Thursday, June 30, 2016

About fundraising

When it comes to fundraising and charitable giving, the myths or assumptions are often far off from the reality of the situation.

Giving USA’s 2016 report was released last week and tells us that giving is up across the board, which is likely a sign of an improving economy and stabilizing incomes.  Americans gave over $373 billion dollars in 2015, breaking the record set in 2014.  Gifts from individuals still account for around 80 percent of total giving (includes gifts during the donor's lifetime and via bequest).  And, the biggest increase in giving came from individuals.  

So, clearly, the common assumption that it's all about the next grant from a big corporation or foundation is not the truth!

Religious and educational institutions receive the lion’s share of contributions, but health and human services, as well as public benefit charities, both saw increases of over 4 percent nationally.  GardenShare experienced some of this increase in 2015, particularly as it relates to individuals and participation in our fundraising events.

This info-graphic drives home some of the realities of charitable giving in the US and makes it clear why, if an organization like GardenShare is to succeed, it needs to develop a variety of funding sources, and especially donations from individuals!



Many people who depend on food pantries are not underfed, but are obese and diabetic, experts have found. In 2014, one-third of the 15.5 million households served by Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief organization, reported that a household member had diabetes. Inconsistent access to food worsens the disease, and so can the offerings at the pantries many low-income people must rely on. A growing body of research links food insecurity to uncontrolled diabetes. Diet is partly to blame: The inexpensive food favored by people stretching their dollars is often low in fiber and rich in carbohydrates, which contribute to obesity and Type 2 diabetes. Even when food bank patrons are aware they have diabetes — and many do know — they are not in a position to turn down free fare. Now researchers have begun pursuing innovative new methods to address Type 2 diabetes among people who rely on food banks.  A randomized trial in San Francisco and two other sites seeks to help patrons gain control of both their diets and Type 2 diabetes. Researchers asked pantry patrons if they wanted their blood sugar checked and, if it was high, whether they wanted to enroll in a six-month program to lower it. (A control group was told to wait six months to begin.) For those who enrolled, a staff member handpicked appropriate food from the bank’s shelves, saying no to prepackaged junk, yes to asparagus and peanut butter. Participants pick up bags of selected food twice a month. They also receive referrals to a primary care physician, classes about diabetes management, and regular blood sugar checks. The initial results have been promising. In a pilot study of nearly 700 food pantry visitors in Texas, California and Ohio, participants with the worst blood sugar readings managed modest improvements in a relatively short time.
Source: New York Times, 6/21/16, Food Banks & Diabetes

Wednesday, June 29, 2016


After three years of significant growth, national participation in the Summer Nutrition Programs plateaued last summer. During July 2015, the programs served nearly 3.2 million low-income children across the country, a modest increase of 11,000 participants from July 2014. The Child Nutrition Reauthorization currently being considered by Congress provides an important opportunity to invest in the Summer Nutrition Programs so that more children return to school in the fall, well-nourished and ready to learn. A new report measures the success of the summer programs both in absolute numbers and as a ratio of the number of children receiving summer meals to the number of low-income children receiving school lunch during the regular school year. By that latter measure, fewer than one in six children who needed summer nutrition received it in 2015. Even though total participation in Connecticut decreased from 2014 to 2015, at about 25%, the state’s ratio of summer participants was among the top 5 in the nation.

Source: Food Research Action Council, 6/14/16, Summer Meals

Tuesday, June 28, 2016


Boosting SNAP benefits raises not only the amount that low-income households spend on groceries but also its nutritional quality, according to a new study. The study’s main findings include:
  • Low-income families report that to meet their food needs, they would need to spend an additional $4-$9 per person weekly on food.  “Food-insecure” families, who are more likely to be poorer, report needing to spend an additional $12-$20 per person weekly.
  • If households received an additional $30 per month per person in SNAP benefits (which would be about a 20% increase in the cost of the Thrifty Food Plan, the basis for SNAP benefits), their food spending would go up by about $19 per person, based on the food spending patterns of households with somewhat more resources.
  • That increase in food spending, in turn, would raise consumption of more nutritious foods--households would consume more tomatoes and vegetables and less fast food.

Source: Center for Budget & Policy Priorities, 6/14/16,  More SNAP, Better Nutrition

Monday, June 27, 2016


House Republicans are proposing to test funding school meal programs through block grants as part of the House child nutrition reauthorization bill. If passed, the pilot would be tested in three yet-to-be-determined states. Republicans claim the Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016, which passed through committee last month, gives schools flexibility to find ways to help children and families in need. But critics, including the School Nutrition Association, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and the Food Research & Action Center, say participating schools would lose all paid-meal reimbursements and 6-cent-per-lunch reimbursements collected by meal programs certified as meeting federal nutrition standards.

