Evaluating Impact

For the past six years, Gaining Ground has focused on making our farm more productive. Our efforts have been concentrated on the inputs: soil amendments, a well and irrigation, deer fencing, and a barn. It’s easy to measure the success of those inputs: We have doubled our production to 60,000 pounds of organic produce and welcome over 3,000 volunteers annually to work on the farm.

We are now starting to look at what impact our efforts may have on our recipients and volunteers. Impact is harder to assess than measuring production. To design the assessment, we are working with Lauren McKown, a Net Impact Fellow, who is guiding us to measure and tell the story of the impact we can observe and document. Net Impact is a global organization of professionals whose members aspire to be effective drivers of social and environmental change. Lauren has been interviewing everyone in our orbit: staff, board, recipients, and volunteers—and emerging from these conversations are hints about our impact on individuals.

“Our guests are so appreciative of the organic produce that comes from Gaining Ground. They come to tears. They couldn’t buy this produce, and it makes a difference as far as their health goes.” —A recipient organization

We will be linking the collection of impact statements to studies about the level and health effects of food insecurity. Here in Eastern Massachusetts, a third of us choose daily among food and fuel, rent, or medical care, and inequality—the diet quality gap between rich and poor—has doubled since 2000.

We expect our understanding of impact will guide our future plans, and we look forward to sharing the completed report with you.