The Conservation Foundation is the recent and grateful recipient of two different grants in support of our Green Earth Harvest organic farming program. Each year, produce grown through Green Earth Harvest at our McDonald Farm headquarters in Naperville is made available to several hundred families, giving them access to the most nutritionally dense, socially responsible, and environmentally sustainable food that can be produced. These grants are allowing us to feed more people, and feed them through more of the year.
The first grant awarded is the American Water Charitable Foundation’s “Keep Communities Flowing” Grant, which helps empower communities to be strong, vibrant, healthy and environmentally friendly places to live, work and play. Thanks to these grant funds, Green Earth Harvest has been able to partner with two other nonprofits, Loaves & Fishes and Bridge Communities, to identify and provide 10 local families with a biweekly subscription to the organic vegetables grown by Green Earth Harvest from early July to late November of 2020, with the subscription continuing during the 2021 growing season. These families are also being given additional education and “Caring For Your Share” culinary classes with Chef Renee Gabbett to expand their knowledge of and appreciation for organic, locally grown food. Remaining grant funds will be used to rebuild the aging well that supplies Green Earth Harvest’s organic farming operation with clean water for crop irrigation.
The Illinois Farmer ResILience Fund of the Illinois Stewardship Alliance, aimed at addressing the rising demand for local food in northern Illinois, awarded Green Earth Harvest’s second grant. The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically increased demand for locally produced food in Illinois, and the Illinois Farmer ResILience Fund seeks to help local farmers make the right investments in on-farm infrastructure now so they can expand the supply and diversity of local food. With this grant support, we will be able to replace our outdated refrigeration system, which was installed when the growing operation began 18 years ago, with a commercial walk-in cooler. The new, fully sealed walk-in cooler will provide reliable and efficient temperature and humidity control, giving organic produce a longer shelf life both for farm subscription holders and donations to Loaves and Fishes and local food pantries. “This grant is providing us with a much-increased ability to safely store food, which will allow for production of late-season microgreens and even winter produce, so we can feed more people more of the year,” said Jason Halm, Green Earth Harvest Farm Manager. “As people gather with loved ones and spend more time cooking in the colder months, we would love to provide them with nutritionally dense, culturally appropriate and locally grown foods.” More easily sanitizable surfaces in the new cooler system will also help ensure the safety of the local food system.
“Together, these grants from American Water Foundation and the Illinois Stewardship Alliance are allowing The Conservation Foundation’s Green Earth Harvest program to increase the amount of healthy organic produce available to the thousands of people that depend on us for their nutrition, and also to make that food available to even more families who need it,” said Dan Lobbes, Director of Conservation Programs at The Conservation Foundation. “We are very grateful to be able to make a meaningful impact during such a challenging time in history, thanks to this funding assistance.”