This year Common Ground is celebrating the vital progress that was made to create a more just food system in the Hudson Valley amidst the challenges of a changing climate and political environment. Over the past two years, Common Ground has expanded our food access initiatives to encompass long-term sustainable solutions that contribute to wider food systems change. While we will always continue our important relationships with food pantries and soup kitchens by donating fresh produce, Common Ground is making a critical shift to invest in programs that we expect will become meaningful ways to address food access. Our Farm to School initiative is establishing connections between the Beacon and Newburgh school districts and local farmers and distributors, enabling school sales to become a viable part of local farmers’ business models. We are supporting the growth of the Downing Park Farmers’ Market so that it can become a vibrant, self-sustaining component of our market initiatives. We are committed to weaving affordability into all of our markets by investing in the infrastructure to accept all food benefits and match their value with our Greens 4 Greens program, a community-funded incentive program for fresh fruits and vegetables.
Common Ground’s overall farm income has increased by 60% since 2016. Our increased numbers reflect how much more food was actually grown, harvested, and sent out into the community. Each year we become better at efficiently using our space, maximizing productivity, increasing our skills and knowledge, and growing better soils through increased cover cropping which has allowed us to get more fresh food into our community. The majority of Common Ground’s annual budget is generated by program revenue, allowing us to put charitable contributions directly into the hands of people in need through our food access initiatives with minimal administrative overhead. Investment in farm infrastructure is critical for 2019, including a new tractor and a permanent deer fence. It is vitally important to expand our mission of food access and education to our sister city Newburgh through Farm to School programs and markets. We work towards a future where nutritious, affordable food is available to all, where local food systems thrive, and where families share a love of the land and the nourishment it provides, from the earth to the plate.
As 2018 comes to a close, we ask again for your support as we look to 2019 and the important work that lies ahead. We cannot do it without you. Please consider donating today.
2018 By the Numbers
We lost one high tunnel in a devastating weather event on May 15th… and with community support, we built a new high tunnel with an extra 1,000 square feet of growing space. Over 10,000 pounds of fresh Common Ground produce was distributed to food access initiatives, including six weekly deliveries to emergency food organizations and weekly mobile markets. Additionally, 500 pounds of produce, grown less than 6 miles from the schools, was used in the Beacon City School District cafeterias. 50 families harvested U-Pick shares each week, up from 40 families per week in 2017! We also had 2-5 camp families join U-Pick during each week of Farm Camp. We launched our new mobile veggie van, allowing us to get fresh produce from the farm to the community with style and sustainability! We hosted several special events, including a mindful walk on the farm, a free farm food and music festival, and a farm-to-table dinner in collaboration with celebrated Beacon restaurant The Kitchen Sink.
Through our Farm to School program we have had almost 3,000 visits with children participating in field trips, chef in the classroom, and a mural project for 5th graders. This year we are growing our program to include Rombout Middle School students and training for food service staff. We also launched an adult workshop series called Community Textiles, a partnership with local businesses that serves to develop skills and understanding around sustainability in clothing. For the first time we were able to offer scholarships to all of our educational programs, including 22 full scholarships and 17 sliding scale scholarships to Farm Camp, financial aid to all of our adult workshops, and full scholarships to Preschool on the Farm to four families in the fall.
The Beacon Farmers’ Market featured 34 vendors as well as 15+ guest vendors who experienced an average sales increase of 15% in 2018. Food stamp purchases continued to grow by a third from 2017, which is an increase of more than 250% over the last two years! We are also celebrating our third year of the Winter Market with our partners at the Beacon VFW Hall, which allows us to serve the Beacon community year round! Common Ground served as the steward for a second year at Newburgh's historic Downing Park Farmers' Market, for the first time offering our Greens 4 Greens program in 2018. This community supported Greens 4 Greens program doubles the value of food benefits for fresh fruits and vegetables has $6,000 to distribute to those in need.