Rotary First Harvest | Harvest Against Hunger
46
archive,category,category-harvest-against-hunger,category-46,ajax_updown_fade,page_not_loaded,,large,shadow3

Harvest Against Hunger

AmeriCorps NCCC Team Improves Elk Run Farm

15.06.2018 in AmeriCorps VISTA, Food forest, Harvest Against Hunger, NCCC, Volunteering

The AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) is made up of young adults 18 to 24 years of age who commit to 10 months of service within 3 different project rounds sponsored by nonprofits throughout the United States.

Pictured above: AmeriCorps NCCC team Green 2 serving at Elk Run Farm, a partner of Rotary First Harvest. Elk Run Farm grows fresh fruits and vegetables for the food banks of the South King County Food Coalition. Top Row (left to right): Jessica Monnette, Brian Beagan, Samantha Ard, Shelby Collins, Quinn Farnell, Aidan Sulak, Cheyenne Stanley, Mohamad Akhbari Bottom Row: Zachary Owens, Katherine Steele and Kesigh White.

 

Green 2 AmeriCorps NCCC members Zack Owens (Left) and Brian Beagan (Right) harvesting radishes at Elk Run Farm with the help of farm hand Mindy.

 

After their first project round in the gulf bend region of Texas aiding in disaster relief from Hurricane Harvey and just over a month after working tirelessly in the hot desert of Coachella Valley, California building homes for low-income families, team Green 2 of AmeriCorps NCCC planted their boots on the ground at Elk Run Farm in Maple Valley, Washington for their third and final project round.

During their time volunteering at Elk Run Farm, the team learned about the growing and harvesting practices of the many different vegetables (over 30 different varieties) on the farm. Green 2 also assisted in enhancing the infrastructure of the farm by assembling more raspberry and grape trellises, digging vegetable beds, and building worm bins to compost all food waste and organic matter on the farm.

 

The newly constructed and lined raspberry trellises mulched to ward off weeds and provide adequate walking space between plants to protect them from trampling.

Team Green 2’s biggest accomplishment occurred on AmeriCorps Action Day alongside other service members and members of the Maple Valley community. What originally started as a rocky, naked space sprouted into a beautiful food forest, King County of Washington State’s first public food forest! Over 30 fruit trees were planted and over 250 plants aiding in the health and well-being of the trees now call Elk Run Farm home.

Although Green 2 will not be around when Elk Run Farms receives water and electric on the property, they will continue their adventure and volunteerism on Whidbey Island helping Good Cheer Food Bank and Thrift in Langley, WA.

 

Elk Run Farm’s new food forest planted on June 13, 2018

no comment

The “Tangled Hairball”: The First Annual End Hunger Conference

31.05.2018 in AmeriCorps VISTA, Florida, Harvest Against Hunger, National Site

Harvest Against Hunger AmeriCorps VISTA, Elise Tillema serves at the Society of Saint Andrew (SoSA), a non-profit connecting farmers, agencies, and volunteers to glean produce in central Florida. In 2017 alone, SoSA saved 28,561,789 pounds of produce (86 million servings) with 37,482 volunteers at 5,960 events. Formed in 1979, SoSA serves the states of Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas, North & South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia with additional gleanings in the Midwest. In 1995, the Florida Gleaning Project was launched to coordinate gleans and saves over 2 million pounds of produce each year statewide.

The work of the non-profit can often be lonesome. Small offices, even smaller budgets, single subject focus, and massive projects can put an activist into a microcosm. This phenomenon is just a fraction of what makes events like the first End Hunger Conference so special. On a drizzling, dreary Saturday morning approximately 140 activists, ministers, and community members gathered at Saint Luke’s to discuss our common goal: ending hunger, from charity to empowerment.

 

 

Elise, a HAH AmeriCorps VISTA serving at SoSA, and her supervisor Barbara, the state director for SoSA Florida and Bread for the World member, attended the first annual End Hunger Conference. Elise ran a table for SoSA, recruiting volunteers and educating attendees about SoSA and gleaning while also participating in workshops. Barbara helped plan the event and participated in workshops of her own. Although the conference was based on eradicating poverty and hunger, the panels ran the spectrum from mass-incarceration to predatory loan practices, all factors leading to hunger.

Perhaps most noteworthy of these exercises was the opening activity. Bread for the World, a co-sponsor of the conference, provided each table with a simulation. From the Reconstruction era (1860s-70s) to now, each table member played as either a Euro- or African American. One by one, the table went through the legislation such as the Social Security Act of 1935, gaining or losing money, land, and opportunity not by their own merit, but legislative whims. By the final and most recent act, the ‘black’ players were left impoverished and food-insecure. This exercise opened the door to a crucial conversation that often goes unsaid and ignored. As the keynote speaker put it, “the tangled hairball” of poverty and hunger.

 

 

The End Hunger Conference, by framing hunger through legislative oppression, serves as a stark reminder that hunger does not exist in a vacuum. Race, gender, geography, and education weigh in on why people go hungry. Approaching hunger relief without acknowledging these factors is to ignore the issue entirely. The “tangled hairball” route is not the easy one, but without it, hunger cannot be solved. As noted in Circles (a financial assistance non-profit) in their workshop, feeding the hungry is only step one in ending food-insecurity.

Without addressing how or why a person is hungry, little can be done to help.  Also critical is the acceptance that these acts are not blights of the past, but are alive and well in the present day. The legacy of slavery and oppressive legislation are still having an impact on our society, and leading some towards food-insecurity. By educating ourselves and others, we can endeavor to solve the “tangled hairball” of hunger and poverty, one hair at a time.

 

no comment

Jackson State University Sweet Potato Crop Drop

24.05.2018 in AmeriCorps VISTA, Harvest Against Hunger, Mississippi, National Site

Harvest Against Hunger VISTA Andrew Frank serves in the Mississippi office of Society of St. Andrew, a grassroots, faith-based gleaning network that aims to provide food-insecure individuals with healthy produce. Society of St. Andrew was founded in 1979 in Big Island, Virginia and has offices in more than eight states across the southern United States. In 2017, the Mississippi office of Society of St. Andrew gleaned more than 1.9 million pounds of produce. During the rest of 2018, the Mississippi office hopes to increase its gleaning efforts and further develop its “fresh food drives” at farmers’ markets across the state.

 

In the early hours of April 10th, a dump truck pulled into a parking lot adjacent to Jackson State University (JSU) in Jackson, Mississippi and dumped its payload of over 15,000 sweet potatoes onto the concrete. These sweet potatoes, grown in Vardaman, Mississippi (“The Sweet Potato Capital of the World”), were the main attraction of the Jackson State University Crop Drop, a bi-annual event sponsored by Society of St. Andrew, Jackson State University and the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi during which free produce is distributed to those in need.

As early as 8:30 in the morning, cars began lining up near the entrance to the parking lot to receive one bag of sweet potatoes and one head of iceberg lettuce, which Society of St. Andrew had fortuitously gleaned and saved for the event the evening before. Meanwhile, over 75 JSU volunteers, clad in sweatpants and t-shirts, began assembling near the 30-ft. long pile of sweet potatoes to listen to directions from event organizers.

 

 

As cars were waved in to drive up to the curb to receive their free produce, volunteers worked as quickly as they could to fill their 34-inch red nylon bags with sweet potatoes. Although some cars only had one or two passengers, many others were filled to capacity with four or five adults, ostensibly because they lacked cars of their own, but could not afford to pass up on the opportunity for free produce. In a humbling display, some older local residents approached the pile of sweet potatoes on foot with their own bags, inquiring how they could receive their own portion.

In sum, 976 people received food during the event, including 206 who walked to the drop. In other words, over 1% of the food-insecure population in Hinds and Rankin counties (which contain the vast majority of the Jackson metropolitan area) received food from this three-hour crop drop.

The next JSU Crop Drop will be held in mid-August.

no comment

The Olympic Peninsula Food Web

17.05.2018 in AmeriCorps VISTA, Harvest Against Hunger, Washington Site, WSU Extension Office

AmeriCorps Vista member Sharah works out of the WSU Extension Office in Clallam County in Western Washington.  The main focus is on the gleaning program, which last year gleaned over 50,000 lbs of food in the community.  Another focus area is the Farm to Food Pantry Program which purchases needed produce from small farmers to go to the food bank.

 

When people learn that the Olympic Peninsula is just west of Seattle, their normal reaction is “I thought that was just water?” The peninsula is off of most folks’ radar even though it is home to the resplendent Olympic National Park, and an international border crossing, and was briefly famous as the cloudy setting of the Twilight Vampire Novels. Many people still think it is just water over here. Au Contraire! In its heyday, it was a large-scale fruit supplier to the population of Seattle, thanks to the rich soil and rain shadow climate. It is also the namesake of the famed Dungeness crab, caught out near the Dungeness Spit. Yet despite the cornucopia of natural resources and amazing foodie cred, the peninsula also has widespread poverty and hunger. Though it is technically connected to the mainland, it is for all practical purposes, an island, with all the advantages and disadvantages that come with island life.

