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Annual Farms for Change fundraiser is back for its 13th year

'Good old fashioned barn party,' supports 30 good food organizations, including Collingwood's Butterfly Project community pantry
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Every year, the event raises about $140,000.

The 13th Annual Farms for Change fundraiser will take to the fields this Saturday. 

The sold-out event, which is an innovative partnership between The New Farm and Community Food Centres Canada (CFCC), will feature food and drink from over 10 participating restaurants as well as a musical performance on the main stage. 

One hundred per cent of the proceeds go towards purchasing vegetables from The New Farm and other local farms to be donated to good food organizations across the province. 

“It is an old-fashioned barn party, but with really amazing food, great drinks, and a super great vibe,” said Gillian Files, who owns and operates The New Farm with her husband, Brent Preston. 

Files and Preston founded The New Farm in 2004 almost as a political act. The former international election observers–turned farmers abandoned city life to address the much larger issues of global warming, obesity, human health, and the breakdown of rural communities. 

“All of it comes back to the way we grow our food,” said Files. “And we’ve gotten it wrong.”

The original event began as a “small, DIY fundraiser” in support of the Stop Community Food Centre. 

Files and Preston had connections in the music industry and through their vendors, to chefs from top restaurants in Toronto, so they decided to host an event so they could provide local, organic produce to The Stop and more than 15 other Community Food Centres and good food organizations throughout Southern Ontario. 

“Fresh, organic salad is expensive and it isn’t something often donated, so that’s what we send,” said Files. “Kids need to taste this food when they are younger, or they won’t acquire a taste for it. You have to learn to eat when you’re younger.”

The first year they raised $5,000, and it just continued to grow from there. 

“The first event was put on by me and the interns, and a local chef helped us with the dinner,” said Files. “By year three, we started having all of our chefs come and cook, it was an epiphany.”

Now in its 13th year, Farms for Change sees 1,000 attendees, with tickets typically selling out in under five minutes. 

The Tragically Hip, Sam Roberts Band and Elliot Brood are some of the great Canadian bands who have performed, as well as food and beverages from some of the most prestigious chefs in the Greater Toronto Area. 

The event consistently raises over $100,000 every year. 

This year, if all goes as planned, The New Farm will be able to send half a million dollars in produce to over 30 good food organizations. One of their newest partnerships is with the Butterfly Project, a food security initiative spearheaded by the Collingwood Youth Centre (CYC). Locally, they also work with the Georgian Bay Community Food Network, as well as good food organizations in Guelph, Stratford, Toronto, Hamilton, and beyond. 

“We are focusing really on good food organizations and growing the best food possible for these folks,” said Files. 

In recent years, The New Farm has been approved to host up to 5,000 guests, but they cap the number of attendees to keep it intimate. At the end of the day, Files said it is still a good old-fashioned barn party.

“We work hard to not let it go mainstream,” said Files. “You can feel it. The vibe of love and sharing and friendship and community here on the farm is palpable.”

“It’s the best feeling in the world,” she adds. 

For more information about the event or to donate, visit The New Farm.

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Maddie Johnson

About the Author: Maddie Johnson

Maddie Johnson is an early career journalist working in financial, small business, adventure and lifestyle reporting. She studied Journalism at the University of King's College, and worked in Halifax, Malta and Costa Rica before settling in Collingwood
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