In 2020, Organically Grown Company (OGC) launched the OGC Mission Fund to help support growers, customers, and mission-aligned organizations in the organic and sustainable ag community.
Two years earlier, OGC had transferred its ownership to the Sustainable Food and Agriculture Perpetual Purpose Trust (SFAPPT), which it created as a way to ensure the company would always be run as a purpose-driven organization (not merely a profit-driven one). This new company structure focuses on benefiting all of OGC’s stakeholders—growers, customers, employees, investors, and community allies.
Sarah Brown, Head of Stakeholder Strategy, OGC
“When OGC transitioned its ownership to the Sustainable Food and Agriculture Perpetual Purpose Trust in late 2018, its new bylaws prioritized investing in the company’s stakeholder groups,” says Sarah Brown, head of stakeholder strategy at OGC. “To fulfill that charter, the company created the OGC Mission Fund to strengthen the ecosystem in which we all operate.”
“When OGC transitioned its ownership to the Sustainable Food and Agriculture Perpetual Purpose Trust in late 2018, its new bylaws prioritized investing in the company’s stakeholder groups.” – Sarah Brown
“The first grant cycle launched in fall of 2020, targeting purpose-aligned supply chain partners and marginalized food system partners that lack ready access to capital,” says Brown. “The goal of the OGC Mission Fund is to further the company’s vision to contribute to equitable and sustainable agricultural systems for global health.”
According to OGC’s 2020 Impact Report, the fund specifically seeks to support:
- Improvements in organic agriculture
- Preservation of natural resources and biodiversity
- Reduction of nonrenewable resources, toxins and synthetics, and environmental degradation
- Climate change mitigation
- Promotion of diversity and equity in the food system
- Fair labor practices and promotion of holistic food policy
“The goal of the OGC Mission Fund is to further the company’s vision to contribute to equitable and sustainable agricultural systems for global health.” – Sarah Brown
Of the more than $330,000 in grants that OGC awarded in its 2020 cycle, 15 percent went to retailers, processors, and food hubs; 21 percent went to growers; and 64 percent went to allied community organizations—many of which support farmers. (In addition to the Mission Fund grants, OGC also invested $3.5 million in expedited payments to its growers during the initial six weeks of the pandemic when market uncertainty was at its highest.)
Mission Fund grant amounts ranged from $2,500 to $30,000, with the exception of one $50,000 grant to the California BIPOC Farmer Land Stewardship and Relief Fund.
OGC awarded 11 Mission Fund grants to organic farms: Valadez Organic Produce, Viva Farms, Cabrera Farms, Sunrise Organic Farm, Commonplace Farm, Oshala Farm, Long Hearing Farm, April Joy Farm, Boldly Grown Farm, Working Theory Farm, and Eloisa Organic Farm.
Viva Farms, one of the grantees and an advisory partner to the Mission Fund, is a nonprofit farm training and business incubator that is based in Washington state’s Skagit and King Counties and has over 100 certified organic acres.
“Viva Farms empowers beginning farmers by providing bilingual (Spanish-English) training in organic farming practices and access to land, infrastructure, equipment, marketing, and capital,” says Danielle Halstead, Viva Farms’ development and communications manager.
Regino Flores, Farmer, Viva Farms
“We decided to apply for the Mission Fund first and foremost because of our mission alignment with OGC,” says Halstead. “We both work to create more justice and resiliency in agriculture and in our food system. OGC has been a supportive and engaged partner as a wholesale buyer and corporate sponsor. ... [They are] working closely with us and our farmers to develop innovative marketing agreements to contract our farmers to grow unique items like purple sprouting broccoli.”
“We decided to apply for the Mission Fund first and foremost because of our mission alignment with OGC. We both work to create more justice and resiliency in agriculture and in our food system.” – Danielle Halstead
Halstead says Viva used its Mission Fund grant to help support the nonprofit’s expansion. “Our Farm Business Incubator has a record 29 farm businesses in incubation this year, and in order to accommodate this many beginning farmers, we expanded our land by 31 acres to a total of 119 acres,” she says. “The Mission Fund grant supported this growth through assisting in purchasing a forklift, an additional greenhouse, and making needed improvements to our wash/pack facility.”
Two of Viva’s incubated farms also received Mission Fund grants—Cabrera Farms and Boldly Grown Farm. Cabrera, which sells some of its produce under OGC’s Ladybug label, used the money to buy a greenhouse, while Boldly Grown used the grant towards the purchase of a 57-acre farm (offsite from Viva).
OGC's Ladybug brand
One remarkable aspect of OGC’s Mission Fund is the accessibility of the application process. Interested parties can apply online, via video, or over the phone—and English fluency is not required as OGC covers any translation costs.
“Offering a capital access program that allows for varied literacy levels and language proficiency is truly unique in the funding space,” says Halstead. “Allowing for applicants to send in their submissions verbally or via video and paying for translators and interpreters is nearly unheard of.”
“Offering a capital access program that allows for varied literacy levels and language proficiency is truly unique in the funding space.” – Danielle Halstead
“We want to make sure that [the fund is] accessible to a wide range of our stakeholders,” says Brown, who joined OGC this past February after spending a decade leading the Education and Advisory Department at Oregon Tilth. In the newly created position of head of stakeholder strategy, Brown is tasked with ensuring that OGC’s stakeholder groups (growers, customers, employees, investors, and community allies) are considered in all aspects of the business, including charitable endeavors like the Mission Fund.
OGC loading dock
“In a year where our stakeholders struggled with unprecedented challenges, we were able to provide much-needed funds to support resilience and adaptation,” says Brown. “Biodiversity has always been at the root of organic’s resiliency. As we look forward, we seek to ensure that diversity is celebrated throughout the food system—in the flavors we eat, around our board rooms, and across our supply chains. The Mission Fund provides a means for OGC to address emergent issues, provide rapid response, and engage with partners committed to changing the way we eat.”