Strong local and regional food systems can lead to strong local economies and opportunities for people who are often left behind by traditional economic development. But it takes a while to build these systems. Bon Appétit was proud to cater a recent breakfast fundraiser for the Grow a Farmer Fund at Carleton College in Northfield, MN, which raised $4,270 for Latino farmers who want to raise free-range chickens in rural Minnesota.
The Grow a Farmer Fund is a partnership between the Rural Enterprise Center (part of the Main Street Project, an organization that works to increase access to resources and reduce inequities), Just Food Co-op, Renewing the Countryside, and the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation. Bon Appétit has been working with Program Director Reginaldo Haslett – Marroquin to support local chicken farmers in their efforts to ramp up production by buying as much chicken locally as possible. This was Bon Appétit’s first fundraiser for the program.
The Grow a Farmer Fund works as a seed fund that will enable farmers to take out loans to buy chicks and feed as they begin raising free-range chickens through the local Rural Enterprise Center’s business incubator program. Most new farmers have very low family incomes, and traditional loans aren’t an option. Eventually, the farmer will pay back the loan, which will go to the next farmer to do the same.
At the event, attendees were asked to donate a dollar or more, each of which would buy a chick. Most farmers start with 500 to 1,000 chicks. Community members served as table captains and invited friends and colleagues as guests. Bon Appétit reached out to student leaders at Carleton and St. Olaf and asked them to invite other students. The event was a great success, raising both awareness as well as chick funding for many would-be farmers.
The food was fabulous (loved the stratas!), everything was beautifully arranged, and the staff was welcoming and helpful,” wrote Kat Vann, director of communications and development of the Main Street Project, afterward. “Checks are still coming in…wow!”