Source: The Hill, 6/15/16, Block Grants

Friday, June 24, 2016

Farmer Friday - Circle G Farm

This week, intern Amanda visits Circle G Farm.  Located in Hammond, the farm sells at both the Hammond and the Canton Farmers Markets.  This time she shot some video to accompany her report.

To say I feel nervous every time I step out of my car onto a new farm is an understatement. Here I am, a college intern, being nosey about a person’s livelihood. Not just any person, but a farmer whose occupation revolves around the very precious daylight hours that I am taking. Raised on a farm myself, I understand what that is like. I’m honestly surprised I haven’t been declined yet!

Nerves aside, when I got out of my car at Circle G Farm in Hammond, I had the same feeling of comfort that I experience when I return home from college. Mary-Ellen Blatchley, co-owner, brushed dirt off her hands from weeding her aesthetically pleasing rows of greens, greeted me, and then introduced me to her husband, George. Together, they grow about thirty different vegetables, and they do so because they simply love to garden. George exclaimed, “Sometimes I like to grow them [the vegetables] more than I like to eat them!”

Shortly after retiring in 2012, George and Mary-Ellen built a sugar house where they invite local community groups, like the 4-H club, to help with the sugaring of 35-40 gallons of syrup a year. George is an active member of the St. Lawrence County Maple Producers Association. Outside of the sticky saccharine season, the sugar house is a hub for garden activity.

Their garden began one-eighth of the current size above their house. As with the Fuller Farm, somehow gardens began sprouting up wherever there was room. The gardens used to be NOFA Certified Organic; however, the extensive paperwork, time and cost made the legal process no longer feasible. After both touring the land and listening to the couple talk, I am certain George and Mary-Ellen are firm activists in organic practices. They are against the use of pesticides and fertilizers, and are committed to the NOFA Farmer’s Pledge. 2016 marks the fourth year marketing their surplus garden at the farmers markets. I say surplus because George and Mary-Ellen’s bottom line isn’t profit; rather, the couple promotes the dogma of healthy affordable food.

George and Mary-Ellen, after giving a tour of their land, invited me into their home. Again, I felt like I knew them both for years by the way they put me at ease. George mentioned how over coffee that morning he disturbingly discovered “40% of food is wasted in America alone, yet 35% of Americans are considered obese.” Mary-Ellen was equally troubled: “One-third of children [in the US] are hungry, and I find that appalling. We find programs like WIC and SNAP help alleviate this.” Both George and Mary-Ellen have undergone WIC training. What is more, they accept SNAP/EBT at their farmers market stand. Yet, George and Mary-Ellen take the issue of hunger in the North Country one step closer.

Often “organic” translates in the consumer’s mind (and wallet) not to the farming practices involved, but rather to a higher price. Mary-Ellen and George recognize many consumers opt for the cheaper conventional head of lettuce instead of their six-ounce spring mix as an upshot. To bridge this gap, Mary-Ellen regularly visits grocery stores like Wal-Mart to match her prices with shelf prices. Doing so encourages all shoppers to purchase from the market instead of from the corporate counterpart.

Jeff Bridge, head of Food for Children, recently stated how people are choosing, “easy food instead of smart food.”  Offering organic food at commodity prices is another way Circle G Farm attempts to alter that mindset, similar to GardenShare’s mission. Families aside, George said the elderly are too often forgotten about when discussing food security. Using nutrition assistance programs at markets is often difficult for the elderly; not many markets sell small quantities of fresh produce- an important factor when one lives alone, has a small appetite, or doesn’t want to eat an ear of corn every night for dinner. Mary and George understand many markets sell items like sweet corn either by the half or full dozen. “If they want one ear of corn, we sell them one ear. Our WIC/SNAP people get their money’s worth in checks and tokens, but we always slip in a little more.”

The side comments like that last line above were what drew me to Circle G Farm. The humble honesty and willingness to help the community stuck out as mains principals. Before I left (with three jars of Mary-Ellen’s famous jam no less), George looked me in the eyes and said, “We are lucky to be educated. We aren’t struggling. We do this because we like to garden, we like to grow [our food]. We are fortunate to not be hand to mouth. Growing food is the right thing to do, but you can only can/freeze so much.” And thus their surplus is sold to the market with their beliefs and care in tow. 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield supports GardenShare

All Farmers Markets in St. Lawrence County are equipped to accept debit cards or SNAP-EBT benefits (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly called food stamps).  To use these cards, the customer should visit the Market Manager's booth, where the cards can be swiped and tokens will be provided to spend with the farmers.  GardenShare manages this service for the Farmers Markets and more information can be found here.

