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Left Foot Is Closing But Our Mission Lives On!

When Ann Vandemann founded Left Foot Organics in 2001, nobody knew how many lives would be changed or how many seasons the farm would weather.  Over the past twelve years Left Foot has grown from season to season to meet the needs of our customers and community. Our employment program for the disabled was the hallmark of our farm and together with our training program for youth, individuals learned job skills and farming while being paid.  Furthermore, our interaction with the community via volunteer opportunities, market sales and our CSA program, made Left Foot a much-loved organization. And so it is with great regret that the board and staff must now announce the closing of Left Foot Organics as of February 2013.


Farm Manager, Lydia-Beth (right) and community members from Temple Beth Hatfiloh show off the last winter squash harvest.

These are difficult times for many small nonprofits across the country; an ever increasing demand on a shrinking base of philanthropic gifts has caused funding shortages for many organizations.

Although farm production and sales flourished, it wasn’t enough to fund our social programs which require substantial staff and facilities as compared with a for-profit farm.  In addition, much of our equipment and buildings need extensive repair.  LFO simply does not have the capital to meet these and other financial obligations this year.

The Left Foot staff wish to express our collective gratitude to every individual who donated money, resources or time to help fulfill our mission. Left Foot has always enjoyed strong community support.  Over the years, literally thousands of individuals worked side by side with people with developmental disabilities or purchased the produce they grew. Together we learned the importance of sustainable and organic farming in an inclusive environment where everybody was valued. In keeping with the spirit of the organization, we hope that you will carry our mission of inclusion into your own lives.  We encourage you to continue your support of local, organic farming by joining another CSA, buying organic produce and shopping at farmer’s markets.  Although left Foot Organics is closing, it will remain in the hearts of those who worked our fields and shared our vision.  We did a lot of work with a lot of love these past twelve years, but everything must come to an end at some time.  And so Left Foot closes the same way it opened: with gratitude and respect!

Me too

 Hidden in every ending is a new beginning.




Saga of the Left Foot Felines

As 2012 comes to a close, we are buttoning up the farm for the winter holiday and a much deserved week off for our dedicated farmers and staff. Farm Manager, Lydia Beth and her crew have done a fantastic job of harvesting and getting our winter vegetables to our CSA members and market customers. If you are member you know what I am talking about!

As Volunteer Coordinator, my usual duties have been winding down this past month except for one special side project I have taken on: the Left Foot Feline Project. All summer we saw feral cats around the farm, and we noticed a considerable decrease in mice and other pests as a result. Then in late September we discovered that one of the cats had become a mother. We talked over the problem and I volunteered to take on the task of capturing the adult cats and taming the kittens. With the help of Feline Friends of Olympia we were able to get all three adults and all three kittens altered to stop the cycle of procreation. Steamboat Animal Hospital performed the surgeries, and Feline Friends generously picked up the tab. They even loaned us a kitty condo to hold the kittens in until adopted. Jo and the other volunteers at FF do so much good work for the stray and abused kitties, I urge you to support their program in anyway you can. It turned out that the mother cat was the only female and all five others were her male kittens from two separate litters.  Only the mother cat needed extra recovery time. Another local nonprofit organization, Covenant Creatures*, stepped in to pay for the extra boarding.


The three little ones: Saddlebag, Kazoo and Lefty!

After much discussion with experts and online research, I learned that adult feral cats are nearly impossible to tame enough for adoption into homes. Consequently Mama and her two adult sons have been  released on the farm to live out their lives as mousers.  Having been spayed and neutered, they have a better chance of staying healthy, avoiding fights, and living a better life overall.

Super Mama recovered just fine from her spaying surgery.

Super Mama recovered just fine from her spaying surgery.

The kittens were a different story.  At only two months or so, they were taming up quite well, so I knew they would eventually adapt to indoor life.  By the time I got them in to the clinic for neutering they all accepted petting, had stopped hissing, and were quite curious about people. Technicians at the clinic fell in love with two of the kittens and adopted them on the spot.  The third little fella, whom I call Lefty, has not yet found his forever home. I believe he is about three months old now. He allows petting but is still half wild; he accepts petting, but not being picked up.  I am working on getting him better socialized with daily handling. I have a small sturdy cage for him and carrier as well. Both will go with him to help transition him from outdoor to indoor life. Lefty will need to get his shots, but has been treated for ear mites and fleas. He is healthy and uses his litter-box.  He is not suitable for a home with young children and may take a month or more to adjust. If you or anybody you know, can adopt this little sweetie and give him the attention he needs to gain trust and continue his journey to domestication, please contact me at 425-345-7913 or volunteer@leftfootorganics.org.

