Through Uncommon Good’s Fiddleneck Family Farms, unemployed immigrants with farming expertise (whose children are in our Connect to College program) are employed raising pesticide-free and chemical-free fruits and vegetables for the Los Angeles County and San Bernardino County markets. All unsold produce has been distributed directly to poor families who otherwise could not afford to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables.
Fiddleneck Family Farms takes its name from a humble local flower whose stem is in the shape of the neck of a fiddle. Early European settlors noticed that if their cattle ate too much of the flower they got sick, and so concluded that it was a noxious weed that should be eradicated. However, the Native Americans of this region understand how to use the plant both for food and medicine. As a result, the Fiddleneck symbolizes for us the value of having a deep understanding of nature so that we can work with it harmoniously for the mutual benefit of people and the environment. For this reason we have taken the Fiddleneck as our namesake.
Uncommon Good’s first farm was a working farm and educational school tour site in Ontario, CA. It was funded by a $300,000 three year grant from the USDA for a project called PEACH: Pomona Enterprise for Agriculture, Community & Health. PEACH was a partnership with Uncommon Good, its Urban Farmers’Association, the Southern California Agricultural Land Foundation, and the South Coast Resource Conservation & Development Council. That farm has now been spun off as an independent business which supports three farm families under the name Amy’s Farm.
A second Fiddleneck Family Farm was launched by Uncommon Good in Pomona, CA. Partners included a private land owner (the Van Allen Trust) and Tri-City Mental Health Services. This working farm offered food and farm education programs for families, veterans and foster youth, as well as horticultural therapy programming for community wellness. A generous grant from Trinity United Methodist Church in Pomona enabled Uncommon Good farmers to put a portion of this property into vegetable production to produce food for the hungry. This successful program has now been spun off as a permanent program of Tri-City Mental Health Services which will provide its future funding.
A third Fiddleneck Family Farm is the result of a suggestion from a family that participates in Uncommon Good’s education program. It is a backyard family farm project in which the yards of low-income families are put into fruit and vegetable production. Sales of the produce support fair wages for the farmers. Half of the food produced is distributed to the families whose land is being used and also to other low-income families who otherwise could not afford to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. In addition to the participating Uncommon Good families, other community members are offering their land for inclusion in the network. A local church also is considering participation.
Uncommon Good has developed a food, health and farm curriculum for fourth to six graders based upon its farms and makes it available to local school districts.
Fiddleneck Family Farms is among only a handful of local producers of naturally grown fruits and vegetables for the entire County of Los Angeles which has a population of 12.5 million people and almost no organic fruit and vegetable farms. They also are some of the few organic method producers for San Bernardino County, which is both the largest county in the country and also the fourth worst county in the country for obesity statistics, in large part because of its population’s poor access to healthy food. Fiddleneck Family Farms utilizes natural farming methods that exceed the standards required by the USDA organic certification process.
Our Fiddleneck Family Farms model a way to farm that does not exploit human labor, animals or the land. It produces a high quality, affordable product, using sustainable and healthy farming practices. Coupled with an educational component, it introduces students and their families to a healthful and economically viable relationship to food production and consumption. It reduces unemployment, promotes economic vitality, increases public health, lowers the food carbon footprint for the region, and provides healthy food for the surrounding region.