Heros in Our Backyard!

Last year, SWAG Project was chosen by ioby as one of their 2014 Hero projects. This lovely video, made by Good Eye Video, gives an overview of our community development and local food project and it’s goals. We are incredibly thankful to ioby for highlighting our work, for helping us raise funds to continue making our neighborhood a more livable and lively place, and for making us a part of the creation of this short film.  Were also incredibly thankful to all the local community members and partners who have made SWAG what it is!

Below is the blog published by ioby as part of the ‘Hero’ highlight, we hope you enjoy!

And please remember to support sustainability at SWAG through this years ioby fundraiser here.

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Last year, we started cooking up a video series designed to feature some of the real heroes of the ioby community – projects and leaders we wanted to set squarely in the limelight, and hold up as role models and as inspiration. Among those we featured was SWAG of Newark: a thriving urban community farm that today educates around 700 local students per year, sells wonderful fresh produce at its own market, and has become a source of great pride and pleasure in the South Ward of Newark. The farm has even served as a wonderful resource for the unemployed or underemployed who seek a creative, confidence-building, social outlet while they search for new work.

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In fact, so much has happened at SWAG since the video went into production – not least of all their latest ioby campaign, to which you can still donate here – that we wanted to accompany the video’s release with a little update. Here’s where they are now:

The last year has seen SWAG delve deeper than ever into an analysis of what sustainability means for the farm, and for the South Ward community. Becoming sustainable with a capital “S” will mean closing loops on environmental impact, on financial self-reliance, and in terms of community leadership. SWAG co-founder Alexandra Payne is thrilled about the developments on all three.

“In a lot of smaller communities that are poor communities,” says Payne, “you see these big ups and downs in how well projects work based on funding or based on how well things are going in the city or based on these small pots of money that are available. What this sustainability project is partially about doing is making it possible for the farm to continue its basic operations without having to worry about that. So without having to worry about issues like where will our seed money come from every year, or can we afford to buy seedlings and  supplies, or can we afford that outside organic fertilizer, or can we afford to pay the neighbor for water? Can we afford local interns?”

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How will SWAG close those loops? Well, first, they’ll make their own soil, for free. Plans are in the works for two huge new compost bins will turn organic farm waste into fresh soil for next year. “For a quarter-acre farm,” says Payne, “you do need a decent amount of soil additives to keep soil healthy, and we prefer not to buy those, not have them all be purchased cow manure or mushroom compost. We prefer to make them because you get a better mix of components, and because it means that we can do it right on farm and have more of a closed loop.” Second, a hoop-house for germinating seedlings will go up in the fall, so that SWAG won’t have to look to expensive nurseries at the start of each growing season. Taken together, these two new initiatives will mean greater security through the unpredictable ebbs and flows of external funding.

Another hugely important part of SWAG’s vision for its sustainable future is that they be able to afford to pay local interns. Some of the interns they’ve had have come back year after year, both shaping the project and being shaped by it – even choosing college majors according to new passions they discovered on the farm. “It’s really great for us to have interns who can really run small pieces of the project,” says Payne, “and who feel comfortable leading the classes and who when they’re at the market can talk to people about ‘this is why we’re doing this and these are our goals’ and who can really start to internalize that and see the project as their own.”

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But Payne and the SWAG Team don’t want those dedicated interns to have to choose between the farm and earning money. Starting with their current ioby campaign and moving forward, she plans to offer interns a stipend, as well as lunches and travel reimbursements. “We really want to invest in interns from the local community,” she says.

As part of that transition toward even stronger community-directed leadership, Payne would like to see volunteer numbers going up, so that each person takes on fewer hours. “Like a co-op,” she says, so that the joy of the work spreads further, but the burden for each person is lighter, reducing burnout.

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Meanwhile, an exciting transition is afoot at the farm. Payne and her team are readying the farm for a passing of the baton, in terms of leadership. SWAG belongs, she says, to the South Ward community, and that is where its future leaders will be found. “We’re there to give some direction and help raise funds and help people dream about what the farm could be, and in the future I’d love to step back and have a group of residents and students who’ve been there really take the day to day reigns of the project,” Payne says.