I’m Lefty, and I need a warm, safe, forever home.
Can you help?

* Covenant Creatures has recently lost their space and are seeking a new place for their organization. If you have a lead on a warehouse or shop that might be suitable for their operations please contact them at: 360.357.6301  or  covenantcreatures@vircom.net.

A New Way to Feed the Hungry

Left Foot offers a new way to eliminate hunger in our community!

CWU student intern, George Nigro, shows off a weekly CSA share.

We realize that some of our market and co-op customers are not aware of our nonprofit status or the social programs we offer; they simply love our exceptional produce. Others support Left Foot because of our mission to provide employment for people with intellectual disabilities and for local youth. What most people may not be aware of is that Left Foot is also dedicated to bringing quality organic produce to the needy and ending hunger in our community. We have been a contributor to the Thurston County Food Bank for many years and donate produce each week. There are, however, thousands of senior citizens who live rurally or are homebound. Left Foot’s newest community partner, Senior Services for South Sound addresses this need through the Senior Nutrition Program (SNP) which provides over 80,000 nutritious meals to 2,400 seniors each year in Thurston County alone.

Seniors are too often undervalued in our society and, during the winter months especially, can feel isolated. SNP brings much needed social interaction as well as nutritious meals to those who may be lonely and in need. For some individuals, their Meals on Wheels (MOW) volunteer driver is the only person that they will see for that day or week.

While the SNP budget allows only $1.40 per meal, making it nearly impossible to purchase all of their produce locally and organically, they continually seek new ways to support local farmers while serving the highest quality food to seniors. Enter Left Foot Organics!  We have already begun building a partnership with SNP by offering fresh organic produce at reduced prices, but we would like to do much more. This is where YOU come in. We are asking our community of LFO supporters to consider purchasing a CSA share to donate to the Senior Nutrition Program. Our goal is to subsidize our remaining ten CSA shares for local seniors in need.

Our dedicated crew, work rain or shine to bring top quality veggies to our community.

This is the time of year where many of us pause to count the blessings in our lives, open our hearts a little wider, and find opportunities to give back to our community in a meaningful way. If you are unable to donate a full or half share, consider making a one-time (or monthly) contribution to help offset SNP’s purchase of our produce.  Contact us at the farm (360- 754-1849)  to pledge your support to end hunger in our community. Or visit the Left Foot Organics web page to donate online. Help us to help those who need it most. No gift is to great or too small; together we can make a difference!

About Senior Services for South Sound

Friends enjoy an SNP meal and some social time at the Olympia Senior Center.

Senior Services for South Sound is a private, tax-exempt corporation governed by a volunteer board. Established in 1973, the Agency provides comprehensive services to seniors and disabled adults in Thurston and Mason County. Their mission is to celebrate the lives of older adults and their families by providing an array of services that help seniors remain vital and independent in the community.

The Meals on Wheels program provides frail, homebound seniors with 5-7 nutritious meals each week. In 2011 MOW served 42,350 meals to 327 seniors in Thurston County. Our MOW volunteers often take the time to visit with seniors and will report suspected abuse, neglect or self-endangerment to APS as appropriate. On more than one occasion, drivers have found a senior in distress and have called “911” on their behalf, hence saving that person’s life.

The congregate (on-site) meal program provides seniors the opportunity to socialize and share a nutritious meal in a welcoming setting at six locations. Meals are available to anyone 60 years of age or older for a suggested donation of $3-$6. Last year 38,237 congregate meals fed 1,949 clients in Thurston County.

MOW and the congregate meals program help ensure that disabled, frail and  homebound seniors have the nutrition needed to sustain their health. All menus and special diets are planned by a Registered Dietitian and all clients have the opportunity to receive nutritional consultation as needed
For more information about Senior Services for South Sound and to find out how you can get involved, visit their website today!