GardenShare President Carol Pynchon and Executive
Director Gloria McAdam, accept the award from
Jim Reed. Regional President, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield
This year, thanks to a generous grant from Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, GardenShare will be able to double the value for anyone purchasing at the Farmers Market with a SNAP-EBT card.  For each $5.00 charged to the SNAP-EBT card, the customer will receive $10.00 worth of tokens that can be spent for SNAP approved items like fresh fruits and vegetables, seeds, or food plants at the Farmers Market.

In addition, SNAP-EBT customers will receive a frequent customer card.  After visiting and purchasing food at the market five different days, the SNAP-EBT customer will receive an additional $20.00 in tokens to be spent at the Farmers Market for these food items.  This benefit is also supported through the grant from Excellus BlueCross Blue Shield.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A new intern at GardenShare

Hogan helps out at a soup kitchen in
Philadelphia on a spring break trip.
A second summer intern joined the team at GardenShare this week - a little about him:
Name: Hogan Dwyer
Town of residence: South Orange, New Jersey
Role at GardenShare: Part-time summer intern
How long: 6 weeks
Why I do what I do: I will be working primarily on promoting local Farmers Markets, but I help out with anything I can. I’m currently doing extensive research on recipes for in-season vegetables.
Role outside of GardenShare: I’m a rising sophomore at St. Lawrence University and planning to major in Environmental Studies. I am a member of the XC and track and field teams and the student group DivestSLU.
Hobbies: Hiking, Reading, Eating good food
Most recent accomplishment: Did some really great bargaining at the downtown market in Nairobi, Kenya
Last read: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Share something about yourself that few people know: I used to take piano lessons and can still play some songs by memory

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Current proposal cuts funding for school meals

The Republican proposal to test block granting school meal programs in three states would likely cut school meal reimbursements, according to critics of the plan, which include FRAC. It’s estimated that, under block grants, California could lose $78 million in federal reimbursements, Texas could lose $72 million, Georgia $30 million and North Carolina $24 million annually.

Advocates: School meal budgets could lose millions under GOP plan – The Hill, June 15, 2016

Monday, June 20, 2016

Summer food programs successful in Vermont

While the distances and low population density of the North Country make providing summer meals to children in need challenging, our neighbors in Vermont seem to have figured it out.

The Food Research and Action Center’s summer meals report found that Vermont’s rank in serving children free summer meals improved from fourth to third and average daily participation in the state increased 14 percent in July 2015 compared to July 2014. The number of summer meal sites also increased six percent.

“The rural nature of our state presents unique challenges for sponsors who provide summer meals to children,” said Marissa Parisi, executive director of Hunger Free Vermont. The organization has been working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and local communities to feed more children summer meals at sites including libraries, day care centers, and housing developments.

What can we learn from their work?

Vermont ranks 3rd for providing summer meals for children at risk of hunger –, June 14, 2016

Friday, June 17, 2016

"Farmer Friday" - Fuller Farm

Kathy looks at her mustard plants, which
have recently flowered due to the high temperatures
It's "Farmer Friday" and intern Amanda has another farmer profile to share...

Tucked away on a side road in Canton New York is a small-scale, but fully functional vegetable farm owned by Kathy and Tim Fuller. From the road, you can only see a partial view of the farm as tall deciduous trees hide it. Once in the driveway, however, you get a glimpse of the 59 acres. Five of which are cultivated, divided into three sections: an open field for the summer planting, a 30 x 96 high tunnel and a 30 x 78 high tunnel. The two greenhouses are used for three and a half seasons out of the year. The couple takes December and January off, although Kathy said she is always itching to get back into the gardens: “Planting is like a disease!”

Kathy and Tim are trying a new method of growing
this year with their suspended cucumber plants.
Although Fuller Farm is not certified as organic because of expensive  costs of doing so, Kathy and Tim use organic practices. They do not use pesticides, and keep their fertilizer use below 20 lbs. per year. A beekeeper has 32 hives on the edge of their property, which aids in pollination. Kathy believes sustainability is “being able to operate in a way that keeps [the farm] operating,” a point many farmers agree. Environmentally, they recycle as much as possible, but they do not have enough labor to go without plastic and just weed using manual effort. Kathy reminded me how sustainability focuses on the process of farming and how small-scale decisions impact the wider implications of agriculture on both the environment in addition to the economy.

