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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.

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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.

 

 

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Why “Left Foot” Organics?


I am often asked why our farm is called Left Foot Organics, so I thought I would take a moment to relay the story here.  When the farm was founded in 2001, the name Left Foot was adopted from an inspirational film made in 1989 by the talented  director, Jim Sheridan and starred the brilliant young actor, Daniel Day Lewis. My Left Foot is the true story of Christy Brown, a child with crippling cerebral palsy born into a poor Irish family.  Christy is able to move only his left foot and speaks in nearly unintelligible, guttural sounds. His mother, recognizing her son’s intelligence, helps Christy to master basic physical activities and educates him. Christy eventually develops into a brilliant painter and author using only his left foot to write and paint. There is an especially touching scene in which the neighborhood kids are playing a game of football (soccer), and they bring Christy out to participate in the game and kick the ball. It was this scene, as the story goes, that inspired our founder to name the farm Left Foot Organics in the spirit of inclusion.

Inclusion is an important part of our mission; we hire individuals with developmental disabilities and offer them meaningful, paid, year round employment. These employees are referred to as Growers here on the farm and they are an integral part of our workforce.  In addition to our paid Growers, Left Foot also serves individuals with disabilities from our community in other ways. We partner with organizations such as Morningside to offer a variety of volunteer experiences for people with disabilities. Lannes Frazier is one  such individual. Lannes was raised on a farm and had a strong desire to work in a farm environment. Lannes comes out every week with an aide and assists with preparing our eggs for sale and does some cleaning in our farm kitchen. Lannes, who volunteers with two other organizations as well, told me he absolutely loves to come to the farm and work around the chickens. Lannes has been volunteering with us for over a year now, and we certainly enjoy his smiling face and enthusiasm.


Another way we impact individuals with disabilities is by offering educational opportunities through our partnership with the Thurston County Parks and Recreation’s Specialized Recreation Program. Last week we hosted a group of seven individuals who came out to learn about organic farming practices and our employment program. The group toured the farm learning about chicken care, composting, and starting, transplanting and weeding crops. Joe Hocker, one of our experienced Growers, discussed his job duties and answered questions. Participants then went into the fields to harvest three varieties of beans, zucchini and to dig up a some red potatoes. We then prepared a farm fresh meal from their harvest and shared lunch outdoors. Everybody received a lovely bouquet of flowers to take home with them.

Though we can only hire a limited number of Growers, through programs like these we are able to impact a greater number of individuals with disabilities. We believe it is crucial to emphasize the value of local, organic food while demonstrating a work environment that is truly inclusive, but we cannot do it without the greater support from our community.  How can you support our program?  We always need volunteers to work with us, and we also take cash and in kind donations. Call the farm for more information (360)754.1849

And stay tuned for details on our upcoming Fun Farm Formal on September 29th; we would love to include you among our supporters! Until then, keep eating your veggies!

by Sky Myers, Volunteer Program Coordinator

We Love Volunteers!


We can never get enough of them!  Left Foot relies on the work of dedicated volunteers to supplement the work of our growers.  An estimated 45% of the work done on the farm is completed by faithful,  generous community members who want to support the mission and vision of Left Foot.  Please gather your family and friends and come to the farm to roll up your sleeves and get dirty.  It is fun and you will be glad you did it!  We will be too.

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.

Left Foot says Good-Bye to a True Farm Ambassador


 
 
 
 
 

Glenn and Ann with a photo collage of Glenn's career at Left Foot

March 25, 2010 was a remarkable day at Left Foot Organics,  the day we said good-bye to our friend, Glenn, who had been a grower at LFO since 2003. Ask any previous employee and almost any volunteer to identify one of our Growers that helped them understand the essence of our work here together on the farm, and Glenn’s name is bound to be front and center.   What makes Glenn so special? No one, and I mean no one on the farm does a better job of introducing himself to new people than Glenn does. Quick with a “Hello, Madam, my name is Glenn. Have I seen you here before?”, he taught us all about the importance of feeling included.

Without Glenn none of us would be as informed on the virtues of GMC pickups, the Seattle Seahawks, John Candy movies or music from Brittney Spears and Pink Floyd.  Without Glenn we would not have invented Rutabaga Bowling on the farm or would not have played Pin the Tail on the Donkey together as we did for his birthday in January.  Glenn was a popular Left Foot representative at the Governor’s mansion, at our stops on the compost run and in various other community activities where he was greeted warmly.

Glenn with his Mt. Rainier Goodbye/Birthday Celebration Cake

He is already so missed here at the farm. We do take comfort in quoting “Glen-isms” to one another, like calling each other Madam and Fellow and by reminding each other to “have a positive attitude.” 

 
 
 
 

Looking sharp in his new hat, Glenn wanted everyone to know that if he had a real life groundhog's day - he would spend it working at Left Foot Organics again!

 

It’s true: Glenn changed us. We are all better people for having known Glenn. We’ll be anxious to keep up with him in his new life in Idaho (“something new and different,”  he would say) and we’ll look forward to having a visit from him in the months to come.   Thanks for being you, Glenn.  You helped make this a better world for all of us.