Attitude of Gratitude

You are invited to an Interfaith Thanksgiving Celebration

Join us in celebrating this Thanksgiving season with those who value our commitment to creating an inclusive community.  As you know,  inclusion is a cornerstone of Left Foot’s mission, and because Interfaith Works shares this vision for our community, they have invited us to participate in the 29th Annual Thanksgiving celebration. The event will feature local music, poetry and speakers from many faiths. We are grateful for the opportunity to participate in this event where our Executive Director, Victoria Wortberg, will discuss our mission and goals to broaden community involvement in the future.  You will have a chance to demonstrate support for both organizations with a gift contribution to be split between Left Foot and Interfaith Works. Please consider joining us this Sunday to meet your neighbors and demonstrate your commitment to creating lasting social change through compassion and cooperation .

Attitude of Gratitude

The 29th Annual Community Interfaith Thanksgiving

Sunday, November 18th, 3:00pm

Gloria Dei Lutheran Church

1515 Harrison Ave NW, Olympia

Click HERE for more information!

Winter CSA? You bet!

Left Foot Organics is pleased to announce our

2012 Winter CSA Program! 

Breezy with a late summer CSA box.

Like many small, sustainable farms across the country, our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Program plays a crucial role in our farm operations here at Left Foot Organics.  Here is how it works: first you buy a share of the farm’s harvest at the beginning of the season, then each week you receive a box of  produce throughout the fourteen week season.

Buying seasonal, locally-sourced produce is an excellent way to ensure that you are supporting your local economy.  Joining our CSA Program takes that concept one step further by forging a direct relationship between you and our farm without any middlemen. As a member you will receive a weekly newsletter keeping you informed of farm news, which crops are thriving and what you can expect in your box.  You’ll be a part of a community that recognizes the abilities of all people and shares the common values of eating healthily, encouraging local economies, and supporting responsible stewardship of the land.

It is true that there can be a risk associated with joining a CSA program because Mother Nature can influence production and sometimes a specific crop can fail. The reverse, however, is also true; when there is an abundance of healthy crops, your weekly box will reflect that. With warmer and milder than usual weather predicted for our region this winter, we are expecting an excellent growing season! Our Farm Manager, Lydia Beth,  plants a variety of crops and guarantees that you will receive between four and six different vegetables each week. What will you find in your Winter CSA box?

Here’s a sampling of crops we are planning for this season:

Beets         Brussels Sprouts          Cabbage

Celeriac          Chard           Collards          Garlic        

Kale          Leeks       Mustard Greens          Onions         

Parsnips          Potatoes            Rutabagas          Squash

Maybe you are already a Left Foot supporter, maybe you’ve been a member with another local farm and their season is winding down, or perhaps you’ve heard about CSA programs and wanted to give it a try, but are looking for a smaller commitment. Whatever your situation, we are sure you will be pleased with the many options we offer for our Winter CSA Program.

Ready to find out more? Check out our website www.leftfootorganics.org where you can purchase your membership online and download the nitty gritty details like dates and pick up locations.  We have only a limited number of shares available, so don’t delay.

Our Incredible Community!

What a remarkable community we live in! 

I am consistently delighted at the goodwill that flows from our community back to Left Foot Organics. Wherever I go, from tabling events to  coincidental meetings on the street, people know about Left Foot and express their appreciation for the good work we do and great food we grow, but nothing has illustrated this as strongly as the generosity demonstrated at our 7th Annual Fun Farm Formal. The event was held on September 29th, and was huge success.

Board President, Pat O’Neil shares a laugh with LFO Grower, Joe Hocker

This year’s event was planned and organized by a committed group of volunteers and Board Members who, in spite of a short planning period, set the bar high and met their mark to put together a successful event.  From gathering the more than eighty donated auction items from local businesses and individuals to procuring the salmon and gathering decorations, the Event Committee did an outstanding job.

What impressed me most though, was the warmth and support of our guests. These folks came out to demonstrate their ongoing commitment and to renew their bond with LFO.  We welcomed current and former employees,  their families, donors, CSA members, local politicians, representatives from other like minded organizations, farmers, artists and poets, each one making their contribution to ensure the future of Left Foot Organics is solid, stable and fertile.

The White sisters took a truckload of raw materials from the farm and transformed the place with bouquets in autumn colors.

