Solutions for Urban Agriculture received $25,000 to provide funding to install a farm-to-table bank operation of 4.5 acres of land in North Orange County.

Description of how the funds will be used: Funds will provide seed funding to install a farm-to-food bank operation “The Giving Farm” (TGF) on 4.5 acres of land in northern Orange County, similar to the Incredible Edible Farm (IEF) currently run by SFUA at the Orange County Great Park. A site (identified) will be donated once SFUA receives funding, as well as utilities. Funds will go towards land preparation and irrigation installation necessary for the site. Volunteers will provide the majority of labor hours. After funds are received, the first crops will be planted one month later with three seasons of harvest, delivering over 261,145 pounds of produce annually, using 5,075 volunteers (12,688 hours) and 20 workers/interns/students. All food will be provided to the hungry in our community entirely free through the Orange County Food Bank and their various partners.

Description of Project/Program, what makes it compelling, and the specific needs it will address: SFUA offers innovative solutions to food insecurity facing urban environments today. SFUA implements innovative agricultural systems that enable urban land to be efficiently and sustainably managed to produce food, while protecting and improving environmental resources. By focusing on technological advances, vocational training for urban farmers, and design and management of agricultural educational programming for public and private entities, SFUA demonstrates that 21st Century urban agriculture can be a dynamic partner in the building of healthy communities. SFUA has a 26-year successful history of feeding the hungry in OC – this grant will be its first expansion to demonstrate its model is replicable and scalable to other communities nationally and internationally.

 

Describe the Organization or Project as it pertains to the following Impact Giving Grant Standards-

High Impact & Life Transforming: This program will activate vacant land to produce fresh food that will be distributed through the OC Food Bank and food pantry networks to low-income families. This site will produce 261,145 pounds of food (217,621 meals) annually, beginning in year 1.

Education: Over 5,000 volunteers from different organizations will have hands-on opportunities to learn about modern farming, re-purposing land, and sustainable agricultural land use – all while giving back to their community. Vocational training opportunities are available for college student interns and veterans in innovative growing methods and agricultural technology to train next-generation farmers, which is critical due to an aging farmer population nationally.

Sustainability: The site Is a living laboratory, where students and budding farmers try new ways to grow food more efficiently and sustainably in urban environments. Following installation, the program will financially sustain itself through a diversified funding model that has been successfully applied at IEF: 1) land and utilities are donated by the landlord/municipality; 2) maintenance and administrative costs are offset by extensive volunteer labor hours; 3) OC Food Bank contributes $.10 for every pound harvested.

Measurable: This project builds on IEF’s experience and relationships, and all land is put into use at once. Annual goals including year 1:

  1. Pounds of produce grown (>250,000) and turned into free meals (>200,000)
  2. Number of volunteers >5,000
  3. Vocational training opportunities >10 trainees
  4. Annual program costs <$62,000

Community Building: Over 5,000 people volunteer annually to experience and engage in planting and harvesting vegetables for those who need it most. SFUA engages a vast network of industry, university, and community organizations.

Innovative: SFUA was the first program nationally to establish a farm-to-food bank program, which has since been met with great acclaim. By utilizing non-traditional farming spaces, food can be grown anywhere, and underutilized or vacant land in urban environments can be major community assets. SFUA utilizes innovative growing methods like aquaponics, hydroponics and grow socks that conserve natural resources and employ tracking sensors to maximize the site’s efficiency.

Measurable: In 2016, 93% of families surveyed one-year post-graduation remained stably housed. Anticipated outcomes:

Short-Term: 175 families (over 600 children) will enter the Housing Program and will no longer be homeless or housing insecure.

Long-Term (follow-up is conducted six months and one-year post-graduation):

85% of families will secure and maintain stable housing

75% of families will increase or maintain their annual income

FF is developing a Long Term “Client Track Database” which monitors families who pop up later in the HMIS system asking for assistance.

Organization’s Mission Statement: SFUA offers a unique opportunity to reimagine what is possible for agriculture in a rapidly changing landscape and society. We offer innovative solutions and educational programming for management of resources and creative adaption to issues of sustainability and resiliency within our food system.