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Lehigh County votes to let CACLV nurture financially struggling Seed Farm, county’s future farmers

Lehigh County commissioners believe their new partnership with the Community Action Committee of Lehigh Valley will help grow farmers for years into the future. Unanimous in their support of a deal, commissioners voted 9-0 to lease The Seed Farm, a 43-acre plot on Vera Cruz Road in Upper and Lower Milford townships, to the nonprofit.CACLV will organize, support and maintain The Seed Farm, which educates future farmers and will also contribute crops to the Second Harvest Food Bank, the region’s largest food pantry. “I think this is a relationship where there is a potential for more food to be grown in Lehigh County and the [potential for] that food to be consumed by residents in Lehigh County is better than if this relationship didn’t exist,” Commissioner Geoff Brace said.Commissioner Marc Grammes said he was part of a group that built 24 raised garden beds last weekend for Second Harvest, the CACLV-run organization that provides food to the needy across six counties.“[This partnership is] an opportunity to provide food to people in need,” Grammes said. ” … That’s what inspires me the most. The problem doesn’t end or begin here, it’s a problem that we need to address.”Lehigh County launched the Seed Farm in 2009 but the farm struggled financially as other companies and organizations started their own apprenticeship programs. The county provides about $10,000 for the program’s $125,000 budget and is unwilling to contribute more, General Services Director Rick Molchany previously said. The lease, which is costing CACLV $1 per year, is set to begin July 1 and run for five years.CACLV, which was approached last summer to take over the initiative, will expand the Seed Farm’s training programs for young farmers, including those from urban settings. Molchany said there’s plenty of opportunity: Lehigh County is fifth in the state with nearly 25,000 acres of preserved farmland.“We’ve noticed farmers having family members [who are] not willing to go into the farming business,” Molchany said. ” … We need farmers to farm the land we preserved so our Seed Farm gives an opportunity to Lehigh County residents to take advantage of learning the skills it takes to be a farmer in the 21st century.“What’s very enlightening to me is that the CACLV is committed and they have financial resources to get out into the urban areas and bring potential urban residents into agriculture. … The CACLV can assist us to get to those people in the community that we haven’t reached in the past,” he said. Grammes, who said he was particularly interested in involving county youth, commended Jessica Dokachev, the director of Second Harvest Food Bank, for reaching out to Future Farmers of America about the initiative.CACLV Executive Director Alan Jennings stated previously that his organization could more efficiently run the program than the county because it already had a large team dedicated to fundraising efforts, which will allow staff to focus on running the Seed Farm rather than diverging their attention between operations and fundraising.“The Seem Seed Farm, as a nonprofit struggled … they could barely make it hand-to-mouth,” Molchany said. “This will give them the financial stability to go out and do things with other organizations.”Gabriela L. Laracca is a freelance writer for The Morning Call.
Source: Morningcall

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