I woke up last Friday morning inspired. I just love when that happens! On Thursday we had a huge snow storm. When the storm started, the snowflakes were the size of golf balls.
It snowed all day and all night. The snow was almost 10 inches deep in the morning.
I’ve been managing Stone Coop Farm since 2011. We bought this property November of 2011 and I knew we had to save it as farmland for future generations.
In 2014 I had an epiphany. It was a grey and cold winter day. I was concerned about how to make the farm profitable and felt the job of saving the farm and paying off our loans was just too gigantic for me to accomplish. I imagined writing a check to get us completely out of debt. I then took a deep breath and submerged myself in what it would feel like if I owned the farm outright. I looked out my window and the snow started to fall, big fat snowflakes. My mind jumped to the thought “Stone Coop Farm will bless as many people as these snowflakes.” The more I let it sink in, the more joy I felt. I knew I could do this.
Fast forward to Fall of 2017. Our farm is on 30 acres, but it is zoned residential. 1000 new homes in 4 new subdivisions are being built on both sides of us. I can hear the excavation equipment every day. A wastewater treatment plant is being built and the high pressure sewer line will be connecting these subdivisions along our property line. Developers are approaching us to sell the farm so that more homes can be built. The value of our land is increasing as residential lots, not as farmland. I know my mission is to save the farm, but that feels like an insurmountable task given what’s going on around me.
Did you know that the average age of U.S. farmers is almost 60 and our farmland is disappearing at an alarming rate? So much so, that the U.S. State Department and USDA are concerned about our national food security. The USDA is asking all U.S. farmers if we have a Succession Plan when we retire to keep the farm as farmland. If we lose our farmland to residential and commercial development, where will we grow our food? Additionally, new farmers are having a difficult time finding affordable farmland. Many farmers’ children don’t want the farm, so their land and that generational knowledge of how to farm is being lost.
I have to face the reality that there is mounting pressure to sell our farmland for development to help pay off our loans. I discussed these concerns with my business partner, and the idea of creating a nonprofit working farm and learning center started to germinate. We have been supporting new farmers for years through our scholarship program. We have been supporting our community with classes, events, presentations, donations and collaborations since we started in 2011. I have been constantly focusing my efforts on how we can continue to support our community, that I forgot that our community is here to support us as well. I realized that my Succession Plan for Stone Coop did not require ME to buy the land personally. We could create a nonprofit that would allow our community to ensure the longevity of Stone Coop Farm. I could continue to train new farmers how to be successful business owners. I could help develop my staff to become audacious business owners, so that one day, when I am ready to retire, there will be someone already associated with Stone Coop Farm that can take over.
Those big fat golf ball size snowflakes we had last week were my reminder of all the blessings Stone Coop Farm is going to receive from people that want to support us and all the blessing we will provide to them. Together we will have a global impact on our food system and on our planet.
If Stone Coop’s future inspires you, we would appreciate your donation. You can click here to Make a Difference. If you would like join our Fundraising Team and/or want to share fundraising ideas, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let me introduce you to the Board Members of Stone Coop Farm. I am thrilled to have their knowledge and support as we navigate this new non-profit world. From Left to Right: Michelle Gonzalo, Sherri Richards, AJ Gross; Denae Friedheim, Leslie Loewenstein, and me, Joannée DeBruhl.
Meet my incredible staff for 2018. They inspire me every day. They keep a smile on my face and make sure we plant, grow and harvest awesome food. I couldn’t keep running Stone Coop Farm without their help. From left to right: Nydia, Gina, Rene, Jess, Evan and Lou Lou & Roxy.