Each quarter, GreenStar selects three local not-for-profits to be the recipients of our Bring Your Own Bag, Use It for Good program donations. Our BYOB program encourages shoppers to bring their own bags by providing them with a token worth 5¢ that they can donate to one of the chosen organizations. At the end of the quarter, we make a donation to the groups based on the number of tokens given by our customers. This quarter, our recipients are Ability in Bloom, Habitat for Humanity, and the Ithaca Public Education Initiative.

Ability in Bloom is a social-enterprise program of Challenge Workforce Solutions. Through a quarter-acre flower-production plot at the Groundswell Incubator Farm, this program provides work-skills training for a dedicated group of 20 adults with disabilities and barriers to employment. They run a spring, summer, and fall CSA, as well as sell flowers at a Thursday market at Ithaca Bakery. Employees of Ability in Bloom work out in the field and at sales locations to produce and sell beautiful flowers. Some may later move on to other jobs, while others stay as permanent members of the team.

Ability in Bloom plans to use funding from the BYOB program to go “no-till” this coming season! Tillage involves any type of disturbance to the soil, most commonly done by tractors. They stir and over-turn the earth to make the soil more workable in the short term, leaving the ground “fluffed up” for easier planting. Conversely, no-till farming uses a set of practices such as cover crops, heavy mulches, and ground covers to avoid disturbing the soil.

The purchase of landscape fabric, staples, and handheld pruners will enable Ability in Bloom to engage in occultation — a fancy word for “covering the ground.” Breathable landscape fabric spread over garden beds prevents weed growth and allows them to sit uncultivated. The benefits of going no-till are many — providing ideal habitat for soil life, storing carbon in the soil, improving water retention — but best of all, it means less backbreaking work for the crew of Ability in Bloom. Instead of being pulled out of the ground, spent flowers and weeds will be cut off at the roots, leaving all that good nutrition to feed the covered garden beds. It’s a win-win situation — less hard work, healthier soil, and more beautiful flowers!

GreenStar is pleased to be a part of supporting Ability in Bloom and their mission!

Are you involved with a not-for-profit organization that might benefit from this program? Apply to be a recipient here.