Cornell Cooperative Extension

January 27, 2014

Fundraising with local food

We’re big supporters of our sons’ school, and I enjoy helping out and participating in most school events, probably more than my kids would actually like.

But there’s one thing that has never been particularly appealing to me (and other parents, judging from the courtside conversations) and that’s class fund-raisers in the form of products for sale.

Sure, some of them are fine and I do enjoy my Christmas wreath. But many of the other items seem cheaply made and sometimes totally useless. I’ve been known to skip the tchotchkes entirely and just send in money.

A couple of years ago, Champlain Valley Milling teamed up with a class at Westport Central School to offer locally milled grains as a fundraiser — now there was a product I could really use!

The students took orders for cornmeal, bread flour, rice mixes and more. I enthusiastically bought a case of the stuff. Not only was I supporting my son and his class, I was also supporting a local business. 

Through my connections with Adirondack Harvest, I also knew that Sam Sherman, the owner of the mill, purchases as much locally grown organic grain as possible, so I felt that I was also supporting local farmers.

I had a suspicion that other places had probably already thought of this and a quick Internet search proved me right. Many parent-teacher organizations and schools have had very successful fundraisers using locally grown and/or made products. They had quotes such as, “We are all sick of selling and buying junk for a tiny financial gain!”

When the organizations entered into agreements with the local farmers and artisans they found they were able to keep a higher percentage of the overall profit; in at least one case 40 percent went to the school and 60 percent to the producers. Since many of these sales are taking place in the “off-season,” the farmers may be willing to move product for a discount. One of the reasons I especially enjoy my Christmas wreath is that I know the product is locally grown and crafted right in Westport.

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