Fuller Farms initially started like many farms do, a family garden. Three and a half years ago, Tim had an aneurism, which forced him to retire. Kathy came home from teaching at Heuvelton Central School District one day to find Tim had plowed a large strip of land for vegetables. The first year their harvest was abundant enough to share their overflow with community members. Kathy and Tim made the economic decision the second year to sell their produce to North Country Grown Cooperative. As part of their operation, the Co-Op partners with local universities who purchase produce for their dining halls; however, the lack of students in the summer months left families like the Fullers without any income. As a result, Tim and Kathy expanded their business to the Potsdam Farmers Market on Saturdays. The third year, the couple decided to open their gardens filled with tomatoes, squash, kale, lettuce, mustard, peas, onions, beets, brussel sprouts, eggplants and many other vegetables for CSA shares. At first, the program had only 10 recipients, but now has grown to 15-20 with the help of GardenShare’s Bonus Bucks program.

One thing GardenShare strives to promote is the SNAP Double Up program. Kathy claimed she is seeing new faces at the Potsdam Market as a result of the program. One new customer, a middle aged mom, was impressed how she could receive $10 worth of produce by only spending $5. As a result, she buys her produce specifically from the market now, a change from which Kathy and Tim personally gain in return.

Kathy is a full supporter of GardenShare’s mission. She said, “Working with [farmers] markets is wonderful. I don’t know where we would be without them [GardenShare]”. Last autumn, GardenShare helped Kathy receive a grant for Heuvelton Central School to implement a community garden. She wishes to educate the next generation about the influential effects of small-scale farming. Many people think having fresh produce is a complicated, time-consuming process. Kathy stressed the solution to hunger in the North Country is to “get people to grow more food…it’s as simple as growing a tomato or two on your porch.”

Thank you Fuller Farms for an amiable visit!

Behind the farmhouse are plowed strips of land waiting to be planted.
Kathy said this year they are running short on time and labor to get everything accomplished.

The front third of the 30x96 tunnel yields lettuce and tomatoes.
The back portion was damaged during a heavy snowstorm and was recently repaired.

The smaller 30x78 tunnel is a product of a grant received by Kathy and Tim. 
Eventually, this tunnel will have raised beds.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

GardenShare annual dinner - a reflection

GardenShare summer intern, Amanda, reflects on her first Annual Dinner and Silent Auction, held earlier this week at Jake's on the Water...

"There is some phenomenon about both preparing and sharing a meal with people you enjoy. At Thanksgiving after we carve the turkey, set out the cranberry sauce and test-taste the stuffing, there is a hurried scramble to find the best dark meat. Christmas calls for at least two of Grandma’s famous rolls piled onto already heaping plates. Simple summer barbeques are my favorite with mac salad, dill pickles, hot dogs, hamburgers, potato chips, mixed vegetables and strawberry shortcake feeding the many mouths of our large family.

"I cannot eat a meal like those listed above without thinking about who looked like a chipmunk with stuffed cheeks at the dining room table, who whipped the mashed buttery potatoes, who burned the spicy Italian sausage or who skipped the meal altogether to swim in the lake instead.  As humans, we can separate neither food from people, nor food from memory.

Adirondack Fragrance, Inlay Designs, Gene Newman were 
just a few of our donors for the silent auction!
"This past Tuesday, GardenShare created a seventh annual memory at Jake’s on the Water at its annual silent auction and dinner. GardenShare staff and volunteers arrived early to set up the silent auction, and slowly eighty guests trickled in to share each other’s company. Clinks of glasses and twinkles of laughter filled the room as sponsors, donors, volunteers, friends and neighbors gathered in solidarity to make sure all residents in the county can have healthy and affordable food to eat.

"The event fundraised $6,000, which will go towards GardenShare’s mission of solving the issue of hunger in St. Lawrence County. GardenShare is a keystone organization, promoting both local food systems that produce the food who feed our community and programs that make buying local accessible to low-income families.

Add caption
"Thank you for joining us in a hearty meal that will eventually put another nutritious meal into someone else’s household. The dinner reminded me how fortunate the North Country is to have a unique crowd of individuals who band together for a common cause. Upfront on Tuesday, I witnessed how the people I broke bread with are interdependent with the community. One man I sat with is a full-time professor, a village trustee, a hunger activist, and a husband. This was the case of many people attending the dinner as occupations and passions mingled together over six different courses.  Hunger, approached locally, is a solvable issue. At GardenShare we say 'Healthy food, healthy farms, everybody eats.' Tuesday was a reminder of how strong and true that simple is to our community."

