Late last week while building raised bed gardens and tilling new in-ground garden sites our program received awesome news. We were selected as a finalist to participate in State Farm’s Neighborhood Assist program for a chance to win $25,000. The “Union County Gardens” project was chosen from a pool of 4,000 submissions (only 200 were selected) and now the power is in the hands of the community and our supporters. Voting for the grant started on Monday, April 28th and runs through Saturday, May 17th. If we are in the top 40 when the voting ends, our program will get an additional $25,000 to help sustain our community garden program for the next few years.
What exactly will our program do with $25,000 if we win? Well, we have lots of ideas based on what our volunteer gardeners proposed we should do to get more people into the whole gardening thing. We’d add more small community gardens throughout our county (as many as 8 could be installed if we put a garden where everyone would like). This would consist of approximately 200 of our trademark raised beds (with 10% being handicapped accessible). We would bolster our in-ground garden activities and increase the size of several community gardens that had a lot of success last year. We operated 7 gardens last year, most of them were small raised bed gardens, but we want to provide more resources to the gardens that were the most successful and had the most volunteer hours. Of course this means we’d build more raised beds, possibly till some in ground garden areas, provide the plants, tools, fertilizer, compost, organic pesticides, and other materials necessary for gardening at all of our garden sites.
We’d also need more help coordinating a larger program so we would work with our high school agriculture program and the local community college, Henderson Community College, to hire at least 1 more seasonal intern (possibly 2 if there is a greater need) to help coordinate volunteers and keep a check on things at every garden. Some of this money would go to help set up a distribution network using a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model that would focus on getting fresh produce to those in need for the lowest cost possible. Additionally, we’ll look at providing high tunnels at 1 site (possibly 2) if we have the space and the volunteer support to sustain such an initiative at that site. This would help us extend the growing season and provide a place for us to raise transplants in the early spring to cut our plant costs.
So here is a little bit about the Neighborhood Assist program:
“Each year, State Farm® donates millions of dollars to nonprofits across the United States and Canada. State Farm Neighborhood Assist began in 2012 so that you could help us decide where the money should go. The program has three phases. First, Facebook users submit causes that they think deserve a $25,000 grant. Next, the State Farm® Youth Advisory Board will narrow down the submissions to the top 200 and pair them with nonprofit organizations that can help make them happen. Finally, Facebook users will vote to select the top 40. Each winner will receive a $25,000 grant, for a total of $1 million.”
Right now our program is ranked 28th out of 200 projects and we need more people to pledge their support and vote every day for the next 18 days. You must be a registered Facebook user to vote and can vote up to 10 times per day for a maximum of 150 votes over the next few weeks. And with it being the weekend, we could gain some serious traction and perhaps move up in the rankings. Last year’s winners needed approximately 50,000 votes to be included in the top 40 submissions. I know that sounds like a lot of votes, but if everyone votes 10 times every day, we would only need 278 committed voters to make that happen. AND… I know voting 10 times sounds like a lot of voting, but the website has a button that you can use to vote all 10 at once. So if you make this part of your email, Facebook, blog routine, it would literally take only 1 minute or less to vote. All you need to do is visit our Neighborhood Assist page, Union County Gardens at https://www.state-assist.com/cause/1401160/union-county-gardens to vote. Please consider supporting our garden effort by winning this $25,000 grant – we need everyone to make it happen!