By Carol Vaughn —
Perennial Roots Farm near Accomac is among 22 farm operations in the Chesapeake region awarded grants to address food access in their communities.
The Future Harvest Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture announced the awards resulting from its Feed the Need campaign, which raised more than $40,000 from individual donors, funds awarded from the Mid-Atlantic Food Resilience & Access Coalition and the Greater Washington Community Foundation, and regionwide partner support, according to a press release.
The awardees were selected from among 102 applicants. They received between $500 and $3,000 each.
Natalie McGill and Stewart Lundy founded Perennial Roots Farm in 2010. They farm using biodynamic and organic principles and their meat and produce are certified naturally grown.
A large part of the $2,500 grant awarded to Perennial Roots Farm will go to help provide fresh produce for Manna Cafe, a Chincoteague group that feeds hundreds of people a week, McGill said.
During the pandemic, Manna Cafe has switched its model from providing a hot meal weekly at a local church to instead distributing food through a monthly mobile pantry and delivering free hot meals weekly to homebound people.
“We were really excited to get the grant because over the last several years we have worked a lot with Manna Cafe … We’ve donated a ton of different produce and meat to them. They have brought groups up here to harvest and enjoy the farm. So we have done a lot of work with them,” McGill said.
Most of the grant likely will go towards providing Manna Cafe with collards, salad greens, and meat grown on the farm to help provide healthy food to the group’s clients.
“We’re incredibly excited because this grant will allow us to provide even more nourishing food to more members of our community during a time when food access and scarcity are major concerns for so many people,” McGill said, adding, “We believe that healthy, nourishing food should be accessible to everyone. Everyone has a right to food.”
Additionally, during the pandemic, Perennial Roots started a CSA (community supported agriculture) program, delivering produce to the door weekly for subscribers, most of whom are over 60.
The farmers use safe practices, including using sanitizing and using the same box each week for each customer to receive the delivery.
“We’re just very careful. We are barely off the farm,” Lundy said of life during the pandemic. “Our CSA subscribers are largely the at-risk population, so we can’t afford to take two weeks off if we got it to quarantine ourselves,” he said.
The farm’s spring CSA program quickly sold out, so they expanded, offering more slots for the summer program, which runs through Sept. 15.
“We are going to expand again and we are going to offer a fall CSA starting in October,” McGill said.
They also offer a meat CSA.
Another change for McGill and Lundy during the pandemic has been a shift from teaching about farming and attending conferences in person to webinars and remote consulting.
“We are dealing with people in Mexico, Colorado, just a lot of different places. We’re trying to help them…because now everybody wants to be a homesteader. We’re helping people get into that now because of our experience,” Lundy said.
Go to the Perennial Roots Farm website, www.perennialroots.com, to get information about the farm and its products. The farm also has a Facebook page.
The Feed the Need Fund was created to help farmers weather market changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and help them provide food access in a variety of ways.
Farmers in Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia, Delaware, and West Virginia received grant funding to support efforts such as food bank donations, conducting home deliveries, and giving sliding scales on CSA orders, among others.
“We are so excited to be able to support our farming community with some financial assistance as they adjust to the new normal of doing business during the pandemic,” said Dena Leibman, Future Harvest executive director.
“Through this effort, we were also able to address food scarcity in our communities while facilitating and strengthening relationships between our local producers and our local food banks and other organizations serving families,” Leibman said, adding, “This is a win-win for everyone. It is our hope, however, to be able to continue to meet the growing needs of our farmers by obtaining additional funds to award more mini-grants to our other applicants whose projects would benefit so many individuals and families in need.”
Donations towards future grant awards may be made online at www.futureharvestcasa.org