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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.




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

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

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

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.

LFO Volunteer Spotlight

Meet Seth Miller, a loyal volunteer at Left Foot since early August 2011.  Seth faithfully rides his bicycle to the farm 4 days a week to work with our crew members.  He has also helped out with the Tumwater Farmers Market several times and tabled the Capital Campus Combined Fund Drive event for us this year.  His dedication and reliable donation of time has been invaluable this fall as we worked through the busy harvesting season.   Here are a few words from Seth about his volunteer experience  over the past few months:

“My wife and I moved to Tumwater at the end of June for her new job with the Tumwater School District.  We began shopping at the Tumwater Farmers Market where I found out about Left Foot and I began to follow the farm’s Facebook page.  When a call went out for volunteers for a Wednesday morning in early August I decided I could help out while I was still in the process of looking for a new job.  I’ve been out almost every weekday morning since to help out.

 One of my favorite things about volunteering at the farm is that there is always something new to learn.  Though I spent many of my morning’s only harvesting zucchini and beans this summer I have appreciated the opportunity to learn about the lifecycle of a farm.

Since I have spent so many mornings at the farm, I have been able to better get to know some of the growers.  I really appreciate that I am often asked how my wife is enjoying her job or about my bike ride to the farm.  It has made for a very welcoming and inclusive work environment.  I enjoy how a farm offers jobs of all varying ability levels.  Even though I only have minimal experience gardening, it seems like there is always something I can do to help out.”

Thank you, Seth for being such a good friend to the farm and wonderful role model for us all.  Your time and contributions are very much appreciated.

If you, or someone you know, is looking for a memorable and fulfilling volunteer experience call Jill, the Volunteer Coordinator at 754-1849 for more information.