this program is just has become a dear friend of mine is. I have such huge respect for all of them and what they're doing and how they're participating in the program.

And it's nice to be able to make that connection, to enable them also to provide food for this different group of people and also earn enough money for them. And we've had some really fun experiences, we had a couple people, we had one of our clients who was receiving one of this year. She was so eager to go out to the farm and help because she wanted to give back, you know, so we actually connected her to one of the farms out in Ashton and she and I went out there and we helped pick potatoes when know one day, which was great. Cause he just wanted to want it to be able to help in some way too. So it's a nice feeling.

[:

And I, I can't remember if it was last fall or the winter, but it just seems to me that all this has happened so quickly, it's just unfolded. And the next thing I know you had your website and then your.

[:

Yeah, it has gone fast, but this also is the piece of the puzzle that actually brings me back to this whole idea of just why it is that we do what we do.

You know, I, in my sort of previous life, I did micro finance consulting. I was working overseas and helping low-income families affect finance access to credit it's small banks and stuff. And so I had left that career to basically when I came back to the US and then ended up out here starting the little farm, and then it got connected to nature.

And I always was connected to nature, but really connected living outside 20 hours a day. And that was this whole sense of now what, you know, and then when the pandemic happened, it just, it was really that light bulb moment and it just completely clicked of connecting people in need with farmers who are growing this amazing food in a healthy way that's supporting soils. It's pointing to earth, you know, not using pesticides. And chemicals and bringing this to people who are really in need both from a health perspective or financial perspective and don't have that access. And so it's that sense of one of my good friends when I talked to them about this project and everything and how it actually happened.

I think so quickly actually, to answer your question is he said to me, Jenny, you're doing that, which you can't not. I sort of had to work through all those words, but, um, yeah, but that's what it is. It's, you're kind of doing what you, can't not do, like what you're doing with Lady Farmer. It's like, this is just your thing and it, and it connects with who you are as a person.

And on that level, I feel that way too. So even though sharing busy and all of that, but that's what I, can't not do.

[:

That's so cool. So you've said this is a volunteer thing for you so far. So are you working on it every day? Do you get up in the morning and you're on it?

[:

Yeah. Especially now with the Afghan project, huge amounts of connections and partnerships with organizations that are trying to do projects as well, whether they're bringing them other things that they need or supporting them in some way.

So it's kind of, we're all just in this kind of soup pot, trying to figure out, you know, who's coming, when are they coming? Where are they going? How can we support them? So it's been a lot the last few weeks, especially as we got that started. But even before this special project, our normal regular project to support any insecure family is it's, yeah, it's a lot.

[:

Do you feel like your micro finance background, it helped, you know, kind of what to do and the steps to take and everything to pull all this together?

[:

The best part about that background was when I had started my micro finance career. This is after a couple of years in New York. So it was still relatively out of college by just a few years, is that I worked for an organization, which was a German based consulting company for this kind of work and they were the type of employer who just throws you out there and says, go figure it out. And so I ended up finding my first job. I was in a little village up in Northern Albania and called and I was like 24 years old or something. And calling back to some professors that I had from college and like, uh where's where am I?

What am I doing? Like, you know, trying to figure this out. And, and they, and one of the professors said to me, he's like, Jenny, well, you're not at the end of the earth, but I think he can see it from there. And I was like, which, so to answer your question, that actually helped a lot because when you're just thrown into something and sort of had those expectations that you've got to figure it out, that was probably the best lessons I've ever learned in my life because now I feel I have enough confidence to just jump in there. If you would've asked me nine months ago, what is all this going to turn into? I would say I have absolutely no idea, but just have that confidence to know that somehow it's gonna, it's gonna work out.

[:

You're not afraid of logistics. Like I am, apparently, I keep bringing up logistics, just get a bunch of volunteers.

[:

They're just wonderful, wonderful people. And then. It works. Amazing.

[:

I do want to know where you got your volunteers?

[:

At first, so living in Poolesville, that was my first source. So I started talking to people who are just local, put it on our Facebook page, you know, and community base, and a bunch of people showed up from there, which was great. And then it was, again, word of mouth, people just kind of heard about so I talked to the other farmers on the other, over in the Sandy Spring Ashton area, where three of the farms are and they said, oh, we have, we know somebody. And it was really just like that. And then somebody was also doing some food runs for Community Food Rescue, which is another organization locally that helps to support moving a lot of food that otherwise would have been wasted to food pantries and other food assistance providers.

So some of those volunteers joined in really word of mouth. I didn't have any big public appeal. It was just here's our organization, this is what we are doing. Put it on Facebook, put it out on people's ears.

[:

Did you ever get on Instagram? I remember several months ago, we talked about that and you were like, oh, I don't know.

Did you ever do that?

[:

Okay. Halfway, yes. Halfway. Yes. So I have one volunteer is helping with that.

[:

Your daughter?

[:

No, not my daughter yet, but I'm trying to get her in on it, but uh, no another high schooler. So I have a high school student. Who's been helpful with that and I do want to get more into it. So we're just starting out to answer that we are there. We're just starting, we've got a few posts out, but yeah.

