The Microgrant Program was visioned and organized by the NHFC Board of Directors. It utilizes the funds collected each October through the Change Within Reach Round-Up Program. This allows Co-op shoppers to donate to the Microgrant Fund by rounding their purchase amount up to the next highest dollar.
The donated funds get will be used to directly support local farmers that provide food to the Co-op. Microgrants are intended to help achieve the production of high-quality, sustainably grown food and increase overall access to local, healthy food for all our community members by providing funding to assist farmers with expanding their operations.
Applications for the 2022 program will open sometime in January 2022.
The 2021 recipient is local farmer Jana Goerdt from Fat Chicken Farm!
Jana and her family have been providing the Co-op with fresh local produce for many years and they will be using the funds to build a 210-square foot walk-in cooler for their vegetables to improve storage life.
This is the second year the Natural Harvest Board of Directors has helped to coordinate the NHFC Farmer Microgrant program. Thanks to the generous donations of our owners during October’s Change Within Reach Round-Up Program, we were able to award one farmer with $1,200 to make improvements to their farm and help ensure a healthy, local, and sustainable food economy.
Our 2021 microgrant award recipient is Janna Goerdt. Janna owns and operates Fat Chicken Farm: a small, approximately 3-acre organically grown vegetable farm in Embarrass, MN. She has been farming and selling her produce to Natural Harvest for 13 years. In addition to finding vegetables on her farm, you will also find a flock of chickens, several beehives, and a stand of silver maple trees. Her products can be purchased at Natural Harvest, through her Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares, and at local farmers markets.
“I became a farmer because I like dirt,” says Janna. “I like to play in the dirt, to have my hands in dirt, to see what’s living in that dirt, and to grow veggies in dirt! My farm is lucky to have beautiful soil as a foundation. I grew up playing and eating in my mother’s big garden, so when I had the chance to try gardening/farming full time, I jumped in. In addition to dirt, I absolutely love to give people beautiful, honest, delicious vegetables, and to hear how they like to prepare them. By the fall I’m usually tired and ready to put the fields to bed for the year, but by mid-winter, I am always itching to get my hands back in the dirt again.”
When asked about her favorite thing to grow, Janna said, “My favorite fruits of my labor are…that’s like choosing your favorite child. Sometimes I think sugar snap peas, sometimes I think butterhead lettuce, sometimes I think cucumbers, sometimes carrots with a little dirt still on them. Don’t make me choose!”
Her farm operates on very little capital and infrastructure. With the help of the Natural Harvest Microgrant, she plans to build a walk-in cooler. While walk-in coolers can be incredibly expensive, Janna will outfit an existing shed with upcycled materials, food-grade plastic interior wall panels, a Cool-bot computer, and an air conditioner. This will create a 210-square foot walk-in cooler that will improve the storage life of her vegetables and increase the amount of produce she can deliver to the Co-op.
“Growing food for yourself or others is very, very satisfying, on a molecular level,” says Goerdt. “Don’t we all want to nourish others and ourselves? Don’t we all want to share good things? I think so. Go ahead and try it. And I thank the Co-op and all the customers who round up for helping me make my farm more sustainable and workable! It won’t be long before I drop off my first bunches of kale and Swiss chard and lettuce!”