Frogtown Farm

Report date
August 2017

What has been most instrumental to your progress?

As a newer non-profit organization, building our organizational capacity, including staff hiring and development, implementing systems and processes, relationship development, volunteer management, fundraising, marketing and communications, has been instrumental to advancing our work. As a community farm working in a neighborhood with environmental justice issues and with nutrient deficient soils, building the infrastructure and improving the ecosystem has been another important priority. Over the grant period, we learned more about the condition of the land and how much work needed to be done in order to improve the soil to produce healthy food for the long-term. We see this as a critical corollary to the engagement and organizing work we do. By investing in our soil and land we are making a long-term commitment to the neighborhood that may not reap benefits for many years to come. This is a good example of how to do organizing as well – long-term relationship building, community investment with a long-term time horizon. This will be critical to food production and community innovation for decades. In addition to soil, we added other infrastructure as well.
Developing strong partnerships built on trust and accountability has been key to our progress. This process gave us the time and resources we needed to formalize some of those partnerships and develop a plan to work together in the future. We used the process to identify our shared and complementary values, assets, resources and strategic directions. We did this both at the organizational level and with individual community members through our meals, listening sessions, forums, programs etc. As organization partners we created a plan through the community design process that will guide our work along with the work of our community partners for several years to come. This has led to a number of additional collaborations and shared funding opportunities, which has been a successful way to get more investment and attention for the positive work happening in Frogtown.
Over the grant period we have built on the community engagement that was the foundation of the birth of Frogtown Farm. We have been growing a pipeline of community leadership through our programming and outreach that we hope will lead to more ownership in the site and eventually to more jobs for community members. For instance, we now have neighbors who lead our garden times (previously run by staff) and workshops. Neighbors have helped design new spaces and our outdoor kitchen on site. It’s critical to our work to continue to nurture these individual and group relationships. We have also learned that, particularly in Frogtown a neighborhood with many artists and a vibrant art’s scene, it is critical to have artists engaged in the engagement and planning process, both to increase engagement and to be able to problem solve effectively and creatively.

Key lessons learned

We continue to learn about the importance of building on community capacity in addition to our organizational capacity. We do this by partnering and building stronger relationships, which increases our capacity but also the overall capacity of our neighborhood. I would say this has been one of the most challenging parts of doing our work because many organizations are competing for limited resources and each has varying leadership, staff capacity and community support. Through this grant period we have had failed relationships for different reasons. This has given us more insight and direction into how to best approach relationships and collaborative projects going forward.

Reflections on the community innovation process

Inclusivity and collaboration, particularly with those most affected by issues (community members) and those working to solve them (farmers, artists, small business owners etc). True collaboration is so critical to our work it is hard to over state.

What's next?

Throughout our grant period we moved along the innovation continuum several times ending with a solid collaborative and community- sourced plan to create a stronger food system. Now, we are collaboratively seeking additional funding to implement our first priority project: the Community Food and Art Center at Frogtown Farm, which will be the heart of the neighborhood and the farm hub. We will work with partners to support local food entrepreneurs, artists, crafts people, farmers and community groups through the programming at the center. We are currently co-applying to funding opportunities with our core partners. During the next phase we will need to simultaneously work on implementing the building – raising capital, developing program with partners, launching programming, designing building and implementing construction – while also continuing to and further increasing collective understanding of the issues through creative place-making, neighborhood tours, asset mapping, workshops etc. We have already created the process with community members and our partners to conduct this next phase of the project and submitted grant applications for additional funding.

If you could do it all over again...

I would remind myself that community-based development and innovation is not a straight path forward. Throughout the process you have to be open to new ideas and new partners. There were several times throughout this process when we needed to pivot both as an organization and as a planning team. This is important to know at the beginning of the process so you can build in the time, space and resources to do it comfortably and not rushed.

One last thought

I have shared the community food plan with our program officer, please refer to it for more information on our process, who we engaged and our future plans for building a community food system. We are also continuing to keep the community updated through our website: