After setting up at a few markets and having excess produce-so much that even they couldn’t eat it all, Cody Robson and his team decided to fill a need. The next week they put up a sign that read, “Free produce, donation only.”
“It was then that we realized how big the need was. Seeing families come by and being able to grab all the produce they needed for the few dollars in their pocket was quite humbling. So the journey began.” Robson said.
Robson is the founder of the non-profit organization farm, Free Earth Project.
The purpose of Free Earth is to supply natural foods and educate the community on food production and sustainability.
How to donate
Facebook: Free Earth Project,
Check out through the Amazon Smile website
or call 903-258-3753
Athens, as well as much of Henderson County, is a “food desert.” One-third of the citizens are low-income, and live more than 20 miles from a super market.
Nearly 19 percent of their community lives below the poverty line, which is higher than the national average of 14 percent, with only 28 percent of their low income community members receiving SNAP benefits.
Free Earth Project will address these community needs by increasing access to affordable farm fresh foods and providing education on healthy food choices. Free Earth provides a unique opportunity for people to make the connection between their food and it's source as it aims to make this a much more personal and fulfilling experience.
Free Earth Project is located on 35 acres of land in Athens, Texas. Currently they are growing vegetables for community programs that distribute food to those in need, but have future plans to grow and extend their services.
They hope to expand their area of production drastically as well as add livestock and other natural wellness products. It's their goal to one day be able to be completely sustainable and also provide a means for community members to live sustainably.
Their plans beyond this first season include establishing a community dog park, a community garden, and an edible food forest.
The Corsicana Daily Sun recently caught up with Cody to learn about the vision behind, Free Earth Project
Now that the idea has been sparked, what is the motivation to continue to carry it out?
We all enjoy working with the land, learning new things and growing as individuals and we want to share that experience with others. Our goals are not only to feed those in need but also to educate through workshops and give people the tools to do this on a personal level for their families. As a society, we are so disconnected from where our food comes from, how it is produced and how much work it requires. We aim to bridge that gap. We also want to show young people that it can be a fun and rewarding experience to grow and produce your own food.
Beyond feeding the needs of the community, what else does Free Earth hope to inspire from this?
Free Earth does this to meet a direct need in Henderson County, but our long term goals include us being able to do this same thing all over the country and then eventually the globe. This same model can be successful in many places with some hardworking hands, strong leaders and community support. We do this because we believe that our existence is not only to serve our own needs and wants but to affect others while we are here. We want to see communities come together. Our mission is to sow seeds that inspire growth and enrich community.
What can the community do to support the Free Earth Project?
We need the community to support us, share our posts by helping us get the word out. Free Earth is always looking for volunteers to complete tasks on the farm like weeding, building raised beds, planting and harvesting. We have the ability to make a significant impact on a county that ranks below average on the national poverty level.
If you feel led to donate to the cause, it is always greatly appreciated and every dollar is stretched as far as possible. We always look for ways to recycle and we strive to buy used first and then refurbish things to fit our needs if possible. We also love in-kind donations like hog paneling, pallets, compost, rabbit droppings, t-posts, etc. Since we are a 501 c3, any donation made, monetary or in-kind, is tax deductible.
Free Earth is funded right now by a handful of directors. We are all teachers, so we don’t have a lot of expendable money but we are very resourceful and thrifty. We look for any way to cut costs at all. We have a volunteer that constantly checks the free section of Craigslist to see if we can repurpose something to fill a need. We also have Wright’s Tree Service dump mulch every year from local tree trimming for our furrows and we repurpose cardboard to keep weeds down. We have received a few modest donations that help aid us with bigger purchases like compost and equipment.
Do you plan on doing this full time?
Eventually, yes, we would all love to do this full-time. We achieve so much right now working for Free Earth part-time that we are confident and excited at the impact we could have if we were able to do this full-time. This whole process has been very eye opening as we really had no idea the amount of red tape, paperwork and behind the scenes time that goes into creating and sustaining a non-profit. It definitely takes a team and although we are small, we are fierce and driven.
What is the edible food forest?
The edible food forest is a long term project that we are working to grow in Athens, TX. The idea is essentially a living forest of edible foods that you can walk through and pick fresh, healthy fruit from. It will not only be a beautiful addition to the city, something that family, friends and photographers can enjoy, but it also serves the purpose of simultaneously feeding people.
Long term volunteer housing?
A huge part of making this organization successful in the long term is having live-in volunteers that can be on site and help us keep things running. We aim to partner directly with WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), that connects volunteers with farms all over the world. All of the directors running Free Earth work full-time and one of the main directors also volunteers as a Scout Committee Member and has two small children, so it is a constant juggling act to schedule and commit our time to the farm on the evenings and weekends.
We need someone helping complete daily tasks so we can put more of our efforts into finding grants, building connections, sourcing donations, creating funding ideas and planning events/workshops. We plan to feed our volunteers from the farm of course and we feel like this relationship will work out well and hopefully blossom into an opportunity for some of our volunteers to become a long term part of Free Earth.
How can people volunteer and donate?
We are always ready for help and if you have a particular passion for this type of project, we want you! If you are interested in helping fund our operations, we have a donation button on the first page of our Facebook that will take you directly through the process.
Free Earth is also set up on Amazon Smile, which donates a portion of each purchase back to the non-profit. The only catch is you have to check out through the Amazon Smile website for us to get credit! If you have in-kind donations like equipment, fencing, compost, etc, please send us an email or call us at 903-258-3753 so we can work out drop off/pick-up.