Greener Partners Sharecroppin' at The Willows?
So is it true that last evening's meeting at the Radnor Twp. Board of Commissioners included a conversation that went like this (see below)?
In order to preserve the elusive heirloom tomatoes allow a relatively new and still sort of unproven venture that has only had one expensive season selling organic produce called Greener Partners, to be able to use 2 acres of land at the Willows and to use the Willows Cottage....FOR FREE?
I was all for Saving The Willows Cottage, but for FREE RENT and FREE use of township owned land for in essence a private enterptise? So the non-profit Greener Partners runs it's stuff through other non-profits? That is a weird pass thru kind of arrangement.
The Willows is PUBLIC land, paid for by the taxpayers of Radnor Township. Community gardening is a GREAT idea, but only if the community does it. Greener Partners gets FREE Radnor Township Land to sell their veggies, and this is for free? They charged people in the summer of 2008 at least $500 for that pleasure. Yes, and while some of the produce was lovely (people picked it up at Smith & Hawken), it was at best inconsistent. For example, some weeks people were sick of getting bok choi. Can you eat two huge heads of bok choi a week for a few weeks? Some weeks your bag was busting at the seams, other weeks it was downright skimpy. Fragile perishibles like those little cherry and other small tomatoes were packaged in baggies, plastic baggies....and in the bottom of bags. When they gave you cut flowers, most had to be tossed the day people took them home or the next day.
When you compared Greener Partners to other organic ventures in the area, they were nice, but the market shares of produce that other people were getting locally was better, and the goods more consistent. And those people didn't get their berries in used Starbucks plastic cups, either. Plus there is the organic market at Oakmont (Havertown) and West Chester, just to named two. As a matter of fact these organic produce initiatives are cropping up everywhere, but here is the ultimate question Radnor: are these people are doing anything for free? That answer would be no. Why? Because it is a business model.
Greener Partners is a nice idea, but not for free. Forget about the elitist and discrimanatory implications about essentially sharecropping on publicly owned park land, it's a crackers plan for the Friends of Willows Cottage. How can they keep the cottage preservation going if no one is paying a dime towards it? They are going to be taking what? Upwards of $800 or better next season per person for their veggie services? Then they should at least pay $800 per month for rent of the cottage, and some sort of fee for the land. The business plan, look at the business plan. IF it fails, who is left holding the bag?
That land at the Willows belongs to the people of the township in which it is located. In these economic times, which will only get worse, if Greener Partners was going to start a farming cooperative where any resident of Radnor Township who desired could have a little plot of land to grow stuff (like Haverford College), that would be one thing, but these people are talking about using land FOR FREE and selling pricy produce subscriptions?
Did anyone bother to check the bio of Greener Partners founder,Jason W. Ingle :
Fairlane Partners is (if you are interested):
This idea can be translated as ommy boutique farming, and employees to help load the weekly bag of veggies from the "distribution center" at the Willows Cottage? People that employee employees, non-profit or not can afford to pay rent of some sort, correct? Good wishes are not going to keep that cottage on the right path of preservation. And I object to this freebie as I kind of object to taxpayers bailing out AIG while their executives go on retreats, ok?
What kind of non profit are these Greener Partners people? I can't find it listed on their website, although I did find a listing on PA's site:
So, maybe they are a non-profit, but are they a charity worthy of FREE rent at taxpayer expense in tough economic times? Can you find them listed on PA's Bureau of Charitable Organizations ?
Last word? I am all for organic produce, but not at the expense of the average taxpayer of a municipaltity on public lands, or another non profit. Greener Partners is not marketing to the little folk, their services are only available to those who can pay a LOT of money, correct? And if Greener Partners flubs at this site, who is on the hook for money shortfalls? Would that be the Friends of the Willows Cottage?
If Greener Partners wants to PAY rent to Radnor Township for use of the cottage and use of 2 acres of taxpayer owned land, then by all means, let 'em play "Green Acres" (Who is playing Zsa Zsa's part, by the way?). But if they can't fork over the green, no need for Radnor to get into the red over this, right?
Sorry, but as a freebie, I find this to be a dumb assed idea potentially at taxpayer expense. There should be no such thing as a free lunch at taxpayer and resident expense....sorry...I know people are going to think I am a green meanie for not saying how wonderful, but I simply do not agree with this. I think what Greener Partners does is probably admirable, but I can't justify $500 to $800 for in essence less than half a year so I can by organic produce that I am not actually choosing myself.....and is their business plan proven as a success yet? How can you say, since it is too early to tell...it just seems like a commercial use to produce food for a few, not for everyone. Again, if they are going to swap services like conduct free seminars on say, 4 square gardening with a demonstration garden that residents can apply to their own property, that might help. And again, if there were little plots for gardening available for residents along with the Greener Partners folks, well that would be cool, wouldn't it?
All I am saying is I think the Friends of the Willows Cottage will be giving more than they are getting, and I find that risky.
If this was a proven business model, no what I think? They would be doing this stuff on private land, not public. Maybe it is better than nothing, but it seems a little funky.