Donor Supported Shares
In the winter of 2014 one of our shareholders had an idea: "What if I took some part of the inheritance I just received after my father’s passing, and made a gift to the farm with the express idea of increasing access to Brookfield for people who otherwise would not be able to afford this experience?" She took this idea and made a pitch to me, making sure that not only would it be something we consider worthwhile, but also “not add to our workload.” I liked the idea, as I have always thought that there was a sizable population of our wider community who don’t feel that they can afford a share of the harvest. And certainly the RISK of the share might be very difficult for someone who is already food insecure. So I said “Yes” and was left with some questions “How would we identify families who could participate?” “How would deal with the sometimes significant question of transportation to our farm in (the deep) South of Amherst?” “How many shares should we offer in this way?”
The first thing we did was try to build upon this gift by linking our efforts with “Valley Gives” to this gift. By December, 2014 we had raised an additional $2500 and our “fund” was at $7500. The next thing (usually the smartest place to start) was to ask Karen what she would do? “Contact Family Outreach of Amherst (FAO).” she said right away. This local group (FAO) has been working to identify and aid families in need in Amherst with a variety of services. The director, Laura Reichsman met with me in March 2015 and was excited to try to implement this plan. She liked that we already took “SNAP” benefits as payments and thought that offering the share for 50% off, plus 50% paid with SNAP was the way to go. We decided we would offer 10 shares in this way this first year. That would take up $2500 and leave our fund with plenty to go forward. Francine Rodriguez, from Family Outreach, contacted me in late May to say that she had identified 9 families that were interested in participating. Could they please come for a visit to see the farm, meet me, and sign up. Sure thing.
The next smartest thing I did was ask Zoe to join me for this visit. I met the families, answered their questions, and then asked Zoe to give them a walking tour, pick some strawberries, and visit the pigs. Zoe’s warmth and ability to share the farm completely broke any barriers remaining between the farm and these families' interest or ability to participate. By the end of their visit, Francine had committed to drive the FAO van each week to the farm to bring families without cars to pick, to visit the animals, to picnic on the porch. They were hooked to what now looked like a very typical Brookfield Farm experience.
So with all of this I am left with gratitude for the way in which this entire drama unfolded. To our donor – thank you for your incredible generosity and bold thinking. To Karen, thank you for your clear-headed problem solving. And to Zoe, thank you for your way of interacting with a wide-range of people, taking them where they are and sharing our farm dreams with them. We look forward to this program expanding in the coming years.
In May of 2016 we will again be taking part in Valley Gives. We will give half of the money raised during this 24-hour, online giving event to fund our Donor Supported Shares. We hope you lend your support!