A trip to The Root Farm evokes a sense of inspiration among visitors. Spanning over 100 acres in Sauquoit, the complex includes an equine assisted therapy center, and ever-expanding vocational and recreational programs.
“The name of The Root Farm comes from our founder, Alice Root, but really has so many more meanings,” said Executive Director Jeremy Earl. “When you think about roots, they’re the foundation from which things grow and The Root Farm is creating transformative opportunities from which people can grow and expand to become the best that they can be.”
The Root Farm horticulture expansion project is one such opportunity, an example of the kind of life-enriching programs being cultivated at the innovative complex. The multi-faceted project aims to enhance the organization’s agricultural programs and create integrated employment opportunities for those that typically face barriers to employment. The plan included the addition of a traditional greenhouse and two hydroponic Freight Farms, making The Root Farm one of only a handful of farmers in New York State utilizing this technology to grow produce.
As a supporting partner, The Community Foundation awarded $100,000 in funding to make this innovative expansion come to life. Built entirely inside a shipping container, Freight Farms are a complete hydroponic growing system that make it possible to grow fresh lettuce and herbs year-round.
“One of the unique features about the Freight Farm technology is that it is an extremely efficient system,” said Earl. “We’re able to grow over 400 heads of lettuce at any given time. In Central New York, it’s difficult or impossible to grow produce year-round because of the weather conditions. We will be able to provide locally-grown fresh produce to local establishments year-round.”
The Root Farm has a track record of efficiency. Recognizing a shared vision to provide care to people of all ages and abilities, The Root Farm became an affiliate of Upstate Cerebral Palsy in 2014. This partnership provided the nonprofit organization with additional resources, allowing for greater focus on learning and healing through the power of equine, agricultural and recreational experiences. The Root Farm has thrived in large part due to the organization’s ability to adapt.
Critical to nonprofit sustainability is the need to think creatively about funding sources. The Community Foundation, as stewards of our donor’s generosity, must consider the long-term viability of proposed projects in order to make the most impactful community investments. Many nonprofits like The Root Farm are exploring the merits of operating social enterprises, a model that aims to reduce a nonprofit organization’s reliance on support from traditional funding streams. By employing revenue generating strategies, often in the form of products and services that are in-line with their core mission, nonprofits become more resilient to changes in funding over the long term.
In more ways than one, The Root Farm’s fresh approach proves a rich foundation that inspires vertical growth.