Megan Bowdish donated 120 tomato and pepper plants which were 
used as centerpieces and given to dinner guests.

Jake’s on the Water was the place to be this past Tuesday, 
especially with the warm sunny breeze on the back deck!

This unique presentation of food in a mason jar was filled 
with farrow, smoked mushrooms and pea shoots!

Behind the scenes with Executive Chef Josh, 
offers a peek of how he prepared the smoked mushrooms.

New report on summer food for children

After three years of significant growth, national participation in the Summer Nutrition Programs plateaued last summer, according to the Food Research & Action Center’s annual Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation report (pdf) released today. During July 2015, the programs served nearly 3.2 million low-income children across the country, a modest increase of 11,000 participants from July 2014. The Child Nutrition Reauthorization currently being considered by Congress provides an important opportunity to invest in the Summer Nutrition Programs so that more children return to school in the fall, well-nourished and ready to learn.

While the report shows New York State among the top ten in the nation for participation in summer meals by low-income children, that does not hold true here in the North Country, where it is very difficult for children in need to find a meal site.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Quote of the Week

"House Speaker Paul Ryan’s poverty not just about drastic cuts to proven programs; it’s also about dismantling the stable and effective structure of our nation’s safety net.  It is downright dangerous."

Jim Weill, Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), June 7, 2016

Tuesday, June 14, 2016


From the e-mail inbox:

Dear Ms. McAdam:

Hello, my name is Brianna Larrabee.  I am a sophomore at Canton High School and I am working with a group of high school students on a new volunteer project with the Canton Recreation Department.  They are gathering 6th-8th grade kids on June 29th at Taylor Park to make scarecrows.  We would like to donate the scarecrows to gardeners and farmers in the community to thank them for their hard work growing our food.  We were wondering if you could help us spread the word to local farmers and gardeners about our project and give them the link to request scarecrows.  I have learned from Mrs. Pynchon, through my mom Beth Larrabee, that you might be able to include an announcement with a link to the request form in the GardenShare electronic newsletter. Other options could be to send it out in an email to local growers and/or post it on your website. We would be grateful for any kind of help you can provide.  I have included the information below.    

My grandfather was a farmer and my two uncles now run his dairy farm.  Through their hard work and sacrifice I have learned how lucky our country is to have people like them that will put their time and effort to help support other families.  I was excited to hear about the opportunity to help educate young kids on the importance of the farms in our community.  And I thought it was awesome that we would be able to help contribute at the same time.

Thank you for your consideration and please let me know if you have any questions. 


Scarecrow Request Form:
Need a Scarecrow? Canton youth would like to help YOU with your agricultural efforts by making you one! For more details to request a scarecrow for your vegetable gardens or farm fields, please visit:

Project sponsors:
littleGrasse, TAUNY, GardenShare, Canton FFA and Canton Recreation Department

Please also announce that we are collecting clothing donations:
Donations Wanted:
We are collecting clothing donations to dress our scarecrows!

Items Needed (adult sizes):
Hats, Long Sleeve Shirts, Pants and Panty Hose (please have all items on bags)

Drop off locations:
TAUNY: Monday June 13-Friday, June 17 10am-5pm and Saturday, June 18 10am-4pm
McKenney Middle School Office: Monday, June 13-Friday, June 17 8:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Extending Your School Gardening Season: High Tunnels in Schools Conference

The school calendar and the growing season in New York do not necessarily overlap. School gardens are excellent tools learning but students often miss prime growing conditions and experiences because of how late the outdoor school garden has to be planted in our state - and summer vacation does not allow interaction with growth, blossoms, tending, and even harvesting.
Whether you have a strong school gardening program and are looking to increase your garden's impact, or are just beginning your garden connections, this conference will give you insight into best practices, challenges, and curriculum integration. As a culmination of the High Tunnels in Schools grant program, learn from teachers who have been using this tool to extend the gardening season and student learning.

All participants will receive 16 hours of professional development credit, curriculum, books, and classroom resources.

Date: August 9-10, 2016
Location: Edmeston Central School, Edmeston, NY
Fee: $30 registration fee, includes meals

Click here to learn more and register by August 1, 2016!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Smith Farm Chicken - a local success story

SLU student and summer intern Amanda Korb will be spending part of her time visiting farmers and profiling them here on the GardenShare blog.  Here's her first entry:

“Fajita spiced Smith Farm Chicken Breast on a crisp house made blue and yellow corn tortilla with queso fresco, shaved lettuce, toasted cumin sour cream and fresh cilantro.” Sounds delicious right? So describes a dish prepared by the 1844 House, an American bistro in Potsdam, made with chicken raised and processed by Massena locals Ron and Cathy Smith.