[:

Just have your high school student or your daughter to straight to Tik Tok. That's what it is now. Oh gosh. I was just starting to get a nice, no, skip it. Leap frog that.

[:

Wow. Okay.

[:

Yeah, a lot it's changed in last night.

[:

Oh gosh. I keep up much better growing things. Yes, you are so good.

[:

You know, you mentioned, um, Facebook group for our town Poolesville. Isn't that the neatest thing? You put anything out there? Any question, and in five minutes you've got like more answers and it's the best thing it is. I love you Poolesville community page. Is that what it's called?

[:

Yeah. That's one thing I love to share too. If I have another minute is that feeling of community, really local community right here in this area. It is unbelievable. I mean like this, I told you the story of this one woman had said, this is the first time she felt like she was really part of the community and that was for her. I mean, I feel the same way. And that way too, is that I, like I said, I just asked people to help and they did, and they come together and just feeling that we are one group of people, regardless of any of our backgrounds or any of that, it's just, I love living here. This is the best little corner of the county.

[:

What does the good dirt mean to you? And you can answer that literally or metaphorically or any way you're inspired to answer.

[:

Besides this wonderful podcast, first thing, the first thing that comes to mind exactly good dirt is our nourishing sustenance. This is what is enables us to grow, to live, to connect my latest passion or interest I should say is about how trees connect.

Yes. I am amazed by this concept of communication and all that's happening between like fungus in the dirt. Right? And so there's just millions and billions and billions of these microorganisms that are connecting us all. And so if you think of that as being, I mean, that's what the good dirt is. It's a connection.

It's connecting trees, connecting plants is connecting everything that's growing, which enables life to happen. And we just wouldn't be anything without good dirt.

[:

So true. It's the best. Yes. And all of that business about the trees communicating and the underground connections and all of that. That's fairly new science, isn't it?

I mean, it just seems like, or maybe I'm hearing more and more about it and their books being written about it.

[:

Yeah. I feel the same. I'm just, I've just only learned the last couple of like year or so that I didn't really realize all of that was happening.

[:

Yeah. Yeah. It's just amazing. Yeah. They talk to each other.

I think there's a book of that, Finding the Mother Tree?

[:

I haven't read it yet, but it's on my shelf. So assume it's going to happen.

[:

Is that the one that's been on the New York Times bestseller list?

[:

And The Overstory? I did read that.

[:

I read The Overstory. Yeah. That really kind of got me going on this tree thing and you look at them differently.

[:

And all of that is the good thing. That's all what's happening there. So we walk on it, we dig in it. But at the end of the day, that's, what's growing. Our food and our, our assessments.

[:

It's definitely the common denominator. Yeah. Every thing on the planet. Isn't it?

[:

So, Jenny, is there anything else in closing that you would like to leave with our listeners, maybe, you know, the timeliest action steps people can be taking and then just any general words.

[:

Well, thank you. I'm so appreciative of this evening and your time, but parting words is, yeah, just, I would love if anyone wants to go to acommunityfarmshare.org and learn more about our organization and, uh, any support that you can. And also just spread the word. I mean, again, I've talked about community, I've talked about connections between people.

So tell anybody and, and, you know, get the website up and then send an email out to your friends and people to just let it be known that we're doing this. It's a really simple concept. It's just, you know, bringing in donations, buying the shares and bringing in the people. So it just makes a lot of sense to, to help support whenever anybody that can.

I do appreciate it. Thank you.

[:

I would like to reiterate anybody out there wherever you are in the country. If this interests you as a model of something you'd like to do in your own community, Jenny has invited you to reach out and hear how, how she's done it. So I think it's just fantastic idea and hopefully it'll spread.

[:

And as you can probably tell from this conversation, Jenny doesn't bite, she's really sweet.

[:

Yeah. I'd love to connect with anybody. Absolutely. Anytime. Thank you.

[:

Wow. How many organizations do you know that are doing so much to address food insecurity, social injustice, and to support the local food system all at once in less than one year, it's amazing.

[:

It is truly impressive and inspiring. Thank you so much, Jenny, for your creativity and leadership in our community and for the example you set for others to take on some of these same challenges in their own communities at a time when so many problems seem insurmountable, and we're all wondering what we can do. This is indeed a breath of fresh air.

[:

Yes. Thank you so much for being here Good Dirt listeners. If you're not already following us, we are Lady Farmer on Instagram.

The handles, literally we are @ladyfarmer and we also have a website where you can sign up for a newsletter, listen to all of our past podcasts episodes, ladyfarmer.com. If you're interested in joining our community, we were talking about earlier the Almanac. It is a community for slow living, seasonal living, and we'd love to have you.

You can also join us at our website as well. And in relation to today's episode, if you'd like to contribute to Community FarmShare, making local food available to all of our neighbors here in Montgomery County, Maryland, and to this special program, providing fresh food this winter to the Afghan families being resettled in our area, you can follow the links in the show notes of this episode.

So we'll link everything down below and, whether or not you're local, we recommend looking at this incredible organization. And as Jenny said, she is completely open and willing to talk to anyone who's interested in starting something similar in your area. So thank you so much for being here and for making the world a little bit of a better place.

We'll see you next week.

[:

Thanks everybody.

Follow

Links