Hello, how are you? My name is Susie Kyle. I am a local farmer, a small family farm advocate, and Co-Director of the Farm Bank Project. Mitch Hopkins, Co-Director, and myself have formed this non-profit for the purpose of supporting local small farms and farmers, building and strengthening our community, and giving away organic veggies to hungry people.
You know what, we're all hungry in some way. Some of us are hungry for food, some of us are hungry for companionship, some of us are hungry for something meaningful in our life, some of us are hungry for a place to sleep, some of us are hungry for community, probably all of us are hungry for a sane and just world, and the list goes on.
This project is a culmination for me of eight years of envisioning, struggling, experiencing, struggling, risking, struggling, creating, struggling, dreaming, struggling and never giving up.
Eight years ago I found myself newly 50, newly single, and looking at what I wanted to do with this next phase of my life. I knew I didn't want to just go out and "get a job to get money", I wanted to do something I enjoyed, and I wanted to do something that made a difference in the world.
In looking at my resources, I determined it was my 15 acres. We had moved to Southwest Washington from Ohio to raise our stepfamily in a rural setting, never looking at it as farmland. Actually, I had never thought about farming or being a farmer. But my life narrowed to a series of circumstances that at the time appeared to be major breakdown, but actually were leading me in the direction of my life's path.
So standing in the middle of my pasture that one spring day, I said, "Okay, this land is going to support us," and the farming adventure began. The first season I grew 2 acres of certified organic potatoes and fell in love with farming, but I knew I couldn't support myself by selling potatoes by the pound, so I put the farm on the side burner allowing it to redesign itself.
Three years later in the fall of 1999 I was invited to a WSU farm tour of a CSA farm on Vashon Island. I liked the CSA concept and decided to try a CSA on my farm the next season. Shortly after the farm tour while contemplating the CSA model, I had an inspiration of how farms could support themselves by giving food away. From that moment on I have been working on the preservation of small family farms, and this project is bringing it full-circle.
Now back to how farms can support themselves by giving food away. It is a rendition of the CSA model where people buy memberships in a local farm and every week during the growing season they receive a variety of seasonal, fresh-picked produce. In the giving-the-food-away model , money is raised in the community through a variety of fund raisers, the money is used to purchase farm shares in local CSA farms, they are designated Community Shares, and the produce is donated to people, families and appropriate organizations in the community - Community-Supported Farms and Farm-Supported Communities.
he end of last year I had decided that I wasn't going to allow one more year to go by without bringing this project into existence, so I started "tabling" at the Olympia Food Coop - Eastside. People were jazzed about the idea, and this is where Mitch comes in. Mitch and I met at the Olympia Farmer's Market near the end of last year as well. We started sharing our ideas, Mitch had the brainstorm of calling it the Farm Bank Project, and just after the first of the year we formed this non-profit organization.
Let me tell you a little about Mitch. Mitch worked for a non-profit in Minneapolis who gave away food into the community. They are now in their fifth year. They have a big bus that goes to natural food warehouses and picks-up almost expired pre-packaged organic food. They drive to random low-income neighborhoods, park the bus, open the doors, and give the food away. Cool, huh~ Well, all the time Mitch was canvassing door to door he wished he were giving away organic vegetables instead of pre-packaged food. So this project is bringing his dream full-circle as well.
Mitch will be growing organic veggies, bringing them to parks in Olympia on Saturdays, opening up the boxes of local farm-fresh produce and giving it away. And while he is doing this he will be passing out contact information about the local small farms, farmer's markets, teaching people about what a CSA is, engaging in conversations about the importance of sustainable, local agriculture, and raising awareness around all the issues of safe food, buying local, and how to build and strengthen our community.
Sound like fun, and something you'd like to be a part of? There is a place for everyone is this project, either as a receiver, a giver, or both, and often at the same time. It's the nature of the project and what we call the Full-Circle of Support, the key ingredient in the preservation of small family farms, sustainability at it's best.
There's more to tell you about our start-up projects such as the Community-Farm Raising Gatherings & Dinners, the Community-Farm Support Team where we will feature the Farm-of-the-Month, fundraisers such as the Local Farms Calendar and knitting a "community" patch-work wool blanket to be auctioned, and more.
If you would like to be involved in some way or have some ideas on how we can forward the project, please let me know. You can email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or meet me Tuesday afternoons from 3-5 at Otto's Bakery in Olympia on Washington Street between State and 4 th . This will be one of our regular gathering places and times where we can meet, network, brainstorm, create, and have a chance to engage in solution-oriented conversations with others who share our same concerns. If canvassing for the project sounds like fun (there are actually people who like to do this and are good at it, so that could be you too), let me know and we can begin training. I look forward to hearing from you.
Let me share with you one more thing. One of the many reasons I started my farm was because my favorite teacher told me that everything we needed to know about this life and beyond exists in nature. I invite you to join in this exploration. Click here to see what the geese have to teach us about teamwork. It will be a whole new experience the next time you see them flying overhead honking away, and it might even make a difference in your life.
Let's keep in touch,
The Farm Bank Project
Coming Soon www.FarmBankProject.com