Spotlight: Growing the Trellis Fund from the ground up


The creation and evolution of the Horticulture Innovation Lab's Trellis Fund was discussed during the Horticulture Research for Development Conference, "Colorful Harvest: From Feeding to Nourishing a Growing World," held March 26, 2019 in Washington, D.C. This talk included:

  • Peter Shapland, an independent consultant and the founder of the Trellis Fund
  • Lauren Howe, UC Davis graduate student and Trellis Fund manager

First Peter Shapland spoke about his inspiration behind creating the Trellis Fund, as an employee of the Horticulture Innovation Lab (then called Hort CRSP) and a UC Davis student at the time:

In the early days of the Horticulture Innovation Lab, we weren’t yet including small organizations and we were actively looking for ways to get students involved. Coming from the Peace Corps, I had a lot of great experiences with grassroots organizations who really understood the problems faced by smallholders, and yet these local organizations are sometimes excluded from mainstream development because of economies of scale and they frequently lack the basic operating costs, like gas money, to reach the farmers they serve.

While I was a student at Davis, I met a lot of amazing grad students who had farming backgrounds and were acquiring formidable technical skills, and they were so eager to put their new skills to use, rather than just applying them to coursework and research papers.

So the Trellis Fund was just a logical extension of the Innovation Lab model to include these smaller actors, and while our overall goals are the same, Trellis aims to tap the great potential of local organizations and passionate grad students.

For the small organizations, that potential is associated with their close connection to the smallholder farmers. These grassroots organizations represent, advocate for and organize their communities, they know the on-the-ground realities and the complexities of the problems that smallholders face.

Lauren Howe showcased the achievements that the Trellis Fund has accomplished since its founding in 2011. The Trellis Fund has delivered 6 different rounds of grants, funded 76 projects with 60 different organizations in 17 different countries and connected with over 12,675 training participants — 65% of whom are women. 

More information about the Trellis Fund is available on the Horticulture Innovation Lab website, including accomplishments, projects, students and organizations.