Vision for the Future

Our vision for a better future food system involves solving both the issue of food insecurity for disenfranchised communities,  & financial insolvency plaguing many small farms. We will feed those in need, and provide an economic safety net for the farming families that are restoring the Rockwellian image of regenerative agriculture to our landscape.

We want to address BOTH the adequacy of the food supply,  AND the means of community co-created change involving food acquisition, equitable distribution, & production. Other activists, and NGOs have led efforts in one direction or the other without tying both together. The symbiosis of the elements in the long term goal of our vision system is key. Supporting verdant & responsible farming, and encouraging growing food in small unused personal & community spaces will act in concert w/ our education program, & seed bank to empower our community to make some for these positive changes for themselves. This is an essential for 2050. 

Our vision for 2050 is one that understands that there is an essential inter-connectedness between economy, diet, tech,culture, & environment. It is OUR responsibility to move the bar forward in order to create a better world for those to come, & one that is better suited to meet our needs in a practical way without doing further damage to our most precious commodity, the Earth. We are strategically poised to be able to effect great preservation of culture & at the same time benefit the land & diets of those in our community by celebrating the deep collective history we have as Virginians & the richness of the individuals from all over the globe that weave together to intricately form the bright fabric of our unique multi-cultural society. Food is a major actor in transmission of cultural traditions & history. It tells a story, & by preserving it, we can use the way people think about food & culture to sing those stories to future generations. By creating new ways & reviving old ways we relate to food we will impact thinking about food & culture through education. Education about each others culture leads to greater understanding & respect. A community informed about diet & the environment can lead to greater innovation in technology, & can influence greater policy changes. All are interlocking & related.

When this is addressed, the population is appropriately feed, & the land cared, for the symbiotic human-environment circle is complete. This would have a huge impact on all aspects of life from arts to economics. Removing the threats to health & environment & healing both our community’s soul, and the land will allow people who otherwise many not have had time, education, or resources to do so, to be more inspired, creative & innovative. We can impact the pace of innovation by making sure the most basic of needs are met in a better way, & at the same time nurturing their sense of identity. This will lead to a better self actualization in 2050 for the general population & a better future we can only imagine.

Here’s what we want to do

Let’s tackle feeding the 9-13% of people going hungry at any given time. It’s completely unnecessary given we throw away SO MUCH unsold food. We use the unsold products from small family farms, education, and seed banks to do it. We will compensate sustainable farms for products which will be a safety net for them, & empower those who are willing & able to garden for themselves with free seeds and information. Utilizing spare green space in this way will provide the therapeutic benefits of gardening to food insecure neighborhoods, & encourage food sovereignty. Being able to provide for one’s self is Incredibly empowering & will encourage connections like learning about one’s own traditions & cultures through food & sharing it with others.

Economic Impact on Poverty

We have built relationships with local food pantries, NGOs that serve target demographics (homeless, single mothers,battered women) those that prepare community meals in public parks for the hungry, Meals on Wheels, etc, and have successfully created a network of pick up locations & delivery drivers & scaleable. By bringing in more farms we will be able to reach a wider audience & benefit the farms @ the same time thereby encouraging responsible agriculture. Many times our clients have a set of circumstances which temporarily leave them in precarious situations. Some fail to qualify for SNAP by only a few dollars and are left having to choose between gas to get to work & food or medications. They may have no transportation to get to the food bank & for one reason or another don’t have the emotional or mental capacity to reach out to social services for help. Some are intimidated by the process, some are homeless. We are able to fill the gap with quality food that supports the diverse family farms in the state.

Changing how those with food insecurity think about & relate to healthy food, the lack thereof, or what is available to them can have profound effects on the areas health. This will intrinsically also change the economic outlook for these communities, & have a butterfly effect on the wider region. Food that was formerly a kind of conspicuous consumption commodity reserved for the wealthy & upper middle class enjoying leisurely weekends at the farmer’s market will be purchased en mass from local farms with donations we receive through charitable giving from corporations and community members. Food insecure households often times rely on food pantries that don’t always have the most healthful items made available to them such as week old cupcakes or butter drenched garlic bread from large retailers. I by no means want it to go to waste but I think that by making a source of excellent quality food we can reaffirm their dignity by asserting that they too are worthy of quality food. Sometimes the worst part of poverty is the shame that goes with it. When you give the best you have to someone in this situation it can convey to them something so much deeper. It can reinforce their worth and change their whole mindset.