 

 

In the ten years that AmeriCorps VISTA Gleaning Coordinator Sharah Truett has called this explosion of moss, trees and mycelium home, she’s come to appreciate how threadbare the connection with the outside world can be. During intense windstorms the peninsula can get cut off from the mainland: fallen trees blocking the major roads, ferry traffic shut down, and the floating Hood Canal Bridge closed due to high waves. Like a spiders web loosely attached to its supports by only a few threads, the peninsula community is often just barely hanging on; which is why a having a strong internal support network is crucial.

 

Enter the Peninsula Food Coalition. This is a group of organizations on the peninsula that care about people, the land, and food. There is no membership fee. Anyone who shows up is welcomed with a handshake and some home cooking. Last week, this meeting was hosted in the beautiful Jamestown S’Klallam Tribes’ conference room, overlooking the bay. Many players were at the table: food bank managers, SNAP managers, healthcare providers, shelter managers, the local Land Trust, and more. Laughter was widespread, stories were shared, and burdens were unloaded so the group could think of creative ways to shoulder them together.

The conversation wandered through various food topics:
“How can we help?” asked the food bank manager upon hearing about the local emergency shelters financial woes.
“The tribe received funds to hire a traditional foods coordinator!” announced the tribal community worker to applause.
“Will everyone keep their ear to the ground for farmers looking to retire?” implored the Land Trust,” so we can step in and help preserve farmland before it is snatched up by developers.”
“Let’s practice an emergency food drop at a remote food bank,” encouraged the leader of a group of volunteer pilots,” In case of an earthquake, we want to help get food to the rural communities.”

 

 

For a tiny, out-of-the-way place, the peninsula is on the cutting edge of progressive emergency food policy. Perhaps because groups like this meet up once a month and talk and eat together. Today’s menu for the gathering included a twist on traditional food provided by the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe: steamed clams, bull kelp and cucumber salad with a tangy vinaigrette and nettle pesto pasta. Looking out on the shimmering bay, on the very spot the clams were harvested that morning, the group was reminded that there are also great advantages to being an island. An island has strong internal bonds; an island community builds and protects its web together.

 

no comment

Spokane Edible Tree Project Hosts Food Forest Planting Event

10.05.2018 in AmeriCorps VISTA, Food forest, Harvest Against Hunger, Volunteering, Washington Site

Harvest Against Hunger AmeriCorps VISTA member Annie Eberhardt, who serves with the Spokane Edible Tree Project, partnered with Friends of Polly Judd Food Forest to coordinate a food forest planting event.

Spokane Edible Tree Project envisions a thriving community that is educated on how to take proper care of their fruit and nut trees, and a community that harvests their fruit for the greater good of the community as a whole. In the past 2 years, Spokane Edible Tree Project has held multiple classes educating the public on how to care for their fruit trees in an effort to see this vision into a reality. In addition, SETP has gleaned over 70,000 pounds of produce in the past two years that would have otherwise gone to waste in an effort to address hunger and food insecurity in Spokane County.   

April and early May is the time for Spokane Gives Month in the beautiful city of Spokane. Spokane Gives Month presents an opportunity for community members to give back by participating in volunteer projects throughout the city. Ordinarily, with gleaning season starting in June, there is not a lot of opportunity for Spokane Edible Tree Project to host volunteer events to participate in the initiative.

Harvest Against Hunger VISTA member Annie Eberhardt saw an opportunity to get involved this year with Spokane Gives. For the past 5 years, Friends of Polly Judd has been slowly making an effort to work at building up Spokane’s first low income centered food forest, located in the heart of the lower south hill neighborhood at Polly Judd Park. This neighborhood has the highest population density in Spokane, along with the highest low income population in the city. The building of a Food Forest in a low income area at a public, well-loved park will provide an opportunity to help remedy food insecurity in an area that it is  greatly needed, as well as building gleaning capacity for Spokane Edible Tree Project in the future.

With the help of native shrub donations from the Spokane Conservation District, a Spokane Gives Initiative Grant from United Way, and the hard work of a volunteer crew, 14 edible trees and shrubs were added to the Polly Judd Food Forest. Two filbert, two apricot, five native elderberries and five native saskatoon serviceberries were planted.

HAH VISTA alum Nicki Thompson along with a young volunteer

The sod was cut from the ground as the first step, followed by the digging of holes at proper depth. This was not always easy. Rocks had to be broken, which were removed from the soil and repurposed as rock mulch for the Polly Judd native pollinator garden. The rocks were also used to begin creating a rock wall around the garden. When the holes were finally dug, the trees were placed in the earth, and wood chips were placed around the trees to act as a mulch.

