A popular opening barn dance call from the early 20th century instructed "Partners to your places, like the horses to their traces." On. Aug. 8, the place for partners in sustainable farming (and dancing) is The Barn in Fearrington Village. There, RAFI (Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA) will host the Crop Hop, a square dance and fundraiser to support its Farm Sustainability program.
Established during the '80s farm crisis, the program assists small and mid-size family farmers who are on the verge of losing their farms by providing financial advice, and advocating on their behalf to lenders and agencies.
"We have more work than we can handle without actually advertising this [program] because we get so many calls," says Benny Bunting, RAFI's lead farm advocate. "We need funding to be able to expand this program, because the need is great."
Bunting has helped save approximately 500 farms during the program's history. But funds to support that work are becoming scarce as granting agencies shift priorities or narrow requirements.
"It's not something that's going to survive on foundation funding," says Joe Schroder, RAFI farm sustainability director.
Most funders are looking for specific projects, and farm sustainability—in its many facets—sounds too vague.
All proceeds from the event will support the program. Tickets ($20 for general admission, $15 for individuals 65 and older, $10 for students) include one beer from Carolina Brewery and desserts including cheesecake by Lindley Farms Creamery, a grantee of RAFI's Tobacco Communities Reinvestment Fund. Brews from Fullsteam and New Belgium will also be for sale.
The Crop Hop kicks off at 7:30 p.m., with music by the Carolina Catbirds and fiddler Shay Gariock, and a square dance called by Aaron Ratcliffe. A short film will showcase farmers who have worked with RAFI.
"We need people to come in and think about where their food is coming from—who grows their food," says Bunting. "We're trying to keep those farmers on their farms and producing that food, and the only way we can continue to do that is if we have funding."
As the call goes, find a partner and do-si-do.