Outreach to donors began in the winter when the VISTA arrived. An Excel file was created that included all local farms, their contact information, types of produce they grow, and indication of if they were a new or returning donor. To help create this list, the VISTA used the Colorado Farm Fresh Directory created by the Colorado Department of Agriculture. Many farms in the Boulder and Broomfield area were once partnered with Community Food Share in some capacity, but over time the Garden Share programs and farm relationships subsided until the VISTA was brought on to help rebuild them.
First, conversations with potential and returning donors were made possible with the help of a template letter and script talking about how to become partners again. Once initial contacts were made, conversations included the need for gleaning and to discuss whether or not the farmers were interested with having volunteers in their fields, other ways of donating to local partners, and even new opportunities for farms to be involved and donate such as the Monday Produce Pick-Up option. The VISTA attended the Boulder County Ag Forum sponsored by Boulder County and the FFA students. This was an appreciation dinner for all Boulder County farmers. It was a great time to talk face-to-face with farmers and get acquainted with them in a more relaxed and casual setting.
Throughout the season, farmers contacted the VISTA with information on a possible glean. This information was given anywhere from a day to a week in advanced notice. It was especially helpful when corporate or community groups were contacted and available to help. The best method of contacting farmers was over the phone, either calling or texting. Emails were not an efficient way to keep in contact with farmers especially during the growing season.
At the end of each growing season, thank you cards and certificates are sent to each farm that donated produce throughout their season. A total of the pounds and meals donated are provided on the certificate, which is framed for the farm to hang in their farm store or at their office. An end of season conversation is also conducted with the farmers who had gleans on their property to review what worked, get suggestions for next season, and get any updates on how they prefer the gleans to run. It is important to keep an open conversation with farmers and their needs to best accommodate them. All farmers are constantly thanked and shown appreciation for their time and produce donations.
Community Food Share (CFS) is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit food bank serving Boulder and Broomfield Counties in Colorado since 1981. Last year Community Food Share distributed close to 10 million pounds of healthy, nutritious food to food insecure individuals and families through its 42 partner agencies and pantries as well as its three direct distribution programs. The quality and freshness of the food is a strong focus of the organization with the goal of fresh produce accounting for 35% of distribution.
In 2016, Community Food Share brought on a Harvest Against Hunger VISTA to put more focus on the Garden Share programs. During the 2017 season the VISTA brought in 17,300 more pounds than the previous season without the VISTA. Garden Share encompasses several growing and harvesting programs that bring fresh, local produce into the food bank. The Community Garden Donations is a collaboration with Earth’s Table, a nonprofit community of gardeners who maintain several garden sites around the Boulder area. The volunteers of the Earth’s Table group grow everything from seed to harvest to help feed hungry people by donating to Community Food Share and a few other local agencies. This program also encourages home and community gardeners to share their bounty from their backyards and community gardens. The Farm to Food Bank program works with local, regional and state farmers to bring in fresh produce, meat and dairy items to the food bank. Many of these farmers work with a culled produce recovery program, donating excess product already harvested from their fields. Some smaller local Boulder County farmers have even participated in the Monday Produce Pick-Up program, started by the VISTA, to collect excess produce from farms that did not have the staff time to deliver the product to the warehouse. The Gleaning program also works with some of these farms that do not have the labor or resources to collect all the produce out of their field but see the potential of the amount of food left that can be recovered. Farms will contact Community Food Share, and the VISTA will also reach out to farms to request for groups to come and gather the produce.