Friday, August 31, 2012
Monday, August 27, 2012
Oh happy day! It’s raining (but who knows for how long).
This morning’s mail brought a Determination Letter from the Internal Revenue Service confirming that the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden, Inc. is “exempt from Federal income tax [as a public charity] under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Contributions to you are deductible under section 170 of the Code. You are also qualified to receive tax deductible bequests, devises, transfers or gifts . . . . “ With this lovely letter, we can apply for grant funds without finding and working with a fiscal agent/sponsor sufficiently in advance of the grant deadline. The gifts and contributions we receive from our supporters can now be deducted on their tax returns (if they itemize). And, once I figure out how, we will likely be exempt from state sales tax as well. So, this is another step towards long-term financial sustainability.
Obtaining a tax exempt Determination Letter is a long and time-consuming process. As you can imagine, the Internal Revenue Code (and all of the supporting and explanatory publications, rulings and decisions) are lengthy, complicated and detailed. Once you have read and digested all or most of them, you are required to complete a Form 1023 – the application for tax exempt status. This will also require you to provide supplementary information and attach other documents in support of your application. After going through all of that, you then pay the IRS $400 to read, and hopefully approve, your application. It was a three-month wait for us after submitting our application in May.
It probably took me longer to draft our application than it should have, but I obsess over everything. I am glad that I did so, because we did not receive a single follow-up question from the IRS. A friend at the Columbus Foundation had suggested that I first review the 1023 applications submitted by other community gardens. Unfortunately, there are not that many standalone community gardens (in that they are often affiliated with a church or other charity). However – get this – not a single community garden that I could find in Central Ohio or nationwide would share its 1023 application with me even though they are required to do so under federal law. Is that the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever heard?!! One told me that they lost it. Lots of finger-pointing at whose fault it was. Another told me that they did not want me to benefit from their hard work and inferred that I was a lazy freeloader. Really? Craziness.
Luckily, I am not that petty and am attaching our application and supplement (with home addresses redacted) in case any other community garden wants to get some comfort level with what to expect. You cannot just copy from our application verbatim because your application will be fact specific to your particular circumstances and activities. You should also if at all possible retain a certified public accountant or lawyer to help you navigate this process. You can contact the Columbus Bar Association’s pro bono referral service to see if they can find a local attorney who will volunteer to help you free of charge. (While most pro bono attorneys help indigent individuals, the corporate attorneys prefer to help organizations with issues like this). If they can’t find someone quickly, then call Marion Smithberger at the CBA and beg him to twist some arms. Assure the CBA that you expect to do most of the work, and will not put everything off on the lawyer, but need experienced help and judgment in reviewing what you are doing.
I have not attached all of our supplementary information because it is so extensive (i.e., bylaws, resolutions, newsletters, etc.). However, I will make this available to review upon a proper request in compliance with federal law and will not lose it.
Now, back to my happy day jig. And lunch.
at 12:30 PM
Saturday, August 25, 2012
Sandy Lindsey – who tends a plot at the SACG with her daughter, Kelly, organized the group and kept them sugared up and hydrated. She was the first to arrive. Two members of the group were serious gardeners and stayed behind after everyone else had left around noon because they could not stop pulling weeds. And we have a lot of weeds. They are welcome at the SACG anytime.
SACG gardeners Beth and Rayna came by to clean up their plots and to harvest produce. Rayna donated yellow tomatoes from her own garden. After almost everyone had left, Barb & Frank came to clean up their plot and donated a boat load of tomatoes and squash (as well as basil for our weekly barter delivery to Bexley Pizza Plus).
|Taking picture with someone else's cell phone|
The hard-working Vineyard volunteers did such a nice job of weeding that I’ll be able to spend Labor Day weekend (next Saturday) planting lettuce and turnips for a November pre-Thanksgiving harvest. Many hands make light work:)
at 2:27 PM
Friday, August 24, 2012
The SACG is the first garden (and the pilot project) for the new tank loaner program. The tank is attached to a downspout so that when the tank is full, the water will simply continue to run down the downspout. In the winter, we unhook the tank and use a pre-attached plug to divert all rain down the downspout.
