Earlier this month on March 9th, Founders Live Spokane (led by Kelli Thompson of Tokens Square) held its second ever pitch competition at Burbity Workspaces in Spokane Valley. Founders Live is an organization founded by Nick Huges in Seattle with events in 100 cities in 40 countries that provide “the ultimate entrepreneurial experience and pitch competition.”
June Swatzell of Organic Nearby, Zakaria Apiiga of E-zevis, Isaac Cunnington of My Sushi Sensei, Nymue Oberg of Susi Wellness and Shaneese Dunigan of Courage to Grow Farms each pitched their businesses to a local audience for 99 seconds followed by four minutes of Q&A from the audience members. At the end of all five pitches, audience members scanned a QR code to vote for their favorite pitch. While all participating founders received $5,000 in credits towards Amazon Web Services (AWS), the winner received a variety of prizes sponsored by local businesses, $10,000 in AWS credits, and the opportunity to compete in a Founders Live Prime Time global event in the future.
While all five founders brought their A-game and presented high-quality pitches, there could be only one winner. A roar of applause erupted when Shaneese Dunigan of Courage to Grow Farms was announced in first place. In attendance to celebrate her win was her significant other and co-owner of Courage to Grow Farms Phillip Moore, her two children, and her parents.
You can read an earlier article we wrote about Courage to Grow Farms online, but Shaneese and Philip have a vision of training the next wave of farmers in regenerative farming practices. “We left our corporate jobs in 2019 to become farmers with very little but a hope, a dream, and a book called The Urban Farmer by Curtis Stone. That book became our bible to grow food for our family and for the community. I took it with me everywhere!” Shaneese laughs.
In their first year, they began farming on four plots around Spokane and attended three markets a week to make a living. At the end of their first year, they sold most of what they had and downsized to live in a bus and travel the U.S. to teach other families how regenerative farming practices and how to grow large amounts of food on a fraction of the land most farms use. But then COVID hit and their plans changed dramatically.
Shaneese and Phillip lived out of their bus with their two children on a neighbor’s farm where they began farming their fifth plot. By May of 2020, they cultivated over one hundred 50-foot beds and adopted the model of community supported agriculture (CSA) in which consumers buy shares of a farm’s harvest in advance. In 2022, they had the opportunity to purchase 30 acres of land in Lamont, WA.
Courage to Grow Farms is a first-generation, family farm that employs regenerative and organic farming practices. “If we sustain what we’re currently doing [in the agricultural industry], we will fail. Regenerative agriculture actually regenerates the land while you farm it by leaving biological matter in the soil through certain practices, like mitigating weeds without use of herbicides or pesticides and alternatives to tilling.These practices increase biodiversity and not only reduce soil erosion, but actually help to rebuild the topsoil,” Shaneese explains.
Furthermore, they engage in something called high-intensity crop production. “Traditionally, farmers will harvest twice a year. With high-intensity crop production we harvest eight times per year on the same land, generating much higher production on less land. This leaves a far smaller carbon footprint. And we can use things like biochar in our soil to reduce carbon emissions and decrease the amount of water the crops need,” Shaneese continues.
Their farm is one of the only CSAs in Spokane that grows food during the winter months. They received funding to create a program in which they mentored five other farms on a winter-growing season extension project, with much of the food from the harvest donated to several non-profits. Since their inception, Courage to Grow Farms has collaborated with 18 different organizations and nonprofits.
Shaneese and Phillip are passionate about providing access to fresh, nutritious local produce and will soon invite people for short and long-term farm stays to experience farm life. “We want to eliminate the barriers people have to learning to farm, such as access to land, water, a place to stay, and the knowledge. We will teach new farmers everything they need to be successful, from seed, to sale, to process, to market,” Shaneese shares.
Courage to Grow Farms is currently seeking an endowment totaling $1,000,000 to their 501(c)(3) fiscal sponsor to fund a processing center and an egg production facility. “Egg demand is so high everywhere, and the prices of eggs for consumers are astronomical. We would use part of this endowment for egg production and help decrease the national shortage of eggs,” Shaneese notes. To support them in finding this endowment, please email them at firstname.lastname@example.org or call/text (509) 270-7264.
For those who are interested in having fresh vegetables and greens year round, for only $480 you will receive 8-10 items of nutrient dense produce grown via organic methods weekly for twelve weeks that you can pick up conveniently at one of a number of common locations (equates to $40/week). And for those wanting added convenience with door-step delivery of your weekly produce in an insulated tote bag, the price is only $600 (equates to $50/week). You can sign up online at www.couragetogrowfarms.com or call (509) 270-7264. Be sure to follow them on social media on FB and Instagram @couragetogrowfarms.