 

 

no comment

Springing into action at the Bayview Farmers Market

03.05.2018 in AmeriCorps VISTA, Food Bank, Gleaning, Harvest Against Hunger, Washington Site

Harvest Against Hunger Capacity VISTA Brandi Blais serves at Good Cheer Food Bank and Thrift Stores, an innovative shopping model food bank located in Langley, WA. Supported by a combination of in-kind donations and revenue from its two thrift stores, Good Cheer provides food to 800+ families on South Whidbey Island each month. The gleaning program is an essential part of Good Cheer’s grocery rescue efforts, adding locally sourced fresh produce to the food bank during the harvest season. Brandi’s mission at Good Cheer is to expand and build on the existing gleaning program, creating a sustainable, volunteer-led program that will continue to bring fresh produce to those who need it for years to come.

 

After the teaser of sunshine and warm days last week, the rain came back just in time for the first Farmers Market at Bayview Corner just south of Langley WA, but that didn’t keep anyone away. A local group of marimba players were cheering up shoppers as they browsed through the first offerings from farmers and crafters from around South Whidbey Island.

 

The current crop of garden apprentices – Annie, Tran, and Kathryn (minus Grayson who was visiting family in Denver) – and the new AmeriCorps VISTA member – Brandi Blais – met with Lissa Firor, Produce manager for the Good Cheer Food Bank, to learn the process for gleaning produce from the Bayview Farmers Market. After going over the general procedure for checking in (for Kathryn and Tran, apprentices at the South Whidbey School Garden, who don’t get over to Good Cheer very often) the first step was to grab the cart and a few sturdy plastic totes.

 

Checking in and grabbing the cart from the Good Cheer Garden shed

 

Next, the crew headed over to the market, about a 5-minute walk through the Good Cheer garden and past the historic Bayview building. Aiming to arrive just before the market closed, so that farmers and shoppers wouldn’t feel crowded by the gleaners, the crew made their way through the market, with Lissa providing introductions to the some of the farm partners as they wound down from a fun and successful first market of the season.

 

Heading through the garden and off to market

 

Good Cheer has many long-term partners in the local farming community, and the warm relationship is evident in the welcoming smiles and cheerful hellos from folks like Bill from Bur Oak Acres and Arwen from Skyroot Farm. Annie and Nathan from Deep Harvest and Foxtail donated kohlrabi, kale, and radishes, along with a few early season herbs. Other gleanings included bok choy, salad mix, and collards.

 

Stopping by Deep Harvest’s farm stand to visit Annie

 

As the cart and crew made their way through the market, a few generous farmers stepped out from behind their tables to drop kale, herbs, or (what else did we get) into the cart.

After a quick stop at Lesedi Farm and African Food for samosas and a detour past the tiny free library, the gleaners made the short walk back to Good Cheer to weigh in and record the day’s catch. In the end, 24 pounds of produce was collected. Donations are tracked, bins labeled, and produce stored in the walk-in cooler for repacking and distribution on the Monday morning following the Saturday market. Produce from the farmer’s market has its own special spot in the cooler, and the entire cooler is organized in a way that keeps things circulating, making sure that customers get the freshest possible produce.

 

Not a bad haul for the first market of the year!

no comment

Earth Day Garden Cleanup

26.04.2018 in AmeriCorps VISTA, Harvest Against Hunger, National Site, Volunteering

Americorps VISTA Grace Plihal serves with Food for Others in Fairfax, VA, 30 minutes outside of the nation’s capital. Food for Others is a hybrid food bank and food pantry, both storing and distributing millions of pounds of food every year. In 2017, a VISTA position in conjunction with Harvest Against Hunger (HAH) was created with the purpose of gleaning fresh produce from the area. Last year, the HAH VISTA brought in an additional 23,000 pounds of food. Food for Others believes that with the help of the community, we can eliminate hunger in the Fairfax area.

A recent study by researchers at the University of Florida aimed to discover if there was any correlation between gardening as a child and eating habits as an adult. They surveyed 1,351 college students, asking them questions about their fruit and vegetable intake and whether they had participated in any sort of gardening early on in their lives. Their findings: people who gardened as children ate, on average, 15 percent more fruits and veggies than those who had not.

