South King County Food Coalition (SKCFC) and its farm, Elk Run, are a unique partner with Rotary First Harvest in that there is no actual gleaning involved. Instead of recruiting and coordinating with farmers and community members to donate produce, the Harvest Against Hunger VISTA is responsible for helping coordinate the actual production of vegetables grown specifically for food banks and the acquisition of funds for the project. Through a combination of volunteer management, community engagement, and unique funding opportunities, the VISTA has framed Elk Run as a farm created for and by the community at large.
SKCFC is comprised of twelve food bank directors who run independent food banks that serve their respective communities. Due to the huge financial strains facing emergency feeding programs in the region, the Coalition’s farm must seek out unique funding opportunities and resources that don’t compete with the resources of the Coalition.
This situation has led Elk Run Farm to initially fund themselves through grants such as Seattle-King County Public Health’s Partners in Community Health Grant, Sustainable Communities Funders’ Resilient Community Partnerships Grant, and King Conservation District’s Regional Food System Grant. These grants have been focused heavily on sustainability and development through strong community partnerships and therefore have pushed Elk Run Farm to pursue unique relationships in the community in fields such as education, conservation, social justice and more. While an immense amount of staff time and effort goes into these grant applications, the monetary awards are usually quite higher than pursuing individual or private donations.
For on-site projects such as infrastructure and supplies, Elk Run has relied on the generosity of local Rotary Clubs who have been making donations towards specific goals. For example, each club receives a presentation about the overall project and a “wish-list” of future endeavours that still need funding such as a greenhouse, an irrigation system, and a walk-in cooler. Depending on their interests and the size of their commitment they are able to choose a specific project that the funding will be used for. In 2017, Elk Run Farm was able to procure funds from 11 out of 12 Rotary Clubs in the South King County district. This creates a tangible relationship between the club and the project that they are able to physically watch unfold. In addition to contributions that each Club can make, Rotary also has a district match program where an organization can double the funding they’ve received from Clubs in one district. The farm plans to continue cultivating this partnership and apply for the district match to further develop infrastructure that was started by Rotary Club funding.
Corporate Groups and Volunteer Matching Programs
Elk Run Farm has tapped into another stream of funding that also provides volunteers. Corporate groups with a volunteer giving or match program has been a great way for the farm to engage their donors in person and develop those invaluable relationships that lend support not only through monetary means but also through manpower. Many established companies have a volunteer match program where a certain amount of dollars is donated to a nonprofit for a certain number of hours of volunteer service from the employee. It is worth asking a seasoned volunteer if their employer has a match program to capitalize on the work that is already being done. If there are no leads from engaged volunteers, it is time to investigate and make an ask to a company. Elk Run Farm has sought out and hosted corporate group volunteer parties for Key Bank, Holland America, Microsoft and Brighton Jones. These companies are looking for ways to be engaged in their communities and as a food bank farm that serves that same community, these groups have been eager to help. Some of these groups have even offered a supplies budget for their work party, which has helped the farm fund equipment such as a tiller, wood for raised beds and soil.