In west Michigan, coronavirus shutdowns began about six weeks ago. Like most of the country, we were surprised by how quickly life changed. But as a farm, we kept going.Our food supply chain is direct to consumer. What we grow at Plainsong Farm gets provided to human beings (not aggregators) and eaten within a twenty mile radius. We knew our food mattered for those who could afford to buy a CSA share - and for those who would receive produce as a donation sponsored by our Regenerator Members. Our 2020 food donation partners - North Kent Connect and the Grand Rapids Community College Food Pantry - would pass on any food we could give to their clients and students.As 2020 began, we were excited to run the second year of our young adult fellowship program. We were excited to run onsite environmental education with our existing partners. We were looking forward to new programs too: Families on the Farm, a Growers Series, and more. We expected 2020 to be a year to grow our onsite group-based programs.As the implications of coronavirus became clear, all our onsite group programs were cancelled. Soon it became clear that we couldn't rely on any kind of group-based education. Even outdoors. Even in July. It was too important to keep Mike, our Farm Manager and Farm-Based Educator, healthy. Otherwise, we couldn't guarantee a farm season for anyone.But even as all this became clear, other things became clear too. All of a sudden, everybody was interested in food supply chain issues. The lack of resilience in our food system was obvious as some farmers dumped milk and grocery shelves went bare. I started getting on a weekly food access call coordinated by Kent County's Essential Needs Task Force. I also started receiving calls and emails from church people who were newly interested in church gardens.All this happened just at the same time Mike was planning to plant seedlings.Over the past six weeks, Plainsong Farm has executed a pivot to begin programs: programs that can happen offsite, using education we provide online. Today we can announce the first of these programs: Good News Gardens, a partnership with the Episcopal Dioceses of Western and Eastern Michigan.
Through this program, we will distribute 25 "Good News Garden Packs" of seedlings to churches across the state of Michigan. Each "Good News Garden Pack" will have 18 seeds and seedlings to grow approximately a 75 square foot vegetable garden. We'll then provide garden education and religious education to these congregations, helping them make immersive connections between their members, the soil, and Scripture. Churches will donate produce to support a healthy food supply to their local community, and they will grow as gardeners. We see this very much as a pilot program. Mike and I are already more excited about how it will look in 2021 - simply because in 2021, we anticipate being able to plan for it!We have a few other initiatives underway that we believe will assist our local community (regardless of religion) and the wider Christian food movement at this time. None of them are quite ready to be announced yet. But we will keep you posted!If you see a way that the farm can be of service, we hope you will let us know. We recently updated our Contact page with a new phone number and email address. Thanks to Katharine our Administrative Assistant for being the first responder for all inquiries! We look forward to connecting online and look forward to the day when we can all be at the farm together again.