Philly Farm Bucks

1. Describe the project a STAKE Grant would help you accomplish (100 words):
We will pilot a fresh food voucher program called Philly Farm Bucks to
drive new customers to existing farmstands at four urban farms in West
Philadelphia. Farm Bucks will be distributed to new volunteers,
workshop participants, food cupboards, and through other social
networks in which the farms operate to encourage new customers to
visit the farmstand and purchase more local produce. Similar projects
have proven very successful in driving consumer behavior, but no one
to date has specifically tried to promote Philadelphia's diverse and
robust urban agriculture network through an alternative currency
program. The identified partner farms are Preston's Paradise, Mill
Creek Farm, Urban Tree Connection, and Walnut Hill Farm.

2. How will you use the grant toward the realization of your project?
$800 is your imaginary budget (50 words):

STAKE funding will be used to print the vouchers, and to offset the
loss of real income that will result from distributing the alternative
currency. $150 will be reserved for printing costs, including a
proprietary stamp that will help prevent duplication. The remaining
funds will be used to reimburse farmers for Philly Farm Bucks that
they may receive throughout the course of the season. The amount of
Farm Bucks printed will be determined by the amount of successful
fundraising, with a cap at $2000 for the first pilot season. Any
funds not redeemed for produce by the end of the season will be
divided equally among the 4 participating farms.

3. A little about yourself and what led you to your current creative
goals. This may include a previous project of yours, ways it both
succeeded and failed (this can be entirely unrelated to your proposal)
(100 words):

I have been farming and leading food sovereignty projects in
Philadelphia for over a decade, and most currently led the development
and implementation of the West Philadelphia Fresh Food Hub, a mobile
healthy corner store that visits senior centers and low-income
communities in West Philadelphia. I am committed to local
market-based solutions to poverty and its associated health
disparities, particularly focused on strengths-based analysis of
community assets. This project is a direct result of designing and
consulting with many small community-based farms that are unable to
differentiate their products from produce at a regular market. By
removing the financial risk for families with limited means to
purchase food directly from a producer, I hope to open up an
opportunity for dialogue that allows the case for fresh produce to be
made on a one-to-one basis. This project also aims to build economic
bridges between farm projects in adjacent neighborhoods to create
economies of scale that will increase sustainability.

4. Why is this project important? How will it benefit the community?
(100 words):

Urban farms in Philadelphia thrive despite difficult soil conditions,
obtrusive bureaucratic regulations, and often small (yet dedicated)
bases of support. There is ample scientific evidence of the benefits
of consuming fresh organic produce, yet consumers often have a
difficult time differentiating local produce from its supermarket
counterparts. However, in my experience, when given a chance to
engage directly with a producer and try a new product, consumers of
all income brackets are eager to purchase a higher quality product
produced in their community. Broader exposure offered by a voucher
system will allow these small farms to make their case directly to a
wider consumer base, and hopefully expand the fresh produce options
available in underserved neighborhoods. The Farm Bucks model
eliminates the risk to the consumer and the producer to test market
conditions and collaborate in building broad community consensus
around urban agriculture.