Pastoral Economics

We with local government committees to inform our local farmers about preserving farmland & development rights & helping them overall blend technology w/ responsible stewardship. We work to help network the farms which are the keystone of the operation to garner more access & higher visibility to the public and boost their retail sales. 

To improve these situations will include integrating more broadband access to those affected (both farmers and those who need good quality food). The area is incredibly diverse in demographics & is also diverse in who has access to technology & information to help start to formulate plans to solve these problems. Currently in Virginia much of the state is without even basic internet service. The dearth of tech infrastructure happens to be the area in with the most fertile arable land in Virginia. There are high priced solutions to this not everyone can afford. This complicates access both for impoverished, AND the farmers who live in these areas attempting to cultivate pockets of regenerative land management in areas where previously cash crops were king. It is a massive disadvantage to both the people impacted by this and the state’s economy as a whole. Currently the infrastructure is not in place to support development of this, & local governments are struggling with how best to remedy the situation in concert with utility cooperatives, & private businesses. If we can change this in the coming years we can make great strides in changing the lives of those affected by food insecurity, subsequent generations as well as farmers, and aspiring farmers.

This is especially important given the current situation that has diminished exports to China. Many family farms who previously relied on export are being bankrupt by the fallout from policies that have been enacted. The death of “the yeoman farmer” is upon us. Bailouts, do not reach the farmer in time to save them from becoming bankrupt. Historically the trend to larger and larger farms does not reverse itself. We must end the “agricultural apartheid” that puts all the power in huge vertically integrated conglomerates and restore the opportunities in agriculture that once existed for families in the United States. Industrialized ag is swooping in to consolidate bankrupt farms & in doing so pushing us farther from food sovereignty & towards environmental disaster. This is troubling because when you analyze smaller farm vs. larger farm output per acre is massively increased with the smaller farm. This economic verity is more so true in farms under 20 acres with diversification of products. W/ diversification also comes the restoration of the traditional farmer from what today is little more than a technician to a true artisan that really knows the land & works as an essential part of the ecosystem. Save the farms, Save the environment, Feed the people.

Instead of standing on the sidelines watching it implode we must find a way to dismantle it down & build a new system that does. If we can embrace the narrative of “clean energy” that allows us to obviate the inconvenience of “less energy” by trending towards renewable sources we certainly can trend towards clean agriculture because our survival is dependent upon it. Doing the work of implementing this has the potential to change many lives for the better.

To take it one step further we could include local restaurants & grocers that specialize in local farms products to curtail losses for them as well. This plan in motion will be a societal ablution for our malfeasance, & end hunger in our area & enable nonprofits that are in the trenches directly feeding people to focus more energy on delivery of services & less on perpetual tiresome fundraising. It would change the health & economic outlook for a huge percentage of people currently suffering and in turn benefit our society as a whole.

Equitable Distribution

To be clear, we do not have food shortage problems. We have social justice, and equitable distribution of food problems coupled with wanton disregard for the sacred soil beneath our feet.

In 30 years we can provide a realistic logistical means through NGO players already active in the community, and community members themselves to deliver farm products to those who need it, and make sure regenerative farmers are compensated commensurate with the time and effort input to their products. It could fundamentally change the economy of the State of Virginia. The quality of life improvement alone for those in need would impact the state’s health and educational systems in ways that would have incredible positive effects on surrounding communities in countless ways for generations to come. 

Mood and behavior changes are common in both adults and children with poor diets. Depression, irritability, and thinking impairment, caused by these circumstances can be debilitating. Physical manifestations of the problems in access to adequate nutrition and healthful foods are tantamount to the mental issues it also causes. The lack of access, and lack of capital causes poor food decisions to be made, many times out of anxiety or desperation and subsequently it’s obesity rate is 30.1%. We see no reason given the current circumstances, and what is available to us as a society, but not being properly used or distributed for any of this to have to persist. 

