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Saturday 23, 2010  I am out into the cold morning and off to pick up Carter.  Alon didn’t sleep well last night and I feel like I didn’t sleep at all.  No time for coffee, if this sale is anything like the Trees Atlanta sale its going to be packed when it opens at 9.  We arrive at the Food Bank and 9:10 and there are mobs of people.  Surely all these people are not here for the tree sale?  But surely the Food Bank would not schedule another event for today.  The Organizational Change Alliance has their meeting inside starting at 10 and thats enough to ask of one parking lot.

Crossing the street, it was clear that all those people were here for the tree sale.  I went straight for the persimmons and pomegranates that were my reason for coming – gone.  Sold out at 9:15. I grab a plum tree and look around raspberries – sold, blueberries- not a trace, pawpaws – gone.   I am not committing to apples or pears unless I know a lot about the variety and the root stock. I have about 1/8 of an acre for fruit trees and thats not much space if I plant full size trees.

Almost all fruit trees are made of two different trees – the root stock and the cultivar.  The root stock is chosen for its hardiness and its size.  The tree will only grow as big as the root stock allows.  Put a Macintosh apple cultivar on full size root stock you get an apple tree that will get a tree that is 20-40 feet tall.  Put the same cultivar on a semi-dwarf or dwarf root stock and you keep the tree to as small as 4-6 feet. I prefer to put in small trees and have more variety.

So I took my plum (a pollinator friend for a plum I already own) and got into the long, long line.  Waiting was no bore, because I ran into at least a dozen friends.  Even people I don’t know were coming up to me and saying hello.  ALFI wisely set up a line for ordering trees to be delivered next week.  I would have ordered 4 times more, but I am going to SOCON 10.  So I bought my plum and headed over to Cafe Campesino’s booth to get my cup of coffee.  They just opened a shop selling organic, shade-grown, fairtrade coffee in the Atlanta Curbside Market.

I spoke with Kyla after the sale.  She says that the sale was so successful ALFI will be able to hire a full time employee next year.  The difference between being an all volunteer organization and being having a single employee is a massive step for an organization.  It allows for consistancy of communication, planning, and volunteer organizing.   Orders may be up to 5 times the amount of plant material sold the day of the sale.  Amazing.

Heres what I think ALFI did right

1. Well designed invitation.  With a catchy title, neutral but attractive colors and clear information.  I saw this invite on a lot of different websites, on Facebook and in emails from several friends.

2. Fiscal sponsorship.  ALFI is not an independent organization.  It is a project with fiscal sponsorship from Georgia Organics, this means that the project operates under the umbrella of GO.  All of ALFIs money must go through GO.  GO probably takes a small percentage to cover bookkeeping and accounting expenses.  ALFI doesn’t have to set up its own legal entity.  I am a huge fan of fiscal sponsorship.  It creates synergies and helps prevent duplication of efforts.  It also slows the outrageous proliferations of nonprofit organizations occuring now.

3. Grow it Yourself.   ALFI hit the message right on.  Grow it yourself, Do it yourself, Take care of yourself. People are looking for self-reliance.  The recent turbulence in the economy and the growing instability of the globe has people seeking more control over their lives.  Whether its growing their own food, doing home improvment projects, or taking control  of their investments, people are taking charge of their lives.

4. Organization.  This event was well organized right from the start.  They had clear lists of which trees they would have.  At the event they had pre-printed order forms and booklets of information about the trees.

5. Tap into communities. ALFI got their invite and messages firmly planted into different communities. If 3 of your friends are going to the same event, you might as well go also.  They successfully tapped several functioning communities including local food fanatics, community gardeners, tree planters, and food bank supporters.

May all the baby trees be blessed with a well dug hole, regular watering, and safe passage through their first year.

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