The evening began with our proud LFO employees greeting guests as they arrived.

First stop: our  Farm stand where folks could buy an LFO tote bag and fill it up with their choice of vegies.

Grower, Richard Huffine , his brother Robert, and their Assistant, Chris Sullivan, arrived early and eagerly awaited for the event to get under way.

Live music set the tone for wine and appetizer hour.

Poet Sydney Barker created and read an original tribute to Left Foot that touched the very heart of the organization.

Guests check in on their bid in the final minutes of the silent auction.

Emcee extraordinaire, Gary Altman, conducted the live auction before dinner was served.

Sam Boesenberg takes the stage to tell his story and highlight the importance of the Growing Partner program.

Yes, of course, we raised much needed funds, but perhaps as importantly, we raised spirits and planted seeds for new relationships.  If any doubts existed about our future, they surely dissolved in the enthusiasm that filled the room as we listened to Victoria Wortberg, our new Executive Director, outline the path we would take toward achieving our mission and creating a fiscally sound future for our organization.  Finally, we heard from some of our employees who stepped up to the mic and spoke heartfelt testimonials about the impact LFO has had on their lives.

In closing, the entire staff would like to acknowledge and thank everyone who contributed and participated: LFO Board of Directors,  Spatichad Enterprises, US Foods, Northern Fish,  Olympia Federal Savings, Ellen Parks, Washington Federation of State Employees Local 443, and the entire Event Committee.  We’d also like to thank our Founder, Ann Vandeman, for having the vision and determination to create a farm where the contributions of people of all abilities are valued, where respect for the land is paramount, and where some of the finest organic vegetables in our region are grown. It is an honor to carry that vision forward.

 Ann Vandeman’s daughter, Geraldine, reminding us all why we do what we do!

by Sky Myers, Volunteer Program Coordinator

Volunteer Spotlight: Kye and Eva!

Left Foot Organics  would like a to introduce you to two very special individuals. Out of the 700 or so volunteers who generously offer their time and talents to Left Foot each year, there are many who make a commitment and become regulars at the farm. This season we have been blessed with several very dedicated volunteers who turn out  week after week, rain or shine, to work with us. Today I would like to take the opportunity to acknowledge two extraordinary Left Foot volunteers: Kye Bartsch and Eva Fitz.

Kye harvesting and bunching cilantro.

Kye Bartsch heard about us from a family member and started volunteering with us in June. Kye quickly distinguished himself as a reliable worker and great guy to have around. He was offered and decided to accept a position as a Work Share CSA member and began coming every Thursday to work in exchange for his weekly box of veggies.  Kye arrives bright and early each Thursday morning to harvest crops for our CSA shares  and works until 5:30 with our Farm Production Assistant, Breezy Medina. Kye is well known for his sense of humor; after long hours of picking green beans he has been known to have attacks of  “Bean Fever”  a condition causing hilarity and extreme silliness to ensue, but don’t  think that means he isn’t a hard worker! LFO Grower, Joe Hocker, had this to say about Kye, “He has an excellent work ethic and has been a good leader for me and other Growers. I enjoy working with him. Kye works hard.” Kye is quick with a smile and full of anecdotes and life stories. We are fortunate to have him and are thankful for his contribution.

Eva beneath the drying garlic.

There is no such thing as a typical Left Foot volunteer; they come from diverse backgrounds and with varying abilities. Take Eva Fitz, for example. Eva is a senior citizen who grew up in Germany and was trained in gardening there. She is a veteran volunteer who is deeply committed to giving back to her community. She has volunteered in Washington, D.C. working in greenhouses; in Bellingham, WA, grooming Service Dogs; and at Panorama City’s Convalescent Center.  Eva is incredibly fit and strong; when she isn’t volunteering at LFO she is off hiking in the mountains or having other adventures. Eva comes to the farm every Friday morning to work side by side with our Growers and Crew in the fields, offering both guidance and comaraderie. Eva told me she likes to come to Left Foot for the chance to work outside and to spend time with the friends she has made here. We value her for who she is, the work she does, and the richness she brings to our community farm.

To find out how you can become our next volunteer super star contact the Left Foot Volunteer Coordinator at 360.754.1849

by Sky Myers