Source: Impact Northwest Arkansas
Working at Tri Cycle Farms means learning to expect the unexpected. Sometimes you skip what you had planned for the day to handle unanticipated issues or opportunities. Broken water lines, a gigantic delivery of food that must be processed and delivered to our partners today, or operational limits that require everyone in the office dropping their current projects to ensure they meet the deadline, are not uncommon in the day-to-day activities here.
Sometimes it means that we do what we had planned as well as what we didn’t.
Tuesday, June 19 was a day like that—a day we pulled together and did it all.
The original schedule for that Tuesday included a Yogardening event in the morning, a two-hour field trip with 40 kids in the afternoon and two hours of volunteer garden work in the evening. No big deal. Then Don had an unexpected opportunity to speak to incoming Freshmen at the University of Arkansas Business School and would not be able to lead the afternoon tasting tour and activities with the kids. No problem. Stacy, our volunteer coordinator, has plenty of experience with tasting tours and kids’ activities, but this would be her first time leading one without Don nearby. Fortunately, a few of the AmeriCorps NCCC members serving at Tri Cycle were able to assist.
Further, Don informed the staff late in the afternoon the day before that there would be a film crew on the property because one of our partners and friends, Omar Kasim of Juice Palm, is being featured on a PBS television show. How exciting! We expected the crew around four p.m. that day. Don anticipated returning to the farm in time to greet the crew and Omar. Again, no big deal. The field trip would be over by then and the staff would be available to welcome the crew and assist if Don was late.
Except that the crew showed up early—a half hour before the field trip was over and a couple hours before Don would return. We greeted Omar, met his parents and production crew, and hoped for the best.
As it turns out, the timing was brilliant.
A light breeze brought cooler, less-humid air and a smattering of graying clouds that filtered the harsh, early afternoon sunlight as the kids giggled and exclaimed excitedly when they found items they were looking for on their scavenger hunt in the garden.
While the videographers shot B-roll footage and the audio technician captured ambient sound in the garden, Omar and the director, Raisa Churina, told us a little more about the show and why they were shooting some of it at Tri Cycle Farms.
The program is called Start Up and is featured on PBS nationwide. Host Gary Bredow and the production team travel across the country talking to successful small business owners about their experiences starting their businesses from the ground up. All episodes from through the current ones in season five are available for viewing on the PBS website. They are also available for purchase on startup-usa.com and Amazon Prime.
Omar said that the production company was interested in the startup story of his first business, Con Quesos, a fusion taco restaurant on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. When the Start Up crew heard his Juice Palm story they wanted to include it, and Tri Cycle Farms, in the episode.
Juice Palm uses only USDA-certified organic ingredients and sustainable practices, one of which is composting the juice pulp. Someone recommended he contact Tri Cycle Farms about our compost program and a partnership was born. It was a natural fit. We began picking up 200 pounds of organic juice pulp weekly to add to our organic composting system in January of this year.
Because Omar, his parents and the Start Up crew arrived so much earlier than expected, Stacy offered to leave her field trip group to be interviewed for the program. In Don’s place, she represented Tri Cycle Farms honorably and authentically. Our event coordinator, Claire, assisted by the NCCC members, took over with the kids while Stacy was busy with the production, which included a staged pulp delivery and turning the compost for B-roll footage.
Unfortunately, in real life the compost program at Tri Cycle Farms is on pause due to the Farm’s capacity issues. For the program to be sustainable, we really need a truck and regular volunteers to make the twice weekly pickups of the heavy pulp containers. Further, we currently do not have anyone to lead the compost program and with Arkansas GardenCorps taking the 2018-2019 year off, we won’t even have a service member to assist.
Omar, who currently composts with another program, insists that there is a way for the program to continue at Tri Cycle Farms. He suggested finding a fraternity that could adopt the program and provide both the trucks and the manpower to keep it going. He is even considering delivering the pulp himself. He will soon be opening a second Juice Palm store in Bentonville where all the pressing for both locations will take place, and he thinks he may be able to deliver the pulp to Tri Cycle Farms when he delivers juice to the Fayetteville store.
Regardless of the current state of our composting program, we are honored to be a part of Omar’s Start Up story, both for the television show, and in real life. And we are so proud that he is part of Tri Cycle Farms’ story. It is vital to have partners with similar values and missions, and we certainly have that with Omar. We are excited to find a way to get the compost program running again so we can continue to grow community through soil together.
So, this was a day unlike any other, yet like so many others.
It was a day that we arrived on the farm with plans in place while expecting the unexpected. When the unexpected just kept happening, we pulled together and made magic.
