Grants & Scholarships
Movement Ground Farm: providing fresh food...and opportunities
MGF is Rhode Island’s first majority people of color CSA. Its mission is “to grow a sustainable, collaborative community-based farm that has the capacity to feed, inspire, and connect landless, displaced and disenfranchised communities.”
It was a cool, raw, and rainy fall day, but Kohei Ishihara, executive director of Movement Ground Farm (MGF), greeted us warmly and was eager to tell us – and show us – all the farm has to offer. Located in Tiverton, MGF is an outgrowth of Kohei’s personal farming experiences.
He shares that after running a youth organization in Providence for 10 years, he was looking for new opportunities. He began a rooftop garden. “I fell in love with it, and it reminded me of the connection I had with nature growing up. (Kohei is Japanese-American and grew up in Maryland.) I just went with the flow...gardening, working on farms, and raising goats. I began to ask myself, ‘How can you make a living off farming?’ and ‘How can you impact people’s lives and not just grow food for people with money and access to fresh food?’”
“Growing my own food and raising animals was such a profound experience for me and made me feel so alive and connected. I realized farming could have a similar impact on other people.”- Kohei Ishihara, executive director of Movement Ground Farm
With that vision, he started a CSA (community-supported agriculture) which allows consumers to have direct access to high quality, locally-grown, fresh produce. CSA members purchase shares of vegetables, with boxes delivered weekly.
He proudly notes that MGF is Rhode Island’s first majority people of color CSA. Its mission is “to grow a sustainable, collaborative community-based farm that has the capacity to feed, inspire, and connect landless, displaced and disenfranchised communities.”
“Food insecurity is a well-documented problem. Racial inequities apparent in wealth distribution and health indicators are mirrored in data on access to fresh produce...Furthermore, the lack of connection to the natural elements of the outdoors and to therapeutic practices of growing food has been linked to declining rates of mental health and general well-being, with communities of color having less access to the outdoors,” Kohei states.
MGF not only provides its members with fresh vegetables, but also provides access to the land through a workshare program, volunteer days, farm tours, and workshops. Like other organizations, MGF has been impacted by COVID and has put additional safety measures in place and cancelled or decreased the size of planned events.
But food production and distribution continue. “We began sensing that accessing food in a safe way was becoming more important, and we ramped up production to feed more people,” Kohei shares.
There currently are 115 CSA members, approximately 42% of whom are immigrants or refugees and approximately 60% of whom are people of color. Members receive a variety of vegetables each week which range from the more common peas, carrots, and lettuce to the less common komatsuna, mizuna, and daikon. They also can opt to receive eggs from MGF’s chickens and quail.
Food distribution sites are at Providence Youth Student Movement (PRYSM) which has deep connections to the Southeast Asian community in Providence, the Asian-American Resource Workshop in Boston which has a pan-Asian membership and deep connections to the Vietnamese community in Dorchester, select area farmers markets, and at MGF.
The Foundation grant, through our Responsive Grants program, supported the hiring of a farm manager, bringing the total MGF staff to three full-time and two part-time employees and allowing Kohei to devote more time to building a strong board, fundraising, and securing their 501(c)(3) status. “The grant has meant everything. It’s given us the chance to be more than a farm. We’re able to transfer our vision and mission to actual concrete work,” Kohei states.