She and her team plan to step back a bit, starting this spring – very slowly and consciously, of course – and she’s excited to start talking about where the first satellite projects might pop up. They already have small satellites in Baltimore and outside of Philly, and want to continue to expand in the model of SWAG. “I don’t think we ever see ourselves not being a part of those projects; I just think it’s important at a community level to have them be very community directed. So once it’s stable and on its feet, that’s what I see happening.”

To support SWAG during this time of innovation and transition, and to learn more about the farm’s new initiatives, click here.

575641_360919704008712_668437568_nTo view the original article, click here

Give Green + Support SWAG for #Giving Tuesday

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Today is #givingtuesday your chance to give back! Please consider supporting SWAG Project sustainability campaign!

Find us here (http://bit.ly/SWAG_IOBY) on the IOBY site and read all about our plans for 2015.

Give today with an ioby gift card from Groupon and they will match your $10 donation!

Use this link: http://www.groupon.com/deals/ioby-1 to get the Groupon giving card, or go directly to the SWAG Project page below.

SWAG can’t exist without your support!  If you have time, send this on to your friends and family and encourage them to donate as well!

Let them Eat Cake (for Charity)

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Meet our lovely friend Marion!  She loves baking. And she cares about promoting the slow food movement + preserving good homemade foods made with quality ingredients.  These are all things we love about Marion!  But back in spring, she gave us a reason to love her even more… she started a project to help fund our farm and support our educational classes!

‘My Little Baking Project’ started as a way for Marion to reconnect with all the recipes she loved from her childhood, and support a good cause at the same time.  Every other week she whips up a new specialty and brings these fresh home-baked cakes, breads, or pastries into her office for her colleagues to enjoy as part of an informal bake sale. (You can see some examples of past delicacies below!)

When she first asked SWAG Project about being her charity of choice, she explained, ‘It makes me happy to see people enjoying food in good company. And I want to do something meaningful for our community, and other communities, so that everyone has a chance to enjoy good food.’  Marion wanted to make sure that she funded a project that focused on bringing affordable food to its surrounding community AND educated kids on how to grow their own food and what to do with it afterwards.

Marion’s weekly treats focus on using good seasonal ingredients, but also on bringing to life the childhood treats she remember eating with her family growing up in Germany.  Think of it as a cultural exchange with a double bottom line + reward. Her office mates get a ‘sweet tooth’ fix to get them through the week and the funds go to educational and farming supplies for the SWAG Young Farmers program!  While she warns her friends that not all her techniques are perfected yet, we think this is a pretty sweet deal!

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Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest Cake)
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Sachertorte (Famous Austrian Chocolate Cake)
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Meine Mutter’s Apfelkuchen! (Marion’s Mom’s Apple Pie!)
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Peach + Pistachio Tart

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Donate to SWAG Project

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Make a contribution to SWAG Project and your dollars will ensure that we can keep growing food and building community!

Suggested donations

Soil: $150 – supports one week of our weekly Friday programming offerings (Farm stand, volunteer hours, farm maintenance)!

Sprouts: $250 – supports a week of school enrichment visits for local Newark school children in the Spring or Fall!

Beds and Berms: $500 – supports our tools, lumber and materials costs for one of our farm properties this year!

Flower: $750 – supports one youth internship position for this year!

Till: $1,250 – supports our organic and natural soil, seeds, starts, fertilizer, etc. needs for one of our farm properties this year!

Tree: $3,500 – supports a local Newarker in a part-time position including training, resume development, mentorship and networking into more opportunities in the green economy!

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Planting Seeds of Hope is a 501c3 charitable organization. Contributions are tax-deductible. Letters acknowledging donations will be made available upon request. Donors names will be recognized on the web and at the farm upon request of Donor.

swagprojectnewark@gmail.com

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