In the future we can effectively end hunger in our state & at the same time radically encourage and transform our environment through regenerative farming. Our hope is that with wide acceptance of our vision we can change the trajectory of the lives of those suffering & their children, and begin to return to the pastoral vision of the holistic family farmer.

Because I didn’t say enough a few moments ago.

The challenges in feeding an increasing population are complicated by the ominous climate change and economic issues looming over our collective heads. We are a state founded on farming that is also wrestling with rampant growth. The major metropolitan areas such as D.C. to the north, and Raleigh to the south feed a steady stream of business growth in the I-95 corridor between the two running right through the state. This development is engulfing the previously bucolic rural landscape in a sea of concrete and driving land prices so high many aspiring farmers find land ownership completely unattainable. The epidemic of sprawling development further damages the environment & is stripping the area of it’s cultural identity as an agricultural stronghold at an alarming rate. Between land loss, average temperature changes, and weather pattern changes related to a warming planet the current state of farming may not be viable in the next several decades without adaptation. Rural counties in many areas of the state lack the technological infrastructure for even basic services such as broadband, effectively handicapping farmers ability to market themselves.

Many times small Earth friendly farmers with less market share end up with unsold product; Roughly 30-40 percent of all produce in the United States is needlessly thrown away—some 133 billion tons (or $161 billion) worth of produce annually. This is grotesque considering the state’s population of food insecure households ranges from 9-13%. Much of this is directly related to the increasing wealth gap. Further complicating this is the fact that many of the urban food insecure households are in what are commonly called “food deserts”.

Individuals in these areas often have no other choice than to rely on food that is not widely considered healthful or nutritious because of lack of access to any other choices. This in turn negatively affects these peoples’ lives in many ways. Mental and physical health are intimately tied to what we consume and lack of adequate nutrition in childhood can have lifelong, and profound effects on those experiencing it. Mood and behavior changes are common in both adults and children with poor diets. Depression, irritability, and thinking impairment, caused by these circumstances can be debilitating. Physical manifestations of the problems in access to adequate nutrition and healthful foods are tantamount to the mental issues it also causes and can include chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.

If we stay the current course I believe things will not go in a positive direction. I am afraid that with the widening wealth gap, in 2050 we will see greater damage to our interconnected health, and planet. If we do not take care of our health & nutrition and that of those around us, how can we appropriately care for our land and ecosystem. An old adage goes “You cannot pour water from an empty bucket”. The same concept goes for our planet. If it is not healthy it cannot provide for us. We need to take this very seriously as we approach our future and plans for 2050.

Some things to think about concerning Virginia, hunger, and ag.

The current population is estimated at 8.57 million, an increase of over 380,000 since the official census in 2010. Virginia currently enjoys a growth rate of 1.15%, which ranks 13th in the country. 2020 projected population is 8,626,207. Virginia has higher rates of food insecurity in rural areas for reported households however, I believe these numbers are skewed lower than the actual count in urban areas such as Richmond, Virginia Beach, and Northern Virginia because of failure to accurately assess the homeless and transient population in the areas which we serve.

Rates of food insecurity were higher than the national average in 2018 for the following groups:

• All households with children (13.9 percent)

• Households with children under age 6 (14.3 percent)

• Households with children headed by a single woman (27.8 percent) or a single man (15.9 percent) and other households with children (21.1 percent)

• Women living alone (14.2 percent) and men living alone (12.5 percent)

• Households with Black, non-Hispanic (21.2 percent) and Hispanic (16.2 percent) heads of household

• Households with incomes below 185 percent of the poverty threshold (29.1 percent).

Virginia Area and Population Density

The US state of Virginia is situated on the central eastern tip of the country and it is the 35th largest in the Union in terms of land mass. As with the majority of states on the US Eastern seaboard, however, Virginia is densely populated. The population has soared to an estimated 8.57 million as of 2019, and Virginia now ranks 12th in terms of population in the country and 14th in terms of density. Virginia has a population density of 202.6 people per square mile over a total surface area of 42,775 square miles.

