Rokula Farms Potato Glean- A Collaborative Effort29 Mar 2018, by AmeriCorps VISTA, Gleaning, Harvest Against Hunger, Volunteering, Washington Site in
Kitsap Harvest capacity building Gleaning Coordinator, Paisley Gallagher, serves at the Kitsap Public Health Chronic Disease Prevention Department. Nutrition is directly linked to many of today’s preventable ailments related to food intake such as diabetes, stroke, heart disease, hypertension, mental health… although sometimes indirectly, nutrition is just as much of the solution. The department also works with SNAP, Youth Marijuana Prevention, Healthy Eating, Active Living, and a Farmers Market program called Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) which is responsible for Fresh Bucks.
The Kitsap Health Department applied for a HAH VISTA to work with community partners to help coordinate efforts and create a system to support local gardening. It is not the intention of Kitsap Public Health to house the future of the gleaning program but rather create a program and find partners willing to take on organized tasks while improving public access to information and participation.
On a foggy March Saturday, over 50 local volunteers showed up to glean potatoes at Rokula Farms. This glean was a collaborative effort from the Farmers, Gleaning Coordinator, community groups, and the South Kitsap Helpline Food Bank. By immersing in the culture of farming and growing in South Kitsap, Paisley Gallagher, the Rotary First Harvest Gleaning Coordinator, met Bob and Donna of Rokula Farms. These two farmers have 27 acres as a hobby farm and CSA opportunity for local residents. Bob reached out to with a need to get potatoes out of the ground that had wintered over. Unsure of the quality of the potatoes, the Gleaning Coordinator used her partnership with the South Kitsap Helpline Food Bank to connect with them about the quality and quantity of the potatoes. South Kitsap was very interested in the potatoes and took their personal time to go out to the farm prior to the glean to approve the quality.
Once the connection was made, it took less than a week to round up the volunteers using online social media with the tagline, “Community Service You Can Eat!” Kitsap Harvest believes if a volunteer shows up to glean we are going to send you home with food, and donate the rest. Social media delivered an all organic, non-paid reach to over 8,500 people, with 500 unique views, 168 people interested or going, and 55 shares as well as a connection to two other community groups: My Sustainable City and Positive Olalla Projects. The event organizers thought maybe 10 volunteers show up based on the 26 who said for sure they would, but boy was Paisley surprised when they kept flowing in for a family fun day picking potato gold from the ground!
The glean was a success with 750 pounds of potatoes gleaned, lots of smiles, happy farmers, and happy food bank staff. The gleaning coordinator realized that the successful glean was a by-product of months of collaborative efforts with farmers, food banks and community groups. Without being a trusted community member, the glean would not have been so effective.
In the future, Kitsap Harvest will work with low-income housing groups to target people who may live in apartments, but not have room to grow food, this opportunity to do a little work in trade for access to fresh produce.