at 1:31 PM
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Community Garden of the Year. This $500 award (sponsored by The Scotts-Miracle Gro Company) was to be awarded to the top neighborhood gardening project for beautification and/or food production. This year it went to the Good Samaritan Community Garden. It is supported by Ascension Lutheran Church and supports, among other things, the local Bhutan immigrant community. It began as a way for the gardeners to grow food for the clients of the Helping Hands free clinic and then to support the NNEMAP food pantry in the Short North.
at 9:59 PM
Friday, August 17, 2012
Weastec is permitting the Hope Christian Alliance to grow beans on the five acres behind the local plant to raise food for area food pantries. The biggest problem now -- as reported by the local newspaper -- is that they cannot find enough volunteers to harvest their very substantial crop. I can certainly relate to that. (My home county has been blessed with sufficient rainfall this year -- unlike the near East Side of Columbus).
Weastec's Senior Vice President said that the plant wasn't using the acreage for anything and had to mow it. So, it hasn't been any problem for them to let the Alliance plow and plant it. They considered putting an orchard back there, but they are concerned about deer and the delay in having a harvestable crop. The company hasn't had any problems with litter, trespassing, etc. It's just disappointing that not enough people or pantry clients have volunteered to help pick all of the beans being grown back there.
I think it's nice that a local employer has a creative way to give back to the community where it is located. It's one of my favorite corporate-garden partnerships: one that doesn't cost the company anything, but is a big help the community gardening movement. (Just like the SACG's partnership with BTBO to let us harvest rain water off its roof).
at 11:55 AM
Friday, August 10, 2012
I also got a peck of tomatoes last week for $9. Today, I got a half-bushel of tomatoes there for $9. (They also have pecks of pickling cucumbers for $9). Considering that my tomatoes are not a wildly productive in this drought, I wanted to make sure that I have enough tomatoes this year to get me through until next July.)
There are scores of varieties of peaches. Who knew? I'm starting to learn that they do not all ripen at the same time. Peach varieties are categorized by color and pit. There are white or yellow peaches. Then, there are cling and freestone peaches (which refers to whether the flesh clings to (or not) the seed pit). My favorite varieties are yellow peaches. The easiest to can are the freestone -- which ripen in late July through September. Because of the heat and drought, the harvest is a few weeks ahead of schedule (like everything else). The peaches are also smaller (and maybe sweeter) than usual. I'm usually not a fan of white peaches, but the white peaches I bought last week were quite tasty and looked very cute in the jars.
In years past, I've made what I call a fuzzy navel marmalade (i.e., peaches and naval oranges). However, I seem to be the only person who likes it. Last weekend, I tried a new recipe -- from Martha Stewart’s website – for peach rosemary jam. Oh boy. Is it good, or what. I never would have thought of that all by myself. (I did, however, add pectin). I’ve been eating it on crackers all week. I added triple sec to one jar just for grins and giggles.
This weekend, I’m going to try and teach Cathy to make jam and to can her preserves. I bought more peaches and perused a new Better Homes and Garden canning magazine that I picked up a few months ago. I’ll be making three peach jams. One with ginger. One with triple sec or cointreau. And then I have to chose between jalapeno, basil, white wine or bourbon. Oh the decisions.
Shockingly, my friends who receive my gifts of jams generally forget to return the jam jar so that I can refill it for them. (My mother is never so negligent. She ensures herself of refills every year). I had to go shopping for jam jars this afternoon since I am close to running out. My favorite are the 8 oz jars I found a few years ago at the Giant Eagle in Reynoldsburg. My next favorite are the half-pint quilted jelly jars. Wal-Mart had loads of them, but charges more for them than pint jars. Go figure. Then, the really fancy ones (i.e., short and wide-mouth) are about a dollar a jar and can be found at Target, Wal-Mart and Lowe’s. For that matter, the East Broad Street Lowe’s had absolutely everything you could possibly need (except quilted jelly jars) to can tomatoes or peaches near the back door in aisle 32. One cannot truly be a home food preserver without owning at least one copy of Ball’s Blue Book, which you can get at Lowe’s for about $6. I usually wait until late Fall to buy jars on sale or really early at Big-Lots. However, there are peaches that need me now, so what’s a girl to do?
at 7:55 PM