Our recent Garlic Festival and our seasonal Market Stand raises a question: given The Sharing Farm’s mandate to feed those in need, why would we also sell food?
Our primary mandate is to grow nutritious fruits and vegetables using organic and sustainable farming methods for the Richmond Food bank, community meal programs and other food distribution organizations in Richmond. We do in fact grow food for our neighbours in need.
We have an important role to fill in the community. We provide fresh produce year-round to people in our community who are struggling to obtain or maintain food security. Fruits and vegetables are not meant to be a “treat” enjoyed occasionally when there is a bit of extra money. In order to be physically and mentally healthy, they have to be a component of a daily diet. Everything that we do at the Farm is built upon this need that exists. A truly healthy community can not exist without all of its members thriving.
Why are we selling food when faced with this ongoing need?
In an ideal world, The Sharing Farm would be a community farm centre — training new farmers, teaching people how to garden, showing youth where their food comes from — a gathering place to share abundance with one another. The Farm has achieved many of these things already, to one degree or another.
Our farm relies on volunteers, grants, donations, and the continual support of The City of Richmond and Kwantlen’s Richmond Farm School. We are fortunate to host hundreds of volunteers every year at the farm. Recently we’ve received grants from Vancity, Greenshield Canada, TD Friends of the Environment Foundation, Honda Canada Finance, and BestBuy. Our community suporters include Save On Foods, Galloway’s and Richmond Food Bank.
Even with the considerable support we have, the Farm faces financial challenges. Our entire operating budget last year was $80,000, including staff wages. There are no full-time staff. Our part-time staff are also volunteers. We ask for a lot of favours. We’re frugal. We dumpster dive. Often, we simply make do with what we have. Sometimes we pay for a needed item out of our own pockets. All of our Board members are volunteers. We’re dedicated.
We’re not complaining. We love our work and believe in the mandate. But this is the reality of what it takes to fulfill our mission.
Grant dollars are an important source of funds but they are not easy to come by, and are never guaranteed. There are other worthy organizations that are competing for the same shrinking pool of grants. Many grants won’t cover operational costs and can only be used on a new project or initiative. This is why we reserve around 10% of the fruits and vegetables for sales. We rely on those funds to keep us going. The proceeds from those sales go right back into the Farm.
Much of our produce earmarked for sales are sold at our Saturday Farm Market.
The Kwantlen Connection
Kwantlen Polytechnic University has a year-long diploma program that teaches urban farming. We’re fortunate to have a strong partnership with the Farm School as The Sharing Farm is their classroom. We greatly benefit from their hours working on the farm as part of their training. Part of their training includes growing and marketing produce to be sold at the market stand. All of the money from sales is given to the Farm. They are a vital part of the farm.
The short answer is that we sell food so that we can continue giving it to those who most need it. And you can help us do that by buying our produce and preserves; foods that you can enjoy for being local, organically-grown and sustainable.