The Population is diverse and has a large immigrant population haling from all over the world. Many live and work in the area given the proximity to the nation’s capitol.

Agriculture in Virginia

Virginia still has nearly 450 farms per county, only a small portion of these farms provide their owners with income. In fact, according to the USDA 2012 Census of Agriculture, over two thirds of Virginia farmers are losing money. Virginia’s fertile areas and farming legacy can be effectively leveraged to end hunger in the State.

Many of these farms are supported by the owners keeping full or part time off farm jobs. They struggle with marketing effectively, inability to compete with cheap subsidized highly processed foods, and the ever widening wealth gap making their products financially out of reach for many. If current trends are not reversed by policy decisions, and societal changes we may be facing the extinction of the family farmer as we know it. 

Virginia Free Farm | Cultivating Food Security for at Risk Virginians Through Economic Enhancement for Small Farmers

We work to promote food sovereignty & social equity through systems designed to reward holistic and sustainable practices by small farmers.

We have chosen Virginia to implement our actionable plan because it is our home state, and we wish to improve the overall fabric of our community, & strengthen food security for those around us. Both my co-founder of the nonprofit and I served in the military, and were at various times stationed in Virginia, and we eventually settled here together on a farm in a rural county outside Richmond, VA. The county we are located in currently has a food insecurity rate of 22%, double the national average.

Having run a small farm since 2008 I saw first hand the struggles of those in the farming community to market themselves and turn a profit. I worked off farm as a nurse, and medic because it was difficult and risky to put all my energy into farming. Virginia has around 46,000 farms, many of which are struggling to provide their owners with income and therefore this is the perfect place to test our model. We want to organize these farms to collectively bargain for a better future through strong local food systems, a community safety net, and integrating technology such as aquaculture & hydroponics.

Additionally, having lived for several years as a single mother I fought regularly with fear of being able to provide adequately for my children & make good food choices for them. Cost and access can play major roles in single parent households, especially those headed by single mothers. These issues can impact families in profound ways, mentally, physically, and socioeconomically. These challenges can be easily mitigated by our creative means to improving access, reducing farm food waste, improving return for small farms, while educating our clients. 

This model is being implemented locally, however, I believe it can be replicated and implemented anywhere & adapted to a regions needs.

Food Inequity, Justice, and Rights.

This morning i got choked up and almost cried reading an article on Medium about a recount of someone having experienced childhood food insecurity and hunger. Last night reading USDA statistics and CPS surveys…I almost cried. I realize full well I alone cannot in any way end hunger for everyone. I am not that naive, but i am just naive enough to think i might be able to hatch a plan to do so at a local level and at the same time make local farms a little more solvent with a little help from my friends (cue the Beatles music).

WE DO NOT HAVE FOOD SHORTAGES, WE HAVE SOCIAL JUSTICE AND EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION OF FOOD PROBLEMS.

Our planet needs our help and big ag CAFOs & subsidized monoculture is NOT the answer. Roughly 30-40 percent of all produce in the United States is thrown away—some 133 billion tons (or $161 billion) worth of produce annually (https://www.usda.gov › foodwaste › faqs). The argument that big ag will feed the world is no longer a valid point. These operations cause harmful fish-kills, destroy the carbon sequestration capacity of our Great Plains, destroy habitat, poison the ground, sink farming families into debt, among other offenses. We want to expand our model in order to help teach others how to leverage these practices & form farming cooperatives to better use our collective strength to farm well, streamline distribution, and increase the quality of life & revenue for family farms.

We use something like swidden ag to manage our fields. It is an ancient form of land management practiced by indigenous farmers for millennia.

So we formed a non profit (Virginia Free Farm) and loosely started in motion hatching a “crazy” plan to feed Virginia. I now it sounds pie in the sky but hear me out. This could work, & at the same time it would lend a measure of financial stability to the 2/3rd of Virginia farms that are currently reporting income loss providing peace of mind to small farmers, and supporting local businesses that have left over food waste at the end of the day. Obviously the kinks need to be worked out as far as logistics, creating a data base, & connecting with the humans needed to actually execute this but I’ll spit out a quick overview of the idea. We’ve ALREADY started doing this. I think we can REALLY make it scaleable.

