Founded in March 2020, the Cooperative Gardens Commission (CGC) is a grassroots collective working to support food sovereignty efforts in response to COVID-19. The pandemic heightened the persistent injustice in our food system, falling especially hard on BIPOC, poor, undocumented, and otherwise marginalized communities. Our primary work is focused on distributing seeds to Seed Hubs, who function as central distributors of free seeds and information to their communities. In this capacity, CGC focuses on historically oppressed communities by prioritizing hubs already working with those most affected by the injustices of the pandemic and encouraging seed hub organizers who aren’t working with those groups to do so.
The Cascadia Department of Bioregion is proud to serve as a regional hub for the Cooperative Gardens Commission. In 2021, we received and distrbuted seeds to over 100 individuals, representing more than 20+ organizations, who then helped get them to people and places that could use them. We do this through work parties, mailing them out, and providing them free in person to anyone who could use them.
Through over 400 local and regional hubs, reaching tens of thousands of people, we’ve distributed millions of free seeds (mostly donated by small-scale and organic seed companies). Our standard shipping rate is $15 per Seed Hub. One box, on average, can provide 300 family-sized seed bundles. Each bundle has at least 15 varieties of food crops. One bundle worth of winter squash is 20 seeds, and 1 winter squash seed can produce 7-15 pounds of squash. One bundle worth of tomatoes is 50 tomato seeds, each seed produces hundreds of pounds of tomatoes. With a $15 donation to the Cooperative gardens Commission, you can provide tens of thousands of pounds of food, directly to communities who lack access to food. With a $100 donation to CGC, you can provide hundreds of thousands of pounds of food, directly to communities in six different states, creating a significant impact in food access. Our seed donations are a treasure trove of opportunity, catalyzing community connections, a resilient local food system, and a diverse mixture of surprises.
We just released the 2023 Seed Hub Application which you can find linked here!
Support the Cooperative Gardens Commission Free Seed Bundles on GoFundMe
Don’t underestimate how far your donation can go! In the spirit of building community through seed sharing, half of the funds needed in the last distribution cycle were donated by our Seed Hubs! In the 2022 Cycle, 71 Seed Hubs donated enough to cover their shipping costs, and 34 donated enough funds to cover not only their own but also additional Hub’s.
Yet, relying on our Seed Hubs’ contributions can only get us so far in our commitment to provide FREE SEEDS to ANYONE who asks. Our distribution effort relies predominantly on unpaid volunteers. The organizers spend hundreds of hours of work as volunteers, and will only be compensated for a fraction of the time they spend if we raise donations for their stipends. This mission to provide free seeds is only possible with your donations!
Last year, we tried applying for a large grant and were turned down because we could not provide a way to measure the amount of food grown. Finding ways to collect this kind of data is something we are working on, both for CGC, and for Seed Hubs. Sending so many seeds to so many people in so many different places makes centralized, quantitative data collection difficult. We know many localized funding opportunities exist, but as a national, decentralized organization, we struggled to find grants we could qualify for. While a couple of us attempt to do some focused grant work again this year, we still honor the core function of what we do, to request high-quality open-pollinated seeds from seed companies, and redistribute them to Seed Hubs. We humbly ask for your direct support to be able to do this for our 4th distribution.
If we raise $7,000, our facility and supply charges would be covered: including shipping costs from seed companies, shipping to the seed hubs, packaging supplies, and paying rent for our Central Seed Hub in Philly. Additionally, our efforts – while still largely headed by volunteers’ time – could be supported through stipends, allowing a dedicated crew of Commissioners to proceed on an expedited schedule – getting seeds to applicants sooner in the season!
If we raise $12,000, we can ensure further organizing support for everyone who relies on Cooperative Gardens Commission along with the ability to further grow our Seed Hub network. This extended support could include broader education initiatives into topics such as seed saving and garden planning as well as infrastructural help to hubs and gardens across the country. From planting calendars to seed packets to garden tools, reaching this goal would mean that we could be more active partners with our Hubs in meeting their communities’ needs.
Please dig deep and help us.
**NOTE: CGC is fiscally sponsored by The Experimental Farm Network Cooperative, a 501(c)(3) non-profit based in Philadelphia.