On Farmers Market days, Ron and Cathy get up at 6am
to prepare their trailer with fresh poultry for customers
Smith raises approximately 800 chickens, a handful of turkeys, beef, and occasionally pigs. Their primary focus is chicken; a USDA inspected and certified processing unit stands within yards of their chicken barns. The chickens have 24/7 access to an outside yard from their clean and spacious coops. Each chicken receives an abundant of food, water, sunlight and socialization.

The Ron and Cathy’s bottom line is the humane treatment of animals. Ron said he knows many farmers who dislike their livestock, or find their daily farm life a chore. He believes if one doesn’t like an animal, then one shouldn’t raise it. Cathy asserted. “It’s not about how long the animals lives, but the quality of life we give them”. Evidence of Ron and Cathy’s words was abundant as I took a tour of their facility. The impeccable cleanliness of the slaughterhouse would impress even my Grandma. What is more, Cathy nurtures any sick animal on the farm personally. They currently have two pet turkeys and four pet laying hens.

This is Ron’s retirement job. Cathy works full time as a dog groomer in a shop right next to the slaughterhouse. When I asked Ron if he could have the same quality of life if poultry farming was his lifetime occupation, his answer was clear a “no.” Sustainability, Ron believes, is the capability to break even on expenditures while still making some sort of income.

Ron sits next to his daughter and granddaughter
at the Canton Farmers Market
That income can be found in the freezers clustered around the farm. Ron said he had intentions of installing a walk-in freezer, but the cost did not outweigh the benefits. Instead, a horse trailer filled with freezers of chicken processed the night before is one of the first to make an appearance at the Canton and Potsdam farmers markets. Aside from the markets, the Ron and Cathy also profit from the aforementioned 1844 House as well as Jake’s on the Water. The couple both survives and relies on local business alone. When I asked which subsidized them more- markets or restaurants- Ron replied it is a balance of both. One challenge they face is competing against the cheap chicken prices Wal-Mart and Aldi’s offer, which is a quick 15-minute drive down the road from their farm. For families receiving SNAP, a $1.65/lb chicken breast is the more affordable option than Smith Farm $3.00/lb. Ron even admitted he would shop at WalMart if the roles were reversed.

The question of cheap food v. the added cost local food then comes into play. At GardenShare, we focus on raising the region’s economy by encouraging families to buy local food. For every $10 spent at Wal-Mart or Aldis, a farmer only receives $1.58 in return. Contrasting, a farmer collects $8-9 for every $10 spent at a local farmers market. GardenShare recognizes buying local as a point of paramount significance; therefore, we try to promote programs such as CSA Bonus Bucks and SNAP Double Up, which make choosing local the more promising option. EBT machines are available both the Potsdam and Canton Farmers Market, where Ron and Cathy can be found selling their fresh poultry. Taking the same $10 spent at the farmers market, about $7.80 is re-spent into the region. Paying a few more cents for local food supports the farmers who raise the product, the community surrounding the farmers and in turn the next generation.

Agriculture and sustainability

Austin Miles, a college student, wrote an interesting piece about sustainability and scale, which ran in Ohio University’s student newspaper, The Post.  The article states that no measure of distance, no simple definition of local or global is an indicator of either inherent sustainability or environmental degradation.  Here's the conclusion:
"To zealously support local food systems themselves may be unsustainable. That defensive localism, often characterized as elitist or bourgeois, stresses the importance of a sort of purist local food system in opposition to the global, capitalist system. In Athens, for instance, the 30 Mile Meal promotes local food as a sustainable response to the influence of corporate interests over the food system. But the local food system in Athens could not be characterized as sustainable because it is not necessarily equitable.
"A truly sustainable food system may require consideration of multiple scales because they are all connected. The local scale is nested within the national scale, which is in turn nested within the global scale. The world, globalized as it is, will require an food system that can operate on all of those scales. The local food system surely is important, but the road to sustainability will require that we move beyond localism and regionalism and figure out how we can use the various scales as means to create a sustainable food system."

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Coalition on Human Needs Responds to Speaker Ryan's proposal

Deborah Weinstein, executive director of the Coalition on Human Needs, issued the following statementy in response to the House GOP anti-poverty proposal:

“The plan put forth by House Speaker Paul Ryan and his GOP colleagues actually is a blueprint for exacerbating poverty and inequality in the United States. While lacking in legislative and policy specifics, this blueprint cannot be separated from the budget proposal championed by House Republicans. This year’s GOP budget derives three-fifths of its cuts from programs that help low- and moderate-income Americans, while protecting tax cuts for the wealthy and for corporations.

