Well, okay, we are a nonprofit, legally speaking. But, we don’t want the effect of our mission and model to follow the contours of our organization. We want what we’re doing to grow out into the world to become part of a new urban ecological revolution. Our hope is that our symbol, the double bars of liberty and compassion on a field of white, will be painted on the fenceposts of yards all over Rochester, Minnesota, and throughout America. Here are some of the principles that drive us, how we conceive of what we’re doing, what we believe about our Earth and what we believe about ourselves.
We believe that we derive our liberty from the same place that we derive our life, from the Earth itself. We have defined liberty traditionally as that which we are free to do without infringing on the freedom of another. This definition of freedom has ultimately partitioned our country into ever smaller and more parochial fiefdoms, parcels enclosed in layers and layers of private property law. Our custom as a people, in the meantime, has been to subdue and dominate the land, cordoning off the growth of all but a few idiosyncratic species of plants and grasses through the use of pesticides and herbicides. We can no longer afford to conceive of liberty as what we are free to do without impediment. Liberty must be defined by our relationship to the Earth. If we set the Earth free, we set ourselves free. When we begin to cooperate with the Earth, we set ourselves up against the system that currently disregards and disrespects her. We become revolutionaries.
It is for compassion that we are set free, not for personal gain. Our revolutionary gaze falls on the poorest and scarcest living beings in our ecosystem. We convert lawns into gardens because lawns are the most devastated part of our urban landscape. We grow good soil and healthy plants because our urban air and water is the poorest quality in our environment. And we reach the most food-insecure people in our city because they are the most in need. Compassion addresses the heart of scarcity with the best resources available, which is why we say, "The best for the poorest first."
In the democratic revolutions of the Western world, the common symbols were liberty, compassion (fraternity), and equality. As an organization that strives to create one urban ecosystem, we value equilibrium, which is a state in which all opposing forces are balanced. It is a standard of harmony, in which living organisms achieve resilience and vibrance without destroying the ecosystem. Our human economy in 21st century America seems designed to widen the chasm between people suffering from an extreme lack of resources and those who have amassed huge surpluses of wealth. Our Farm and Habitat program is designed to build a healthy natural ecosystem, but together with the Alliance, it is also designed to rectify imbalances in our human ecosystem. When an organism or a type of organism is deprived of the resources it needs in the natural world, the whole ecosystem is deprived. The same is true of a city of people.
Whatever we do, we do it as a corps of people who have voluntarily committed themselves to a movement for change, without regard for personal gain or profit. We do not consider that we have succeeded until there is no longer any waste or scarcity in our ecosystem, and we do not consider anyone incapable of being a salubrious actor within the ecosystem. Everyone has value, everyone matters.
We are committed to leaving the soil unturned, which allows the microorganisms in the soil to create healthy systems for soil health.
We never use chemical, synthetic pesticides or herbicides of any kind, and we are committed to educating our neighbors about the benefits of foregoing these products in their backyards.
Our goal as an organization is negative waste, which is a commitment that surpasses zero waste. We are committed to zero waste practices whenever we purchase new supplies and equipment, and we strive to remove as much organic and recyclable material from the waste stream as possible.
Our goal is to eliminate any current sources of organizational carbon by transitioning away from petrol-powered vehicles to electric-powered vehicles and renewable energy, and we do our best to make structural changes to our model that reduce the amount of petrol-powered vehicle trips that our staff and volunteers make. Through our Compost Commonwealth, we plan to create biochar, which sequesters large amounts of carbon, and our no-till practices ensure that we can mitigate our carbon emissions on the Farm.
We commit to a standard of delivery for our subscribers that includes a maximum of two "touches" of everything we harvest, from the time it is harvested until it is delivered to the subscriber. We also commit to delivering our produce within 24 hours of being harvested.
We commit to delivering the finest hyperlocal, organic, sustainable produce with the highest standards of safety and quality to the most food-insecure people in our community. We also fulfill our commitment to our food-insecure subscribers first before we give our produce to work share members or other food charity organizations.
The products of our Farm are never, under any circumstances, available for purchase, though we do offer our produce to work share members in compensation for a designated amount of annual labor and to stewards for the use of their land. If we have more produce than our subscribers, work share members, and stewards can handle, we donate our produce to organizations who can guarantee delivery to food-insecure people within the next 24 hours.
From time to time, we work with other organic farms and food and resource charities in the area. When we receive donations of produce from these partners, we do not accept food that has been harvested more than 72 hours earlier, that has been offered for sale during that time, or that has traveled more than fifty miles. We do this because we demand a consistent product for our subscribers. If they receive food that is not of the same quality as what we have provided from our Farm, we have compromised our standard. And if we accept food donations that are leftover, we cannot be sure of the consistency of that donation source (since different amounts are often leftover at a business every week).
Whenever possible, we commit to tailoring the produce we provide to the needs of our subscribers. This commitment extends to our Alliance, which is a demand-based service that strives to provide a subscriber household with exactly what they request.
We commit to a minimum wage that is livable, always at least 25% higher than the prevailing local median hourly wage for all our contract workers, and our highest paid worker will never make more than 50% of the lowest wage worker.
Join our volunteer labor union, getting your hands dirty on our farming collective or working behind the scenes to lead and organize.Volunteer
We need in-kind donations of soil, compost, hand tools, small-scale farming equipment, deer fencing, tarps, landscaping fabric, and running, serviceable vehicles (pickups and cargo vans). Consider making an in-kind donation today.Donate Tools
Become a donor-activist, either giving a recurring monthly donation and/or also developing a direct relationship with our food-insecure subscribers through the Alliance.Join
We are always looking for new backyards to convert into large-scale gardens. If you have a flat, sunny area of 600 square feet or larger within the city limits of Rochester that you would like us to consider as a farm plot, let us know.Apply
If you have an existing large-scale garden that you manage yourself and would like to donate excess produce, or you would like us to consider building a large-scale garden for you that you would plant and tend on your own (without the help of volunteers), consider becoming a Garden Partner.Apply
Our gardens need fencing to keep our pests, irrigation to keep our plants consistently watered, equipment and supplies for our volunteers, storage, rain barrels, compost bins, and safety equipment to meet the challenges of COVID-19. Consider a donation to support the building of a new farm plot, or create a fundraiser to enlist your friends, family, and/or coworkers to help.Donate
Rochester Area Foundation
Carl and Verna Schmidt Foundation