When The FruitGuys Community Fund started its national sustainable grant program in 2012, JSM Organics was just the type of farm the organization was looking for.
JSM Organics of Aromas was one of 15 small farms and agriculture nonprofits among the 2019 award recipients across 12 states. This year, The FruitGuys Community Fund awarded a total of $53,500 in funding. It provides small grants of up to $5,000 to small farms and agriculture-based nonprofits for sustainability projects with large impacts on the environment, local food systems and farm diversity.
At 60 acres, JSM Organics not only uses sustainable practices to grow organic produce and flowers, but also gives back to the community and supports others who aspire to one day own a farm.
JSM Organics owner Javier Zamora said the grant proposal was written by two of the three employees he is mentoring—they also get to farm a half-acre of his land for free.
“When they first applied I thought ‘wow that’s excellent’ because they did the research themselves and I thought ‘I hope you get it because you are doing beautiful things,’” Zamora said. “Anytime when someone or one of my employees has gone through a training program I try to support them and give them mentoring on how to try to meet their goals.”
Zamora said the grant funds will go toward teaching his three proteges how to incorporate new sustainable practices. For this the group will purchase beekeeping equipment, beneficial seed mix, a pyro-weeder, a quick-cut greens harvester and a low-energy greens dryer.
“At this time I am in a position to help them to be part of their dream. I don’t look at the economic value the land has, but the moral value it has for these people.”
This collaborative viewpoint and desire to give back is only one reason JSM Organics was selected for this award. According to The FruitGuys GoodWorks Ambassador Sheila Cassani, when selecting award recipients among the 300 plus applicants, JSM Organics stood out not only for their commitment to helping others, but also because of their location.
“Every year we think about new regional impacts, where are our grants funded, have we funded farms in that region before?” Cassani said. “We also looked at food security in low income communities and JSM works and does education with low income families, and they do some donations with a program that does a mobile market that provides low income residents in Palo Alto with affordable organic produce on a weekly basis.”
Cassani said FruitGuys wanted to ensure that minority groups where among the award recipients this year.
“We also look at other impact stats such as whether they are serving underrepresented populations, or in this instance if their ownership is from underrepresented groups. Javier and JSM are minority owned so that was an important impact we wanted to have with our grantee class this year,” she said.
The goal of The FruitGuys Community Fund is to help small farms thrive while creating a high quality product for their local community, Cassani said.
“Our tagline is ‘small farms, big impacts,’” she said. “If we can increase small farms by investing in their success then we are able to build a strong local food system that values the health of the land, the surrounding community and the farmer.”