Knocking on Doors for the Prairie Farm Corps

 
 
By Sneha Akurati
 
Sneha Akurati served Prairie Farm Corps as a crew member in 2016.  This fall, wanting to give back to the program, Sneha and her mother, Bharathi Pragada, raised over $5000 for Prairie Farm Corps.  She shares her experiences on these efforts below.  Sneha is currently a sophomore at Vernon Hills High School, but was just accepted into Conserve School for Fall 2017.
 
“The experience of raising money for one more student to attend  Prairie Farm Corps started with a seedling of hope and an inkling of uncertainty. The task at hand posed as overwhelming and at times seemed discouraging. However, with the ding of each doorbell to doorbell showed me more and more about persistence. As a recent alumni of Prairie Farm Corps, I wanted another high school student to have the amazing experience I had at the farm during the summer. The idea was to raise enough money to employ one more student with extra money for the program itself.
Asking for free money is a contradicting statement itself, so with the help of my mom, we came up with the idea of offering at-home deliveries of produce that would originally sell for $15 but instead for $30. The money made would also be matched dollar for dollar with my Mom’s work company resulting in a total that is double the funds collected. The work ahead seemed to be tedious but I knew the goal would be rewarding in the end.
The first week was by far the easiest and most fruitful. I immediately found solace in all of our close family friends to buy my box of vegetables and they replied with a gratifying yes. These donations quickly gave me a head start and boosted my confidence which I needed before I would start to persuade complete strangers to buy our veggies.
Then I began my learning expedition. With each doorbell, I learned what to do better with the next. As the first doorbell I rang my sentences came out quite choppy and my nervousness showed as I tried to persuade the stranger behind the door. As I moved along, my sentences came out naturally and I wasn’t as nervous talking to new people. The challenge was to convince them to buy our produce, but also provide a brief, attention-catching description of the program. In fact, this was difficult for me because I can talk hours and hours about Prairie Farm Corps, but getting to the central idea was essential when convincing a stranger who has dedicated only five to ten minutes at the door. It was important to notice when the person’s subtle body gestures: when he or she was drifting off and becoming uninterested. I learned that if quickly tell them with something exciting, it will draw attention. With the final sale of 10 total boxes, my first week was a big accomplishment and gave me a taste of what was coming in the next few weeks.
The second week was increasingly harder than the first week. My mom and I decided that we should advance to other neighborhoods, perhaps more extravagant houses, in hopes that we will get more of a rewarding result. To my surprise, we were wrong. I learned that it was essential for me to mention I’m from the neighborhood in my own neighborhood because some people just wanted to support the local neighborhood kid out of pure kindness. That really warmed my heart.
Throughout the experience, I met different people with different interests within the short three minutes I talked to them. Some people wanted to support because I was just a high school kid trying her best. Some people were super enthusiastic about the idea of local and organic food movement. Some people wanted to genuinely help with donations, but were helpless when tackling the veggies in their diet. Some people wouldn’t even open the door, trying to manage talking through the small window beside the door. All in all, it was important for me to be grateful for people who dedicated even three minutes of their time regardless of the outcome. This was something that was hard to learn especially after consecutive rejections, however each rejection only taught me how to persevere.
After four weeks filled endless doorbells, conversations with complete strangers, the resulting outcome was more than I had expected. With over 40 boxes of veggies sold, the dollar to dollar match through my Mom’s company and personal income from the summer, we totaled over $5,000! The money was a rewarding aspect but the experience was even more rewarding. With each doorbell came a small, new life lesson.”
If you are inspired by Sneha’s story and would like to help, please contact Eric Carlberg at eric@libertyprairie.org.   You can also donate to directly sponsor Prairie Farm Corp fellowships here: