Today, I bring you a little rant, so strap in, hold on, and steel yourself for a tale of greed and corruption! Well, not quite, but still....
Some brief background:
Cascade Harvest Coalition wants to build a better food system in Washington state. Boom. Pretty easy goal to understand, right? But it's also a really broad goal, a large umbrella, if you will. Underneath that umbrella, we house a variety of programs, each designed to tackle a food and farming issue not addressed by government, private enterprise, or other non-profit organization. Why the italics? Because they highlight the fact that our programs are unique to our beautiful state and wonderful communities.
Now the rant. We don't work for free. Our contractors don't work for free. And, while our volunteers work for free, they require management and organization, which isn't free. Our research isn't free. Our time isn't free. Yes, this rant is fueled by my tax-hangover, but it's also fueled by the fact that in the first quarter of 2009 we have fielded more general phone calls and provided more free advice and assistance than any time in the past. People have been dropping into our office like rain in Seattle: it feels like all the time, and just when you think it's over, it starts again. We love that people call us with questions. We love that we can provide a unique service to our community and region. But again, that service ain't free. And yet, event though we provide a unique service, one that is increasing in popularity, it looks like we're gonna be losing more funding. Wha?!?! Yep. As our time becomes scarcer and our services more valuable, we get less funding.
While we are writing more grants and seeking other forms of funding, there's another strange occurrence tied to the uptick in interest in local food: more organizations jumping on the bandwagon, trying to capture a piece of the pie. Again, in general, it's wonderful to see people taking a greater interest in food and farming. But specifically, it means that we are all thrown into a mild-mannered version of the Thunderdome where we compete for the same grants and funding sources. While local ag. is a hot topic, there's still not a ton of funding available. For instance, everyone loves the classic farmer-chef fundraising event...unless you get invited to 15 of them within a three month period! That doesn't pencil out for anyone involved. Too many mouths to feed. Plus, many of the other organizations jump into the fray to try and generate more demand for local food...which is great, but we really need to address the other side of the equation and help generate a greater and better supply of local food. Consumer education and consumer demand are vitally important, but unless we preserve farmland and help new farmers get on that land, all the demand in the world won't matter.
So...what's the point of all of these words? Simple: I ask you to think about the person on the other end of the line when you are requesting a service. Not just for our organization, but for all of those other organizations out there who provide important services, valuable services, unique services that may be in jeopardy of losing large amounts of funding in the coming year. If you value those services, help out by becoming a member or making a small donation.
Okay, here's to hoping that I don't regret this post later today.