September 14, 2006: On any given day at
Quiet Creek Herb Farm and School of Country Living (www.quietcreekherbfarm.com)
in Brookville, Pennsylvania, the parking lot is filled with
cars and school buses. Students and teachers can be found
touring the high-tunnel greenhouses, baking bread, making
cheese, learning to make compost with worms or searching for
the newly hatched queen in an observation hive filled with
Owners Claire and Rusty Orner moved back to their native
northwestern Pennsylvania 11 years ago from Seattle, Washington,
where they worked as sorority house parents while Claire was
attending graduate school. Since that time, they have developed
their expanding farm-based business to include two high-tunnel
greenhouses and several gardens where they grow crops for
a 16-member CSA and herbs, which are sold as transplants or
grown out and used in the value-added products for sale in
the on-farm gift shop.
But Quiet Creek’s most important enterprise is education.
The Orners are dedicated to increasing public understanding
of resource conservation, ecological awareness and healthful,
sustainable living, and have done so by creating this farming
experience through hard work, creativity and various tax credit
and grant programs available to non-profit corporations.
Funding their educational dreams
In 2002, Quiet Creek became a non-profit corporation and
is recognized as an educational improvement organization by
the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development
(DCED). This status means they can apply for various government
grants and programs such as the Educational Improvement Tax
which allows local businesses to give money to the farm to
fund educational activities in return for a tax credit of
up to 75 percent of the contribution, with a maximum amount
of $200,000 annually. If the business agrees to make the same
contribution for two consecutive years, the tax credit could
increase to 90 percent of the contribution, again with an
annual limit of $200,000. Contributions to pre-kindergarten
programs earn 100 percent tax credit.
EITC money goes toward five different programs at Quiet Creek
for pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade public- and private-school
students in Brockway, Brookville, Clarion, Clarion-Limestone,
DuBois and Punxsutawney. The programs include:
a year-round pre-kindergarten program with an agricultural
Sustainable Lifestyle Systems,
intensive workshops for students of all ages on natural
medicines, organic gardening, worm composting, integrated
pest management, responsible shelter construction, herbal
soap making, paper making, bee keeping, cheese making, nutrition,
fitness and renewable energy.
Program, provides in-school instruction
in the subjects listed above.
Work Experience Career Enhancement,
helps ninth through twelfth graders learn about retail sales,
food services management, landscape gardening, greenhouse
vegetable production and the production of value-added farm
week-long summer day camps for sixth through eighth graders
addressing local environmental concerns.
Quiet Creek also runs week-long seminars for teachers interested
in learning about organic farming and sustainable living techniques.
This program has been funded in the past by a grant from the
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)
and is currently supported by Clarion University of Pennsylvania.
It wasn’t until they were granted non-profit status
that the Orners were able to fully develop the programs, despite
the importance of the educational component to them. The profits
from the CSA and the gift shop help pay for some programming,
but being a non-profit has allowed the Orners to find grants
that more fully fund the farm’s educational programs
without dipping into salaries. “We were stressed when
both of us were working part or full time off the farm,”
Claire said. “I’m the big-time planner and Rusty
is the big-time doer, so it works. Having both of us here
on the farm full time, plus our workers and volunteers, really
Becoming a non-profit
The first step to becoming a non-profit is to incorporate
the farm. Part of this involves setting up a board of directors.
The Orners are members of the board along with CSA members,
long-time customers, professors from Clarion University and
an accountant. “You don’t necessarily need an
attorney on the board, but you definitely want a CPA,”
The board meets four times a year, including one meeting
over the Internet. As long as members are involved and supportive
of the farm, geography is not an issue. Distant board members
just have to commit to commuting to the three organic dinner
meetings Quiet Creek hosts.
After incorporation, the group can then apply for non-profit
status. Once status is granted, the farmers submit a budget
to the board of directors detailing how much money is needed
to run the farm including salaries. Any profits earned beyond
the budgeted amounts are available for educational programs.
“If someone wanted to make a lot of money, this set
up wouldn’t work for them," Rusty said. Being a
non-profit helps with the educational programs and relieves
some of the tax burden. Anything extra, instead of going to
taxes, goes to programming.
Gaining non-profit status can be a long, frustrating and
confusing process, but many of the farmers who have already
been through it are happy to help others. “It took about
a year and a half to get through the book work and the red
tape,” Rusty said. “We were fortunate to have
Louise Smith of Maysie’s Farm Conservation Center (www.maysiesfarm.org)
to help us.” The Orners then turned around and helped
another fellow farmer with his application and it took him
six months less to get non-profit status than it took Quiet
Creek. “Every time we do it, it gets faster,”
A good place to start looking for information on becoming
a non-profit entity is www.irs.gov/charities.
Programs for non-profit corporations and educational institutions
differ from state to state, so you'll have to do a little
research into what might be available in your area.
There is a lot of paper work involved in getting and maintaining
non-profit status, but it’s worth it to farmers like
the Orners. It can take some of the financial pressure off
an already stressful situation and allow them to concentrate
on what they really love to do: teach people about the beautiful
world around them.