February 3, 2018 was a big "first" for Tri Cycle Farms. Stakeholders including board members, volunteers, and community members gathered at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Fayetteville for a pasta dinner and celebration of the Farms' successes in 2017 and presentation of its goals for 2018. Chef James Cohea of local non-profit group Food Not Bombs along with several of the group’s volunteers, prepared the meal made completely from either donated or recovered food. Ozark Natural Foods donated items and the recovered food came from Tri Cycle Farms' Food Recovery Program Partner Whole Foods Market, Fayetteville.
Tri Cycle Farms and Food Not Bombs volunteers prepare for the meal and presentation.
After the meal and welcome address, Executive Director Don Bennett presented Volunteer of the Year awards for 2017. Delilah Clark received the 2016/2017 Service Member Volunteer award; Bobby Morell received the 2017 Volunteer of the Year award and University of Arkansas student organization Full Stomachs, Clean Feet, which fights hunger and homelessness, received the 2017 Volunteer Group of the Year for their City Chicks project.
Full Stomachs, Clean Feet
Next, Don introduced the board and announced officer changes and new members. Ashley Stone and Justin Taylor are the new board president and vice-president, respectively. Diana Chen and A.B. Merritt are the two new board members. Other members include Kelly Bassemier, Treasurer and Heather Friedrich, Secretary.
Ashley Stone (right) and Justin Taylor (center)
Finally, before the presentation of the Tri Cycle Farms 2017 Annual Report, Don introduced the Americorps VISTA and Arkansas GardenCorps service volunteer staff: Claire Marie Cosmos, Katie Wright, Stacy Mackey Kimbrough, Roxanne Wood, Carly Harris, and Peter Marston.
The day was cold.
The high temperature in Fayetteville, Arkansas on Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Service was 24 degrees with 11 mile an hour winds. We didn't expect many people to come out and volunteer this year because of how cold it was. The Freedom March at the University of Arkansas had been moved indoors. It was snowing in Bentonville. The Tri Cycle Farms staff showed up and hoped for the best. One thing was for certain, it was the perfect day for soup!
The Weather Didn't Stop Us!
People came individually, in groups, and with families. Some met for the first time. Others were reunited in community service.
Over 50 people volunteered at Tri Cycle Farms and Trinity United Methodist Church, both on indoor and outdoor projects. What a great turn out and together we were able to accomplish so much!
AT TRI CYCLE FARMS
We cleared brush and debris from the drainage path from our farm to the creek, allowing better drainage through the neighborhood.
We mulched around the newly fenced chicken fortress, covering the chicken wire on the ground (protection from diggers) and creating a walking path.
We winterized the remaining garden beds, the market garden and spare others.
AT TRINITY UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
We raked and picked up fallen limbs and trash from Trinity's main yard and mulched the oak trees in that yard.
We sorted and prepared seeds from last year's garden for this spring's planting and sharing.
AND AFTERWARD: STONE SOUP
We shared a community meal from food recovery, Ozark Natural Foods, Rockin' Baker, and prepared by Food Not Bombs. Here are a few words from Don:
MORE PHOTOs FROM THE DAY
A year after beginning a consistent schedule of picking up food and commodity items from Whole Foods Market three days a week, the program expanded to five days. Click here to read about food insecurity, waste, and the beginning of our food recovery program. In general, we have five volunteers per day to transport, sort and deliver the items to our partners, which include LifeSource International, Seeds That Feed and 7Hills Homeless Center. Most days we can get it all in two SUVs, but occasionally we need three to four SUVs to transport all the items we recover in a safe and timely manner.
Working the Food Recovery Program brings a mixed bag of emotions for volunteers, most of whom are food insecure themselves. Tri Cycle Farms’ third share initiative ensures they also have access to the recovered food and commodities. The excitement and relief from having access to high quality, healthy food that would ordinarily be out of budget is equaled and often surpassed by feelings of exhilaration that come from helping others as well as the, sometimes overwhelming, sadness that there is such a need in our community.
Last month Tri Cycle Farms was awarded a grant from Whole Cities Foundation that will assist in the efforts to meet that need. We applied for the grant, which is for $5000, on the advisement of the Community Liaison at Whole Foods Market Fayetteville, Allison Chilcote. Allison has been a great help to Tri Cycle Farms and we really appreciate her support and that of Whole Foods Market.
Photo by Claire Marie Cosmos
The funds from the Whole Cities Foundation grant will help purchase a 6 X 12 double axle refrigerated trailer that will be used to transport the recovered food instead of using personal vehicles. We feel this trailer is the best way to address any potential food safety concerns, to reduce our carbon footprint, and to save wear and tear on our own personal vehicles. One trip with this trailer is all it will take to collect and transport everything we recover from Whole Foods Market.
But the trailer is only part of the equation. We will also need a four-door truck with the capacity to pull the loaded trailer and to carry up to four volunteers. The grant will cover about half the cost of the trailer, so we still need to match those funds and find sponsors to raise enough money to also buy the truck.