“The issue of funding is a gaping hole in this proposal. It costs money to give people the tools to escape poverty. But the budget approved by the House Budget Committee earlier this year would cut low-income programs by $3.7 trillion over 10 years, mostly in health care, but also cutting SNAP by $150 billion (a 30 percent cut between 2021-2026), and cutting Pell Grants and other low-income education programs. Do Ryan and his colleagues now disavow these cuts?

“While the report mostly chooses rhetoric over specific proposals, it does hint at an intention to reduce cash assistance. In one very troubling example, it criticizes Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for children with disabilities, calling for “access to needed services in lieu of cash assistance.” Children who receive SSI have severe and long-term disabilities, requiring time and expense that diminish their parents’ ability to work. Denying cash assistance to these families will drastically worsen their ability to provide for their children’s significant needs. 

“The report vaguely favors giving states more authority to change federal programs. This appears to be a nod to Speaker Ryan’s past recommendation to create ‘Opportunity Grants’ – fixed funding to states that allow them to change rules in effective safety net programs. It is also similar to the House Agriculture Committee’s Child Nutrition Reauthorization proposal to allow three states to take a reduced funding level and change school meals program standards as they choose. There should be no doubt that freezing or reducing funding while allowing states to change program rules is no way to reduce poverty or increase opportunity. Instead, it will give states more incentives to deny help to people who need it. 

“If Speaker Ryan and his colleagues are serious about cutting poverty and expanding opportunities for American families, they should embrace policies that actually benefit working families. This requires investing in good jobs, raising the minimum wage, ensuring an adequate safety net, adopting family-friendly work policies such as paid medical leave and predictable hours, and investing in human capital through a sound education system, all the way from pre-K through college.”

New CCE ag teams aiding North Country

ALBANY — Home to rich soil, a large dairy presence and determined crop producers, New York’s North Country also has more square miles than the entire state of Vermont and faces unique agribusiness challenges. Helping farmers navigate those issues are a pair of new regional agriculture teams fu...
Read More

Tuesday, June 7, 2016


New parents quickly learn there are very few financial supports for families with young children to help them buy baby supplies. Many low-income families are doubly penalized because they can’t  afford to join wholesale stores or shop online and therefore pay more for basic supplies. One blogger (with Amazon Prime and Costco memberships and a car) compared her costs with the retail options available to a mother without these options.

  • Diapers--22 cents/diaper online versus 36 cents at the local grocery store
  • Formula--$20 per week at big box store versus $29 at local grocery
  • Baby food--$5 made at home (thanks to  food processor/blender/dishwasher) versus $18 for jars at grocery store
  • Baby supplies (swaddles, laundry detergent, diaper cream, and bottles)--free thanks to points on Amazon credit card versus $10 at grocery store.
Total savings=$41 per week or over $2000 a year.

Source: Talk Poverty, 6/1/16, Baby Costs

Monday, June 6, 2016

Toxic Charity - how our efforts to help may actually hinder...

Have you read the book, "Toxic Charity" by Robert Lupton? 

This is a book primarily about churches and the charity projects they undertake, but it has lessons for all of us working to build a better world.

Two themes that really resonated with me (and I'm sure there may be more in the future):

Volunteer projects - When a group or even an individual wants to volunteer, it's important to establish motives.  Is it more important that the volunteer activity meet the needs of the volunteers or the needs of the community / the organization you are volunteering with?

This may seem easy to answer, but I can't tell you how many times people have called me with ideas for things they want to do that don't really meet the needs or mission of GardenShare.  They often have a hard time accepting "no" for an answer, even though I think that I am, for the most part, pretty diplomatic in providing that answer!  

Then there are the volunteer groups who expect nonprofits to spend our limited resources to feed the volunteers lunch or provide t-shirts or other things.  We've already spent a lot of resources in staff time setting up and organizing the project, so don't be surprised if we say no to those requests, also!

Ending hunger or poverty -  The book has lots of examples of programs that have not succeeded in ending the social ill they set out to fight.  And a little guidance about how to do better.  Lupton says the key is in relationships.

"To effectively impact a life, a relationship must be built, trust forged, accountability established.  And this does not happen in long, impersonal lines of strangers.  A name and a story have to be attached to each indivdual face.  Highly personal life struggles must be explored and with each person a unique action plan created.  A bed for the night...where to get a job...treatment for addiction...escape from an abusive husband...childcare for homeless children...a wheelchair for an amputee."

