Previously we shared that we want to use part of our farm for philanthropic work. We were not sure what that would look like but each day on our early morning walks Ryan and I would spend some time building that dream out. Originally we thought we would grow hemp and use the proceeds to donate to a specific charity. By the time we had put some heartfelt energy into the conversation however, we realized we wanted much more out of it and that is when Nonprofit Gardens began taking shape.
Ryan and I kept identifying connections and disconnections in life. Here are some examples:
We live in an AGRICULTURAL town, yet when the pandemic hit there were food shortages - healthy & fresh options alike
Schools have begun to take away fine arts programs and other activities like music ???
Screen time - suicide rates - kids not being outside - kids not knowing how to handle boredom - all while having three kids!
Packing life into four walls, be it work, school, day care, or any other boxed establishment
The cost of college tuition and DEMAND for education in the workforce
Undervaluing people for profit
Nonprofits: many are designed to enable and addict the “swamp” as so many like to call it. Many Nonprofits funnel government dollars to the wealthy and their families, and oftentimes are designed for “legal” tax evasion - that is the PURPOSE they design some NPO's for!!!
The lack of concern for our planet
Shortages within the small farming industry
Big Agriculture - lobbyists
UGH! This is a short list of issues we were trying to cultivate solutions for in establishing our own nonprofit.
Personally, I have grown to learn that it is a time suck trying to expel energy out and up. In my opinion, energy is best spent inward and down. Meaning I believe that the best way to cultivate change is through thy self and by example. Ryan and I also both believe that nothing is singular - aint that some fun hippie dippie shit! If nothing is singular then everything is connected.
These lists & philosophies helped build the Mission & Vision for Nonprofit Gardens which is according to the IRS:
Nonprofit Gardens aims to build future agricultural leaders of the world, by providing hands-on experience in: organic gardening, a full spectrum of business operations, board participation, and community activism and advocacy; that in turn will produce monetary grants for their higher education.
To become the example within the student agricultural education & leadership nonprofit sector by providing experience, exposure, education, and economic incentives to our students.
Correct, we said according to the IRS! Once we knew this was going to be a forever thing for us, our farm, our girls, and how to navigate this dream with keeping our for-profit Gerken’s Organics farm, we filed for our 501 c 3 exemption on August 4th, 2020. We were expecting two things to happen: 1. A "more information please" letter, demanding we further explain what it is we want to do 2. For it to take a really long time to bring to fruition. Neither came, and on September 26th, 2020 we were granted our exemption giving us the green light to keep this dream moving forward.
So what exactly are we trying to do?
Ryan and I hope to find a cohort of high-school students who are interested in organic, sustainable, and regenerative farming coupled with a desire to learn the business aspects of farming and the demands of living in the real-world; All with the benefit of profiting off their own hard work and merit. Our students will work in the garden, they will decide how they want to use the fruits and labors of the garden to make a profit, they will execute that plan, they will sit on the board with advisory council of course, and they will financially benefit from their efforts to support their higher-education goals.
Why because kids need to feel nature, boredom and wonder; they need to know how to feed themselves off their own backyard, they need to be able to make business decisions, value their time and themselves, be paid and not profited off of for their work, and to be able to afford their education to protect their mental health; ensuring they are financial contributors to their communities and not indebted to a system and society that was carefully constructed to keep them forever in debt, paying someone else's' bills & salaries, and ignorant about it all.
AND oh yea, to educate them on the importance of sustaining the planet because it sustains us all.
It’s a tall order we know, but what fun is living life in a state of indifference?
Be Kind. Be Positive.