2020: What a year

2020: What a year

It is the last day of the year. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t already started dreaming about the next one. Visions and daydreams are the same – of a peaceful, healthy world and connecting with each other in person.

photo by Tyler Grigsby

Amidst the hard times, Three Part Harmony Farm had some unexpected positive things happen for us and we have definitely started thinking about how to continue that into next season.

On Black Farmer Friday, we launched a crowdfunding campaign to get solar panels and battery installed next year at the farm. It is the last piece of big infrastructure we need. With just a few thousand dollars shy of our goal on New Year’s Eve, the final 39 contributions got us to our $30,000 goal. Thank you all!

One positive thing that came out of this year was an incredible outpouring of support for farmers, especially lifting up Black, brown and Indigenous farmers. The fragility of the food system coupled with awareness of how white supremacy plays out in other parts of our country, for example in agriculture, really put a spotlight on how we farmers of color have struggled to be financially viable.

On October 31, two dozen folx came out to the farm to join Earthbound Building. It was the culmination of almost two years of work, including fundraising. The critical legwork was done by my brother, Blain Snipstal. Like everything the farm has done to date, internal political maneuvering was necessary.

photo by Tyler Grigsby

Kate Lee, the newly hired Director of Urban Agriculture did not shy away from lending her undying support to see the permitting process through to the end. And of course our “more than just a landlord” Fr. Seamus Finn kept his eagle eye on his inbox until the DCRA approval message finally came through.

Three Part Harmony farm did not have to use any of the vegetable income for this project, indeed we could not have done so. We combined donations from Resource Generation, Why Hunger, WACIF, Little Sesame, as well as dozens of CSA members, family and friends. Earthbound Building came to the table with the biggest gift of all – having applied for grants on their own that they used to subsidize this project.

I would characterize the build day as more fun than work, though I’m not sure if the EB team would agree. We sure as heck did learn a lot from them. They built an A-frame crane with a pulley system to be able to lift thousands of pounds of lumber the old fashioned way – without the use of fossil fuel powered tools whatsoever. The Black Dirt Farmly came out to support – including with a dope playlist made especially for that day. I can’t wait to take this show on the road: Black Farmer brigade anyone?

photo by Tyler Grigsby

Each time I go to the farm now I stop and smell the beams. When we washed and packed under our pavilion for the first time this year, I asked the team if it will ever get old- us having the most beautiful wash pack station on the planet! We all agree: it will never get old. We will always remember and feel gratitude each time we use it.

The build was the highlight of year that, in retrospect, was not that bad for our farm.

The coronavirus pandemic brought about a dramatic and frankly positive pivot for us. At the end of last year, I announced that our CSA program would have to be cut in half. We were never meeting our sign up goals, and in the end I had to take on another part-time job. We had to get smaller to make that workload sustainable for me. That meant going from 7 pick up sites to just 4. Instead of coordinating the entire program ourselves, we did it as a partnership with Deep Roots Farm. And none of the pick ups were market style.

first emergency food delivery to DCCK in March

By early April of this year, we began to receive thousands of dollars in funds mostly from grants to help us deliver produce to five different free food distribution centers in DC and Baltimore. Combining grant funds with donations from CSA members and other supporters, those deliveries ended up accounting for 50% of our total vegetable harvest this season. For the first time ever, I had to bring on three new people mid-season to help with the harvest because we just couldn’t bunch and box greens fast enough. It was astounding. It was exhilarating. It was contagious.

By the time we got to July I was hooked! Delivering a full van of vegetables to the Dreams and Vision church in Baltimore, the Ward 1 Mutual Aid volunteers, or to the DC Central Kitchen warehouse made my each and every week!

The vegetables grew themselves!

Another highlight of this year was the CSA collaboration we did with Deep Roots Farm. The weekly shares were a bright spot for every household. It was a bummer that we didn’t do market style pick ups this year. My interactions with members were mostly limited to the Saturday members who picked up a box at a farmers market, or on the occasions when I was late making the porch deliveries and had to give out the first few boxes from the back of the van. But in all of those brief yet meaningful exchanges, I felt the warmth and appreciation from all of you. Each time I noted that if we had been experiencing a bad season it might have broke me like straw on a camel’s back. I was delighted and frankly quite pleased with how our weekly harvests turned out.

With that positive experience in mind, I decided to put out our last infrastructure need to the community – which is solar panels. Seeing our team work hard and knowing we could have done so much more with reliable refrigeration became a new, single minded focus doing into the fall.

The campaign has left me pretty speechless each and every day as donations have come in from family, high school friends, college friends, activist friends, church friends, CSA members, volunteers, farm friends… the last crowdfunding campaign we had was for the walk in cooler that we still use every day. This campaign has enjoyed the support from those previous supporters but now even more people as well, and that has allowed us to raise even more funds. Makes sense: what we are buying is pretty significant.

Many farmers have donated which just brought tears to my eyes. People giving what they can from a finite pool of financial resources happens because you know just what a game changer this kind of thing is for a farm.

I appreciate everyone so much.

PVF donated $2,000. Farmer Hana said she remembers when their family farm didn’t have electricity or running water – turns out that was before I was born. I can see that some things like that are never forgotten.

In 45 years may I be in a position to help a young farmer power her operation too!

I am so excited to start our 10th season stronger than ever. We will finally have everything we need. And  that means we can reach our full growing potential.

your farmer,
Gail