by Jessica Peterson
First, a full disclosure: I work for Farm to Table Guam. That being said, don’t think I’m biased when I say this organization has significantly impacted the agricultural community of the island. This impact is no small feat considering they are a relatively new organization that seemingly popped up out of nowhere. Since 2012, the organization has secured grant funding, assisted several small businesses to get off the ground, helped farmers obtain grants of their own, and has established a farm of its own to sell produce to you and me.
Farm to Table Guam, a non-profit organization, was established in 2012 with the mission for every kitchen, cabinet and pantry to contain products made on Guam from crops grown on Guam. Like many “farm to table” movements around the world, Farm to Table Guam (F2TG) wanted to shorten the distance from farm to consumer through strengthening farmers and businesses that support farmers such as restaurants and producers. The organization dedicated 2013 to research and surveying to get to know the needs of the local farming community. They surveyed roughly 30% of Guam’s farmers and reported the results in several community meetings. The organization went on to launch a five-year project, Tanom, Fatinas, yan Sustansia (Plant, Prepare, and Sustain) to address challenges in our agricultural community. The basic aim of the project is to reduce unemployment, assist the expansion and diversification of local agriculture-based businesses, while strengthening the awareness of the importance of supporting local agriculture through outreach in the community.
But what does that all mean?
Tanom, Fatinas, yan Sustansia: Plant, Prepare, and Sustain
For consumers, Tanom, Fatinas, yan Sustansia means the opportunity to participate in a CSA (community supported agriculture) subscription, that is, to receive a box of locally grown produce on a weekly basis. Being among the first to launch this type of service, Farm to Table Guam’s subscription demand exceeded its first supply – selling out of the first subscription of 30 in hours. It continues to grow – with more farmers participating and plans for expansion in the works. All produce going in the CSA box is sourced both from F2TG’s farm and from local farmers and food producers.
For those not wishing to commit to a subscription, F2TG also sells local farm produce at farmer’s markets — including the Mangilao Night Market as well as Chamorro Village every other Saturday.
For local food producers, Tanom, Fatinas, yan Sustansia means the opportunity to receive business training, marketing support, and partnership opportunities such as supplying the CSA with products such as dinanche, jelly, or sea salt. F2TG’s business training comes in the form of business planning, budget development, idea sharing, and more. The organization’s social media has been a key outlet for marketing making followers aware of island events such as fairs, festivals, or in stores to purchase locally grown produce and locally made products.
For chefs, Tanom, Fatinas, yan Sustansia provides a link between commercial kitchens and local produce. F2TG supplies local restaurants like Pika’s Cafe, 9th Street Rotary, Kitchen Lingo, and the list keeps growing. It also assists chefs to source produce from other local farms. For example, when Chef Lingo from Kitchen Lingo was interested in growing experimental crops not currently available on the island, F2TG was able to assist.
“Farm to Table has helped in allowing me to have an opportunity to use quality produce,” says co-owner and chef Lingo Quichocho. “They’re growing produce that doesn’t particularly grow locally and are using organic farming practices. I’m able to shoot over ideas in what I want to try and grow and they are very accommodating in trying to fulfill my requests.” Farm to Table also connected Chef Lingo with other local farmers in building his menu.
“It’s Kitchen Lingo, Pika’s Cafe, and all other restaurants who support local farmers that will help push the local agricultural industry forward,” says Melanie Mendiola, Project Director for Farm to Table Guam. “We look forward to continuing to connect him with more local farmers, fisherman, and vendors as he grows.”
In addition, F2TG helps business entrepreneurs develop valuable business skills. Mendiola worked directly with 9th Street Rotary co-owner Mark Duenas to open his restaurant in June 2014.
“Farm to Table helped Mark put his vision down on paper,” says Mendiola. “We helped him put together his business plan, briefed him on what to expect in the lending process, and pretty much held his hand until he secured the financing he needed to get his restaurant off the ground. As a result of our help, Mark is employing at least six people — a direct contribution to the local job economy. Further, he is committed to patronizing local farmers and fisherman as much as possible, strengthening the Farm to Table mission of bringing food from local farms to local tables.”
For farmers, Tanom, Fatinas, yan Sustansia means support and help with sales. F2TG has worked closely with Guam’s hardworking farming community by offering business training, marketing support, and grant assistance.
F2T partners with local farmers in supplying a CSA box, offering an alternative venue for farmers to sell their produce.
“Beginning farmers are perfect for the box,” says Mendiola, “as they may have enough for one week, but not on a consistent basis just yet. They are may not be quite ready to go into the grocery store, but while they are finding their way there, we can help.” Mendiola says that for larger farmers the CSA is a “model” for what they may wish to launch themselves in the future. “It’s called a model subscription because we’d very much like other organizations – co-ops, private farmers, and businesses – to consider the subscription model as well.”
F2T also has a working directory where farmers list produce they have for sale. The directory is made available to Guam’s food industry.
For farmers wishing to receive technical assistance, Farm to Table Guam is available to help. “We assisted farmers in preparing grant applications,” says Mendiola. “In fact, a chicken farmer, with our help, recently received just under $10,000 for an experimental feeding project using sustainable food sources.” F2TG offers workshops for grants and other topics, and sometimes pairs up with other local organizations – government and federal – to provide presentations and trainings to farmers.
For the community, Tanom, Fatinas, yan Sustansia means jobs – both within and outside the organization. F2TG’s mission from day one was to train even the most novice person to grow their own produce. F2TG has hired and trained multiple farm apprentices with the goal of assisting them to successfully manage their own farm businesses.
In addition to all this, F2TG is heavily involved in community outreach, spreading awareness and sharing the importance of supporting local farmers. They do this through presenting at health and wellness fairs, participating and supporting school garden projects, and more. Some of the more creative events have a juicing demonstration at a Government of Guam wellness event, inviting the community to tour the farm, and teaching kids how to plant. One of Mendiola’s favorites was a workshop at Yona Community Center by Barefoot Juicer Jenny Coffman. In the workshop, Coffman demonstrated how to make yogurt with local coconuts.
Farm to Table Guam is a vibrant organization with much to offer the people of Guam. We are sure to see a great deal more in the coming years from this organization.
Visit the Farm to Table Guam website to learn more.
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