In the heart of Philadelphia's Francisville neighborhood lies a thriving green patch of land. But it's no public park — it's a farm.
Since its 2014 inception, the Francisville Urban Farm has been the backbone of Urbanstead, a Philadelphia nonprofit dedicated to empowering youth and communities through the practice of urban farming.
"Urbanstead works to achieve healthy futures by uniting the community and operating programs that directly empower Philadelphia's vulnerable youth," said Lisa Gaidanowicz, Urbanstead's executive director. "Seeking to develop pathways to success through hands-on experiences at our farms, orchard, and farmers markets, we focus on leadership, career development, and healthy choices with all of our participants."
The farm provides a safe place for students of all ages to get hands-on experience in planting, growing, and harvesting healthy food. But Urbanstead's programming goes beyond just working on the farm. It also provides opportunities for older students and young adults to gain valuable workplace skills and experience by learning to create food-producing spaces across the city. Additionally, Urbanstead operates a youth-led farmers market stand at Philadelphia's Fairmount Farmers Market from June through November each year.
Fighting Food Insecurity
Urbanstead was first conceptualized in 2012 to directly address the growing problem of in-need Philadelphians not knowing where they were going to find their next meal.
"In 2013, we got to work forming a plan for Urbanstead's future, developing programs, building community support, and working with pre-existing food justice programs," Lisa said. "Then, in 2014 we partnered with the Francisville Neighborhood Development Corporation (FNDC) to develop the Francisville Urban Farm and Orchard, where we bring young people of all ages to work, play, and learn."
By 2015, Urbanstead's Youth Plots program provided direct assistance to more than 500 youths across the city. That number continued to grow, and Lisa noted that her organization worked with over 612 young people this year through a variety of community partnerships.
"Creating healthy communities through urban agriculture requires extensive community involvement and partnerships with local businesses and organizations who share our vision for the future," she explained.
Organized Accounting for a Growing Organization
Last year, Urbanstead left the umbrella of a fiscal sponsor and became a nonprofit. As a result, it needed an accounting solution that fit its budget. And so it acquired QuickBooks Online Plus through TechSoup.
Lisa reported she was not unhappy with the accounting software Urbanstead was using beforehand. However, she also noted that her adoption of QuickBooks marked an improvement in her organization's bookkeeping abilities.
"While both programs operate in a similar capacity, QuickBooks' direct import function and reporting options provide a more robust, full picture view of our finances," she said. "We've [also] found that the customized reporting in QuickBooks provides more detail in one single document and is easy to run."
She pointed out that Urbanstead does not currently use the payroll function in QuickBooks; however, it's nice to know that it has the option to implement this feature down the road.
More Energy to Focus on What Matters
As a small nonprofit, Urbanstead is currently unable to hire an accountant or a finance manager. Nonetheless, Lisa needed a clear picture of her organization's finances that was usable within her current staffing capabilities — and she found one.
"Acquiring QuickBooks at a discount has allowed us to better organize our business without the frustration of overspending on a robust accounting tool. We are extremely grateful for the opportunity to use this technology at a reduced cost and look forward to a continued partnership with TechSoup," she said.
With all her books in order, Lisa can spend more time getting her and her community's hands dirty. And as they do so, more food is grown, and Urbanstead continues to address multiple problems facing underserved communities in Philadelphia at once.