This is the same conclusion that I have come to in my 30+ years of work in the anti-hunger field.  We won't end hunger by building bigger food banks and distributing more and more food.  We will end hunger one family at a time, because each family's needs will be different.  And we can only do this by mobilizing an army of volunteers who will work one-on-one with people in need and build these kinds of relationships.

At GardenShare, we have two primary ways of building community - the CSA's and the Farmers Markets.  Can you help us think about other ways we can build community and engage people in need with people who can help?

Friday, June 3, 2016

Auction at GardenShare's annual dinner

A silent auction will be one of the highlights at GardenShare's annual dinner (after the outstanding, locally-sourced menu prepared by Jake's head chef Josh Taillon!) coming up just two weeks from tonight.  Hope you're planning to join us on June 14 at Jake's on the Water.

Here are some auction items donated to date:

Potsdam ACE Hardware gift certificate
Adirondack Fragance and Flower Farm gift certificate and gift basket
Potsdam Agway gift certificate
Best Western gift certificate for one night's stay
Brewer Book Store gift certificate
Northwind Day Camp one week campership
Cinema 10 season tickets
Planter and gardening supplies from Coakley's ACE Hardware
First Crush gift certificate
One treatment at Five Elements Living
Glow Skincare and Spa gift certificates
A piece of jewelry from Inlay Design
A pedicure at MH Studio
Ole Deckside gift certificate
A half gallon of maple syrup from the Orebed Sugar Shack
Golf at Partridge Run
Bread from the Potsdam Food Co-op
Golf and dinner at the Potsdam Town and Country Club
Three month membership at the Roos House Fitness Center
Pick-your-own berries at Sweet Core Farm

More auction items are being donated every day.

To learn more about the dinner or order your tickets, go here.


Prices for everyday purchases at grocery and drug stores are increasing faster for low-income Americans than their wealthy counterparts, according to new research from Harvard University. Researchers found that retail prices are increasing by more than 2% per year for goods purchased by consumers with incomes below $30,000, but just 1.4% per year for those with incomes above $100,000. Most of the price discrepancy can be attributed to wealthy consumers’ habit of buying premium brands, which tend to have more stable prices over time, according to the study. While apparently small, if that divergence continues it would become hugely important in a relatively short period of time. After 20 years, for example, every dollar in the pocket of a poor consumer would be worth just 88 cents compared to what a wealthier consumer would be able to buy with it at the grocery store, given the differences in inflation and in both consumers' preferences.

Source: Washington Post, 5/20/16, Poor Pay More

Thursday, June 2, 2016


New research finds that food insecurity costs families with young children over $1.2 billion in health care, special education, and workplace productivity. Hospital care for food-insecure children under age 4 cost over $500 million, while special education costs for such 3- and 4-year olds were nearly $675 million.  The study’s authors recommend, among other things, changing the way SNAP benefits are calculated, eliminating participation barriers in WIC affecting pregnant mothers and toddlers, strengthening the Child and Adult Food Program, and enhancing the Summer Food Program.

Source: Children’s Health Watch, 5/20/16,   Food Insecurity Costs


Celebrity chefs, including Tom Collichio, descended on Capitol Hill this week to testify about the roughly 70 billion pounds of food wasted annually in the United States.  They will join experts and advocates before the House Agriculture Committee, which is holding its first full hearing on the topic. The chefs urged lawmakers to support a bill sponsored by Representative Chellie Pingree, (D-Maine) that would adjust food labels with the goal of waste prevention. From there, the chefs head to the White House for a round-table discussion on food waste. Of course, they also ate--“recovered” food, pasture-raised beef tartare tendon, and trap-caught mackerel and Maryland oysters served with green garlic and herbs.
Source: NYT, 5/25/16, Celebrity Chefs Don't Waste Food
Scores of new companies are trying to spin profits out of food waste. Several start-ups are chasing ways to use food waste to make other edibles. Some are aiming to quickly distribute food that is about to be thrown out. And yet others are working to use every last ounce of ingredients. The business of food waste is not well tracked; most data available now is on funding for individual companies. But Back to the Roots, which sells products such as a mushroom-growing kit that uses coffee grounds, recently raised $5.8 million from individual investors like Michael Pollan. EcoScraps, which turns food waste into gardening products, has raised $13 million. Cerplus is an online go-between, linking farms and wholesalers with food on the verge of going to waste with restaurants and other businesses. The company started serving the Bay Area in January and now has shipped more than 13,000 pounds of food to more than 60 clients.

Source: NYT, 5/25/16, Food Waste for Profit