Ghostwood Farm


The pitch.
May 12, 2017, 10:36 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Ghostwood Farm LLC was founded in 2012. We are a small vegetable, fruit, and poultry farm, with one acre in production (and plans to expand to about 2 ½ acres, including an orchard, in the near future). Our one production acre is within a 6’ high electrified fence to exclude deer. Currently, we have two asparagus beds (500 plants) and a 24’x 96’ bed of strawberries. We also have 17 annual beds, each of which is 8’x100’. One of these is being converted to a perennial wildflower and herb bed to attract pollinators, with plans to convert an additional bed to perennials next year. We also have a poultry house in a converted horse stable. The birds are outside on pasture frequently, though not as frequently as we would like due to predator problems.

Just as important to us as our production area, we have about 20 acres of fairly rugged woods and an 8 acre prairie planting that is in a conservation easement. The prairie was designed to provide pollinator habitat in summer and songbird habitat throughout the year, including providing food over winter. Longer-term plans include incorporating an environmental education portion to our mission, focusing on how food production can be most wildlife-friendly.

Our draft articles of incorporation state that, “The specific purposes of the Corporation are to increase food security and independence in southern Indiana through 1) growing garden plants, fruits, vegetables, eggs, and poultry (hereafter “produce”) and providing these to residents of southern Indiana, and 2) cooperating and developing educational opportunities. Both will be primarily and whenever possible distributed through cooperation with other local nonprofit agencies. The Corporation will be funded through grants, donations, and sales of produce (both regular price and sliding-scale) through on-farm and farmer’s market sales.”

We are pursuing 501(c)(3) status because we want to use the farm to help our community. Over the past few years, we have been donating more and more to local food banks (Hoosier Hills Food Bank and Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard). This year, we will have donated over 1200 plant starts to MHC to distribute to their clients to put in their own gardens, and last year we donated nearly 900 pounds of fresh produce to HHFB (our goal this year is one ton). We are intentionally planting produce this year that HHFB has requested as most useful to them and most needed by their clients.

We plan to distribute food primarily through HHFB. They serve Monroe and surrounding counties. We will also be actively searching for partnerships within Lawrence County for food distribution, since our farm is located in Lawrence County and we feel it is an underserved community. We want to work with HHFB in part because their distribution network includes Lawrence County. Consultation with HHFB’s leadership indicates that a partnership in our county could be mutually beneficial. However, we are also open to partnerships in other parts of southern Indiana as we are able to expand our offerings. No formal agreements are in place yet. However, we are in frequent communication with both MHC and HHFB as we develop our mission statement and bylaws. Our plans are to use the distribution networks of these established organizations to reach the most people effectively. We plan to reach out to Lawrence County providers (food banks, primarily) to determine whether other collaborative opportunities exist.

We find that, so far, we have not been able to make any money through the farm. However, we believe that a relatively small influx of capital (>$30,000), raised through donations and grants, can help us build infrastructure that will allow the farm to be far more productive. These improvements would include an orchard (with deer fencing), weed eradication, adding brambles and grapes to our fruit plantings, high tunnels, raising some of the beds, amending soil, an irrigation system, and reducing predation losses through better fencing for the poultry while on pasture. This would not only improve productivity in terms of quantity and quality, it would also extend the season during which we can grow and make production more predictable, opening a potential opportunity for starting a community supported agriculture (CSA) program in the future.

Additional, medium-term future plans include integrating gardening education into our mission to help families learn to grow their own food. We hope to cooperate in this with established organizations, such as MHC, who already offer such opportunities in Monroe County. We would like to incorporate what there is to learn from their experiences and help to “recruit” new gardeners in our area.

We do not currently have any employees (and have no plans for any). Compensation for the executive director in the short term would be limited to produce, with a longer-term goal (~10 years) of developing enough income for the farm that the ED could take a salary to work for the non-profit full-time. An additional benefit of achieving 501(c)(3) status is that it would open up a pool of volunteers within the Bloomington (and hopefully Lawrence County) community who could be available for short-term assistance (one-day projects, for instance).

We have applied to the Indiana University Nonprofit Legal Clinic for pro bono assistance with the application process. We are now awaiting an appointment to speak with them, which should be forthcoming shortly. Their assistance would be invaluable with filing for our status. In addition, we are hoping for some advice on how to handle some potential complications. The most important one is that the land used for the farm is our personal home, so determining how legally to lease, rent, or loan the land (and all the equipment) to the new nonprofit will be critical.

In terms of the Board, what we really need are members with experience getting a nonprofit through those first few hurdles who are willing to respect the ED’s vision of what the farm should be. I am considering whether the initial Board members should be limited to terms of less than one year, with evaluation and reconsideration once we achieve legal status. At that time, the Board would likely be reorganized to include members with fundraising experience and a passion for alleviating food insecurity. This will not be a large budget operation, at least in the short to medium term, but someone with accounting experience (and credentials) would be extremely helpful in bringing the ED up to speed with what is required on that front.

We sincerely appreciate your interest in our project and gratefully welcome any comments, suggestions, or questions you may have. Thank you.

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