AAF gives PFC grant to implement a holistic compost generation system

Kristin Heltman-Weiss, Executive Director of Providence Farm Collective
Kristin Heltman-Weiss, Executive Director of Providence Farm Collective

The AGCO Agriculture Foundation (AAF), a foundation with the vision to relieve hunger through sustainable agricultural development, announced a $50,000 grant to Providence Farm Collective (PFC) to implement a holistic compost generation system and optimization of post-harvest efficiency and food safety at its 37-acre farm in Orchard Park, New York.

What is the market offering of PFC?

Providence Farm Collective is a non-profit that supports refugee, immigrant, Black and low-income farmers in Western New York who can’t otherwise access farmland. The organization started in 2017 as a grassroots effort by the Somali Bantu community to return to their agricultural heritage and grow culturally relevant produce. PFC has now grown to encompass refugees and immigrants from multiple nations and members of the Black community.

PFC’s programs provide a place for refugee and under-resourced communities to grow their food, earn supplemental income and teach cultural farming traditions to future generations.

This project will help increase food production and boost income for Providence Farm Collective’s diverse farmers by improving sustainable agricultural practices and soil fertility via on-site generation of well-balanced compost. In addition, the project will facilitate capacity building and support efforts on postharvest and food safety practices for the farmers.

Why did AAF award PFC the grant?

“Refugees and immigrant communities can often lack socioeconomic opportunities. Supporting agricultural activities such as the PFC project can help refugees not only secure access to farmland, but also create avenues for them to produce food and improve their livelihoods,” commented Roger Batkin, Board Chair, AGCO Agriculture Foundation.

Roger Batkin, Board Chair at AGCO Agriculture Foundation

“Farmers and their communities are crucial to our foundation’s efforts toward preventing and relieving hunger. It is our hope that participating farmers will also improve their food safety practices and strengthen their market opportunities,” Roger Batkin further commented.

What does the grant mean for PFC?

To achieve the one-year goals set for the project, Providence Farm Collective (PFC) will manage a compost operation, including a stand of nitrogen-rich cover crops, and provide one-on-one technical assistance and hands-on demonstration. In addition, the nonprofit will develop visual aids and signage for its farmers to enhance their knowledge of best practices and standard operating procedures for efficient and food-safe post-harvest handling.

With funding support from AAF, PFC will purchase the necessary equipment to generate on-site compost, including a flail harvester, dump trailer, litter and compost spreader, and cover crop seed, plus invest in compost analysis testing. Applying compost will increase soil organic matter and improve moisture retention, sustainably boosting farmer yields and soil health.

During the project, Providence Farm Collective (PFC) will work with its nine communities of refugee, immigrant, and Black farmers, who total 275 farmers and operate 21 small farms.

“Through the support from AAF, we will focus on increasing soil organic matter and improving soil moisture retention to ensure the yields of our farmers reflect the tremendous amount of time and effort they spend on their farms. Farmers also spend most of their time in harvest and post-harvest,” commented Kristin Heltman-Weiss, Executive Director of PFC.

“As such, honing post-harvest and food safety practices will have a crucial impact on the bottom lines of PFC farmers and the financial viability of their small businesses,” Kristin said.