What are we thankful for this year? There's the love of friends and family and strength in a growing community, the joy of getting a chance to do what we love on a piece of ground we get to love and improve, the satisfaction of having people enjoy the food we grow and share it to nourish the people they love... a positive feedback loop if ever there was.
I don't mean to start a firefight about public assistance, but here's a chart that shows something that surprises some people. The highest rates of Food Stamps use are often found not in dense urban centers, but in rural places, like northern Michigan. And even if you don't like the idea of federal aid programs, you might at least agree that they are an indicator of need. And in this part of the country, in many parts of the country, people—particularly families with children—cannot count on something many of us take totally, completely for granted: food.
This year and last year, our farm has been part of something we think is kind of extraordinary, a food outreach program that this season alone has given away four months of food to NINE families. Another nine families were part of this program in other seasons past.
To do this, we partner with anyone who wants to help, which is to date: other local businesses and churches, an indie band, the local health department, and a host of too-generous individuals.
First and foremost, the Health Department of Northwest Michigan, a wonderful, flexible, and good organization was willing to partner with a small business to make something important happen, even though it was new and unconventional. The relationship is that their nurses and social workers and clinicians identify people in need and point them to us. Then we grow a bunch of extra food. And raise money to give that food away.
Where does all this money come from? 45% of it comes from private donations, people who just write us generous checks with their hard-earned money without ever personally knowing who it goes to. And this year another 16% came from outside businesses who threw fundraisers for the program, socially-conscious and locally-minded resorts like The Inn at Bay Harbor and Boyne Mountain Resort and last year the generous collection taken up by the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Petoskey. We also are very lucky to have the support of the band Breathe Owl Breathe, who for the past three years have thrown these wonderful concerts in our barn that have involved everything from cakewalks to silent movies. Those concerts have raised 23% of the money. And the last 16% was kicked in by our farm.