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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.

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

The Bigger Picture

I’ve only been working as Volunteer Coordinator at Left Foot Organics for a month, and since I came aboard at the busiest time of year amidst personnel and administrative changes, it has been a bit hectic keeping up with volunteer groups that were already on the calendar, taking over the social media management and mastering a pretty steep learning curve. So to better understand the big picture of how the farm operates, and more specifically how volunteers fit into that picture, I rolled up my sleeves and dug into last year’s statistics. I will confess, I am more comfortable digging into a row of cabbage or squash, but I will have plenty of opportunities for that in the coming weeks.

I have learned that Left Foot Organics hosts a variety of community groups and organizations each year as well as the multitude of  individuals who come to help in the fields while learning about organic farming procedures and making a direct connection with their food supplier. Together with our Growers and youth Growing Partners, volunteers fill out our workforce to ensure that our crops are seeded, transplanted, weeded, side-dressed, and harvested to bring our certified organic produce to our CSA shareholders, two farmers markets, and to the Thurston County Food Bank each week.

Did you know that in 2011:

  • Volunteers provided nearly half of our farm labor and close to one third of our total labor force
  • Volunteers donated over 5200 hours of work to LFO
  • More than 500 adults with and without disabilities volunteered at LFO
  • Nine adults with developmental disabilities worked over 3,400 paid hours
  • LFO employed six youth from rural Thurston County
  • Nearly 200 youth under age 18 volunteered at LFO
  • 28 youth from the Criminal Justice System fulfilled Community Service hours at LFO

It looks like we are on track this year to meet or exceed last year’s volunteer numbers. In the month I have been here we have hosted a dozen individuals as well as the following groups:

Growing Places Farm and Energy Park

GRuB Cultivating Youth Participants


YMCA Farm to Table Youth Camp

Whether you came for a single morning or a full week, whether you came on your own or with a group, whether you weeded a crop or helped with an event, we would like to thank each and every individual who made the effort and contributed to our success. We truly cannot do it without your help!

by Sky Myers, Volunteer Program Coordinator

2012 Annual Plant Sale this Weekend!

Left Foot Organics is holding its Annual Mother’s Day Plant Sale Saturday, May 12th from 10am to 3pm.  You don’t want to miss this opportunity to purchase all your vegetable and herb starts.  We also have a small selection of Native plants available for purchase.

Buying from Left Foot helps support our program to create jobs and teach employment skills to developmentally disable adults and rural youth.  Come to the farm on Saturday to meet our employees and find the perfect Mother’s Day gift.  Go to our website to see our flyer.

See you Saturday!!

Left Foot Lends a Hand to Nisqually Tribe’s Garden

Left Foot and NIsqually Farm Crews

Left Foot at Nisqually Gardens

Left Foot Organics crew participated in their first “Crew Exchange” event last August.  Growers and Growing Partners, along with Left Foot Staff,  spent a day working in the fields at the Nisqually Gardens.  This event gave them the opportunity to see another garden with similarities to their work site and a chance to see something “new and different,” as Glenn (former LFO Grower) would say.  Left Foot Growers contributed their experienced hands to weeding thimbleberries and strawberries and received a tour from Carlin and Caitlin, the co-managers.  They saw Nisqually employees weeding weeds similar to those that we have on the farm and LFO crew members were able to apply their skills and knowledge to provide a service at Nisqually gardens.

In the vegetable garden, they could identify many of the crops growing — peas, beets, carrots, tomatoes, potatoes — because they help weed and harvest them at Left Foot.  Touring the medicinal plant garden, they learned about other uses of plants besides just eating them.  Michael, a grower, experienced it first-hand when he was bit by a mosquito.  Grace, a tribal member and garden employee, had him apply wormwood and a poultice of English plantain to his cheek to relieve the itching, and it worked.  Carlin described other activities the garden provides, such as making plant medicine and preserving food, which really interested Meru, another one of our growers.

Left Foot employees experienced appreciation and acknowledgment for their work as Carlin gifted each of each them with a tote bag.  Left Foot brought some plants to give to their garden, too.  Left Foot employees appreciated the opportunity to visit and experience a culture different from their own but one that has shared values of respect and inclusion.  Nisqually crew members came to Left Foot Organics on August 25th to complete the work exchange.

Historical Reference  Farm Manager, Lydia Beth, worked for the tribe as a gardener before coming to Left Foot, growing food and native plants for the community under a two-year USDA grant.  Unfortunately, the project ended with the funding.  The tribal garden has since been reestablished on an old farm overlooking the Nisqually delta owned by the tribe.  This skwda?deb (Lushootseed for “gathering place”) provides employment for tribal members, distributes fresh food to the community, and creates a space for all people to garden and gather together.  Elders, families, work-release prisoners, and school groups all help to grow food and traditional medicinal plants at the garden.

Now Hiring at Left Foot Organics!!

Are you ready for a truly meaningful job?

Are you ready to be a positive role model for an employee?

Are you ready to work outside every day you go to work?

If you answer yes to all or any of these questions, you are ready to work at Left Foot Organics.  We are looking for two individuals to fill critical roles on the farm; Production Assistant and Crew Leader.  Both of these positions work directly with and in a leadership capacity with our growers, growing partners and volunteers.  Position descriptions and applications are available at our website.  Come join us!  It is a great place to be!!!