RAVEN Champion Profile: Growing Community with The Backyard Project Farm Stand

In October 2020, less than a year into the pandemic, Marianne Unger was looking for a way to reconnect to her community. So began the front porch Farm Stand. Nestled in a small Fernwood street, this incredible community gem has become so much more than just a chance to say hello to neighbours in the pandemic. “It’s an extension of our household,” says Marianne. “So whatever we need, and whatever I feel like making — I just make more of it. And it goes out onto the porch.” 

At its origin, the Farm Stand had fixed prices (regular and accessible pricing) for everything Marianne put out for sale, but she says “it was not quite making sense to me.” Her goal wasn’t to start a business. Inspired by her readings of Robin Wall Kimmerer and Wendell Berry, she pivoted the project to align with a place-based gift economy. Additionally, she donates a portion of farmstand proceeds to RAVEN to support Indigenous Nations’ access to justice. 

Now, everything Marianne puts out on her stand is for the community, who can pay for it any way they want: in trades, in good deeds going forwards, with spare change. For Marianne, “it’s magic. When it’s right, everything kind of just comes together.”

Marianne Unger stands in the doorway of her porch at the Farm Stand. The windows are filled with notes, and pictures and support for Black Lives Matter. Marianne is wearing a patterned apron over her clothes.

An Unexpected Twist

“What I did not at all expect to happen was vendors,” says Marianne, who now includes other community folks who sell their creations at the Farm Stand each week. From homemade chocolates, to beaded earrings, to seed packets, red wine vinegar, and mini paintings depicting scenes from around the neighbourhood (including local pets) — the Farm Stand is a great place to go to get gifts, or satisfy your hunger, or to simply have a chat with a neighbour.

  • close up of Sammy’s Seed packets squished into a metal box.
  • a small stuffed pig toy leans against a window with a hand written note resting in its lap. Muffins and other pastries are on cooling racks in the foreground.
  • Round pastries with black sesame seeds sprinkled on top rest on a cooling rack.
  • Marianne points to little paintings that hang on a string in a window of the Farm Stand
  • A close-up of little paintings hanging on a string in the window at the Farm Stand.
  • Close up of the inside of the freezer at the farmstand with Elissa’s Chocolates, cookies, and jars of soup
  • Big clear containers of dough rest with cloths overtop on a wooden countertop
  • Marianne stands in front of a cabinet with bread and pastries inside the Farm Stand

Mutual Aid and the Farm Stand

In our current culture, not everyone has food security or access to healthy food. The Farm Stand has developed a model that aims to change that — at least for one family. Through the Foundation, one low income family from the neighbourhood “can come once a week and spend up to 40 farm-stand dollars, and basically just take whatever they want from the freezer or shelves.” 

“I get such a kick out of that, because it’s a Foundation but there’s just one family.” Marianne laughs. We all know that small acts of kindness go a long way; and mutual aid sometimes isn’t quantifiable.

Marianne in her kitchen smiling at the camera. Pastries are cooling on the countertop next to her.

RAVEN Champion

The more we learn about the Farm Stand, the more impressed we are. This small community project vibrates with joy and love. RAVEN is so grateful for the continued support that comes from Marianne and her community Farm Stand. 

“Land is so important in order to be well,” says Marianne, “and that’s how RAVEN comes in.” 

Marianne believes that the Indigenous governance of land is “where safety lies, and where hope lies.” At the Farm Stand, solidarity “because it’s an extension of the household, it doesn’t start in the kitchen, it starts outside on the land,” Marianne is holding onto the hope that is created when we stand behind Indigenous communities and their right to govern their lands. 

Thank you to Marianne and The Backyard Project Farm Stand for being such an inspiring RAVEN Champion. 

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