Building A More Humane Food System
How can we build a more humane food system?
It starts with the everyday act of eating. Purchasing food from local farms diverts revenue from industrial food producers that prioritize profits to small businesses that have our region’s best interests at heart. Through resources like virtual farm tours and Pittsburgh’s Guide to Humanely Raised Food, we at the Ethical Farming Fund connect eaters to local farms that put animal welfare first.
But we also go a step further by helping farmers take concrete steps to improve the lives of their animals through the Farmraiser Grant.
Here’s how it works: the Ethical Farming Fund announces the availability of funding, as well as a request for proposals from local animal farms. Farmers submit their proposals (including a timeline and budget) for projects that will have a positive and long-lasting impact on the welfare of their current and future animals. A proposal might be the construction of a shelter to protect animals from the elements, or it might be the installation of a watering system to provide fresh water for livestock. From these proposals, we select a small number of finalists, based on the eligibility of the farm and the impact of the proposed project. The final decision is made by a public vote on our website.
In 2018, we awarded our second Farmraiser Grant to Second Wind Farm (AKA Vough Generations Farm) in Markleton, PA. They used the $1000 grant to install fencing around an undeveloped plot of their property. This new pasture became a space for some of their younger cattle to graze without competition from the older members of the herd.
“We view this process as a first step in creating new practices that were once part of our family’s farm in earlier generations,” says farmer Karey Vough. The project was more challenging than expected, with unseasonably heavy rains delaying the ability to clear brush for the fenceline and to drive fence posts into the ground. But with unyielding hard work, commitment to their animals, and enough dry weather, the Vough family completed the project in the spring of 2019 and set their yearling cattle loose on the new pasture soon after the newest batch of calves were born.
The first Farmraiser Grant was awarded in 2016 to Streets Family Farm in Johnstown, PA with a similar goal of reclaiming undeveloped land and offering it to their farm animals. For Streets Family Farm, this fence was the first stage of implementing a rotational grazing system on their farm, which would provide continuous fresh grass to the animals and rapidly build topsoil.
“The Farmraiser Grant allowed us to kickstart our rotational grazing program by funding the perimeter fence necessary to keep our animals safe from predators,” says farmer Janelle Streets. The new pasture became home to the farm’s dairy goats and a young steer named Teddy that they had adopted from another farm.
The Ethical Farming Fund relies on community support for the Farmraiser Grant program. We hope to announce the availability of our third grant in early 2020 and we look forward to working with our local farmers and community members to build a more humane food system.