Heirloom squash growing in our garden.Seeds are donated to those who want to attempt gardening to improve their own food sovereignty & the flesh is used to feed the poor.

I’ll try to make this a tl:dr version of my plan. (I know it’ll be long, but shorter than going into detail regarding logistics etc.)

So according to my digging Virginia has some 46,000 farms, some big business, some micro farms and everything in between. 2/3 of them are struggling and do not turn a profit or support their owners. They struggle with marketing effectively. Many of these farms are small operations beginning to return to a more responsible form of land stewardship that shuns the big ag chemical farming that is currently turning our planet into a desert and poisoning the land (and sometimes people). I do know that many times a lot of the small more earth friendly farmers end up with unsold product as well. I want to effectively eliminate this as part of the plan.

Keeping the above facts in mind lets think about the 9-13% of people going hungry at any given time. I’m not going to go into my rage about food deserts, inadequate access to good quality food, and the vicious cycle that it causes to play out in the physical and mental heath of impacted low income communities right now; I’ll save that for another day.

Since starting this I’ve found there are a huge number of people not counted in the statistics that get stuck in an unfortunate position. They may have any one of or a number of factors impacting their ability to procure adequate nutrition, or make good decisions about their food intake. The most upsetting part of this is that many times it’s not their fault. There are families that maybe don’t qualify for SNAP because they make just barely too much, they don’t have transportation to the food bank, they don’t have the emotional or mental capacity to reach out to social workers to get services, they are homeless, or have unaddressed mental issues that prevent them from dealing with the problem. I’ve delivered to people on temporary workers comp not getting enough to make ends meet to working poor having to choose between gas and food. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Basically, what we want to do with the donations to Virginia Free Farm which is now a 501(c)(3) is use the money to create another revenue stream for small farms and for us to buy say…all the produce they have left over that the end of the Saturday market day at a bulk rate for taking everything left over & get those good quality foods to our neighbors in need.

  • It would make the prospect of going into the business of farming a lot less scary & risky.
  • It would create an economic impact on the local community as those dollars would stay in the community in the pockets of the farmers & hopefully be spent there.
  • It would create a positive impact on the environment encouraging the farmers that are responsibly farming to keep up the good work, keep growing, keep learning.
  • It would provide access to GOOD QUALITY food to those who might not normally choose that for a variety of reasons i will also save for another day.
  • It will improve the community & local economy buy improving the health of the people consuming these nutritious foods resulting in less medical problems, less missed days at work.

More stability in their lives in general. THIS HELPS EVERYONE.

To take it one step farther we could include local restaurants & grocers that specialize in local farms products to curtail losses for them as well. Putting this plan into motion could essentially end hunger completely in our area and enable our non profits that are in the trenches directly feeding people to focus more energy on delivery of services and less on perpetual tiresome fundraising. They say putting your ideas out there into the universe and speaking them will propel you towards achieving your goals so let this be my declaration of intent. Save the farms, feed the people.

Day One

I’m sitting over here biting my nails. UGH. Kickstarter was approved…then I noticed a typo…ONE small typo & now we are in a holding pattern of review & I am watching our account like a watched pot waiting to boil. It’s really driving me a little crazy honestly.

What We Are About…

We grow a wide variety of crops, Poultry, rabbits, mushrooms, fruit, honey, and wild edibles drawing from sustainable permaculture techniques, striving to improve the land, and the surrounding communities health. We want to actively teach others about  indigenous farming practices, wild edibles, and effective carbon sequestration on a sustainable farm. We want to help the community access naturally grown, pesticide free, and humanely raised foods from a local source. We produce a wide array of food items. Right now we are wanting to expand so we can feed even more people in Virginia. In the meantime while we are waiting for our Main project please consider creeping over HERE and picking up your own copy of Swipe Ripe that was shot on the property. XOXO ~Amyrose

Agri Porn for All
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