Two projects tie for win at Toledo SOUPWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
On March 9, five local organizations gave short presentations to attendees at Toledo SOUP as they vied for a chance to earn a community-funded microgrant.
When the votes were counted, it was a tie between Glass City Goat Girls and New Life Urban Agriculture.
The event, which filled Toledo School for the Arts’ cafeteria, raised a record $2,168, allowing each winner to take home $1,084. The funds came from admissions, raffle tickets, a bake sale and donations, including $500 from the Lucas County Commissioners.
“I’m totally cool with a tie,” Toledo SOUP committee member Ryan Bunch said. “Every time when we get the initial proposals I just wish, reading through them, that we could fund every single one. So to me, the more of these projects that get funded the better. And it worked out great that we were able to raise enough money that each of them got what would have been the normal award anyway.”
The first Toledo SOUP was held in 2012. The March 9 event was the fourth event and the first tie — although the winner of the last Toledo SOUP won by one vote, Bunch said.
“We’ve always had really good attendance, but it’s kind of a hard event to explain and it seems like people are finally starting to get what it’s about,” Bunch said. “It was just really cool to look around the room and see everyone smiling. It’s awesome. This is real grassroots community action.”
Elizabeth Harris and Unique Jones of Glass City Goat Girls presented at a previous Toledo SOUP, but didn’t win. They started their project anyway.
“We got the land, got the goats, got the kids, got an adviser,” Harris said. “We’ve done so much so we’re so excited. It’s our time now.”
Both will soon graduate from Owens Community College’s urban agriculture program. They plan to use the Toledo SOUP money to build a fence for their goats at their project site on Mentor Street in the central city, near where both grew up. The location features a goat farm, butterfly house and growing plots.
“We have gotten so far away from agriculture, but this is the agriculture state,” Jones said. “Getting back to the basics is one of our major things. And teaching sustainability. Teaching people they can grow their own food and save water for their garden. There’s so many things you could be doing in agriculture to save money.”
The pair plan to offer 4-H programming and use the farm as an outdoor learning laboratory with an emphasis on STEM initiatives.
“Science, technology, engineering and math — those are things you have to have hands-on, real-life applications,” Harris said. “We’re going to try to help kids make that connection. We also feel it could give them different ideas for the future that could lead them to different careers.”
There are lots of possibilities for future expansion, includes birdwatching, beekeeping and Future Farmers of America programming, they said.
For more information, visit glasscitygoatgals.com.
Derek Bunch of New Life Urban Agriculture plans to use his Toledo SOUP funds to buy the mushroom cultures and filtration units needed to start local production of high-quality organic mushrooms. His goal is to have mushrooms by summer with a long-term goal of building a full-size indoor vertical farm, including produce and fish.
“I’m really humbled and hugely excited,” said Bunch, whose brother Ryan helped organize the event. “I’ve been working on this for the past six years and I don’t want it to die. Nobody else is doing it.
“Six years ago, if you typed indoor farming into Google — nothing,” Bunch said. “Now type in vertical farms and it’s just an explosion. I really feel like I’ve been on the forefront of this well before it was even a thing and I really want to keep that going. If they are doing it in Chicago where land is expensive, we can do it in Toledo where land is incredibly cheap.”
Bunch had started growing tomatoes in his Old West End home, but was forced to stop because he couldn’t afford to keep going. The next day, he saw the call for submissions to Toledo SOUP.
“It was like one of those things, like ‘What do I have to lose?’” Bunch said.
Eventually he’d like to move the project out of his home and into its own building. His goal is to sell the mushrooms to local restaurants, food co-ops and at farmers’ markets.
“There’s a small market there right now and what I really want to do is stick a wedge in that and just really pry open the local food market and get things starting to be produced locally here — especially year-round,” Bunch said. “We have a lot of summer gardens, but we don’t have anything in the winter time. I really want to see local produce 365 days a year going into our local eateries. That way we can easily track where our food is coming from and the money goes back into our local economy.”
Before each Toledo SOUP, a panel of guest judges reviews the submitted proposals and chooses five finalists, who are invited to present at the event. Attendees listen to the presentations and vote for their favorites. The top vote-getter gets all the money raised that night.
Past winners have included Art of Hope, which helps women transition out of human trafficking and away from domestic violence; Art Around Town, which provides creative and educational art activities for area youth; and Glass City Pedicabs, Toledo’s first 100 percent green transportation company.
Other project proposals presented March 9 were a public art project to beautify Main Street in East Toledo; Fertile Grounds Radio, an Internet blog radio broadcast focusing on the Toledo community; and Sibshops, an organization offering workshops for children with siblings with special needs.
The next Toledo SOUP is set for June 22.
For more information, visit toledosoup.com.
Tags: Derek Bunch, Elizabeth Harris, Fertile Grounds Radio, GlassCity Goat Girls, Indoor Gardening, New Life Urban Agriculture, Organic Mushrooms, Ryan Bunch, Sibshops, Toledo School for the Arts, Toledo SOUP, Unique Jones, Urban Gardening, Urban Goat Farm, Vertical Garden