In their latest effort to stand up for farm animals, the Pittsburgh-based nonprofit Ethical Farming Fund has launched a new program empowering local consumers to improve animal welfare and have something to show for it. The Farming With Love program raises money to help local farmers improve the lives of their animals, offering shirts and canvas bags in exchange for donations.
Here’s how it works: a person makes a donation to the Farming With Love program ($12 for a canvas bag and $25 for a shirt). The donor receives the item and the net proceeds from the donation are allocated to the Ethical Farming Fund’s Farmraiser Grant program. When enough has been collected, the Ethical Farming Fund will announce the availability of a grant and begin accepting proposals from local farmers for projects that will improve the welfare of current and future farm animals. The project may be constructing portable chicken coops so that birds can be protected on pasture, building an automated watering system to give pastured animals better access to fresh water, or implementing a rotational grazing system. The end result is a happier life for the livestock.
“Farming With Love will allow consumers to have a more direct impact on the lives of local farm animals,” says Hannah Ridge, CEO of the Ethical Farming Fund. "Farming With Love goes above and beyond the 'vote-with-your-fork' framework to allow consumers to help actual farm animals in their area." And by receiving a bag or a shirt, donors can display their active support of higher standards for the treatment of livestock.
Still, the most effective way to improve animal welfare standards on a national level is to buy humanely raised meat, eggs, and dairy from an ethical farm instead of from the supermarket, where the meat is coming from animals raised in CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations, AKA “factory farms”). Industrial producers observe eating trends and will adjust their own animal welfare standards in order to compete. The growth of the cage-free egg and antibiotic-free markets are just two recent examples of this in action.
Improving the food system is just one of the reasons to buy animal products from a farmer you trust and the Ethical Farming Fund has dedicated itself to making it as easy as possible to do this: compiling a menu of resources for consumers to eat more humanely and sustainably.
In addition to dismantling obstacles to consumers wanting to buy local and humane, the Ethical Farming Fund addresses obstacles to producers by assisting local animal farmers. The nonprofit currently offers website development and social media consultation services for local, ethical farmers to help them reach more people and tell their stories. And for any farmer hoping to make their animals’ lives better, the Farmraiser Grant is there to help.
The first Farmraiser Grant was awarded in 2016 to the Streets Family Farm in Johnstown, PA. The Streets family built a permanent fence as the first phase of their transition toward a rotational grazing system, which will give their animals continuous access to fresh grass and will build topsoil on the property. Farming With Love allows the EFF to continue to offer this grant, with more involvement from local consumers, and without the significant expenses associated with fundraising events.
"We are excited for the potential of Farming With Love to make a real difference in the lives of farm animals and to strengthen the relationship between Western Pennsylvanians and their local food growers," says Ridge.
To improve the lives of animals on Western PA farms and receive a shirt, bag, or both, make a donation to Farming With Love.