 

Reading about this study planted a seed in Americorps VISTA Grace Plihal’s head. Food for Others provides weekend packaged meals to Fairfax County elementary school students who are receiving free or reduced lunch during the week. One of these schools has a garden that was not being taken care of or utilized to its full potential. After a few weeks of planning and coordination, Grace and 5th-grade teacher Katie held the elementary school’s first annual Earth Day garden cleanup. Armed with seeds, shovels, and gloves specially made for smaller hands, the class of 24 got to work on the garden. At one station, a group focused on weeding the rain garden and learning about native plants. Another group prepared the soil for bee balm, vegetable seeds, and an Allegheny blackberry bush. The third cleared a bed of invasive mint and planted radishes, carrots, and lettuce in its place. Then, they all rotated so that they could experience the other stations.

 

 

A different class had previously planted strawberries that were just beginning to flower. Grace pointed out that the blooms would soon become fruit, and the class was floored. They had a much harder time envisioning their future blackberries, as one child said, “That’s going to have blackberries next year? It just looks like a stick!”

 

 

There was no way to know which of these kids were receiving the anonymous weekend “Power Packs,” which consist of two non-perishable breakfasts, two lunches, two dinners and two snacks. But as of 2017, 70.4% of the school’s student population was receiving free or reduced lunch– meaning that a solid portion did not always know where their next meal would be coming from. As the ten and eleven-year-olds turned over the soil and read the directions on the back of the seed packets aloud, Grace envisioned a world in which every child had a bountiful harvest right in their backyard.

 

no comment

Farm to Fork: Gleaning and Feeding in Belle Glade, Florida

19.04.2018 in AmeriCorps VISTA, Gleaning, Harvest Against Hunger, National Site

Harvest Against Hunger AmeriCorps VISTA, Elise Tillema serves at the Society of Saint Andrew (SoSA), a non-profit connecting farmers, agencies, and volunteers to glean produce in central Florida. In 2017 alone, SoSA saved 28,561,789 pounds of produce (86 million servings) with 37,482 volunteers at 5,960 events. Formed in 1979, SoSA serves the states of Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas, North & South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia with additional gleanings in the Midwest. In 1995, the Florida Gleaning Project was launched to coordinate gleans and saves over 2 million pounds of produce each year statewide.

Belle Glade, Florida is a small town hemmed in by farms on all sides. An impoverished agricultural area, Belle Glade grows and processes primarily sugarcane. Agriculture is embedded into the landscape; towers of smoke can always be seen in fields, a required purging for sugar production and roads with dips and divots with grooves left by truckloads of produce. Within the town proper is the Lighthouse Café, a ministry built directly inside project housing. Lighthouse Café feeds, educates, and provides child-related services. A recent partner to join SoSA’s gleaning outreach, Lighthouse invited SoSA, CROS Ministries, and Heritage/Roth Farms to participate in the full cycle of gleaning, from farm to fork.

 

 

On the morning of April 3rd, Elise, her coordinator, and several volunteers went out into the field to glean. After a harvest of cabbage, lettuce, radish, and tomatoes SoSA delivered the produce to a local agency, as per usual. However, with the help of chef Paula Kendrick and Melanie Mason, representatives of the Florida Department of Agriculture, and SoSA, together cleaned and prepped the gleaned produce for serving the following morning.

 

 

Not only did SoSA glean and prepare the food for the agency, but assisted in putting on a food demo for the gleaned produce. Showing clients the process behind their meal will hopefully empower them to replicate the nutritious meal, creating a cycle of good food. As the pioneer event, SoSA and the Florida Department of Agriculture aspire to grow this outreach to more agencies and partners in the future. In addition to preparing and teaching about the food, SoSA handed out kitchen tools and recipe cards for anyone who wanted them. SoSA hopes to invest its patrons in gleaned food in all stages, from the agency to the community.

 

1 comment

Produce Sorting 101

13.04.2018 in AmeriCorps VISTA, Food Bank, Harvest Against Hunger, National Site

Harvest Against Hunger VISTA, Brianna Nash, serves at Community Food Share, a member food bank of the national hunger-relief organization, Feeding America. Serving the Boulder and Broomfield Counties on Colorado’s Front Range, Community Food Share distributed 10 million pounds of food in 2017, enough for 22,500 meals a day. Along with 43 partner agencies by which food is distributed, Community Food Share has an onsite pantry floor, mobile pantry truck, and Elder Share program. 75% of the food distributed by the food bank is fresh produce, dairy, and other high-protein items. Brianna serves as the produce and gleaning volunteer coordinator, engaging volunteers in growing and harvesting local produce for the food bank.

 

There are a couple things that make Community Food Share different than some of the other sites in the Harvest Against Hunger cohort. While Community Food Share is part of the Feeding America network, the organization also resides in a state where the growing season is quite short. Fresh fruits and veggies can only grow outdoors in Colorado from late-May through mid-September. This reality may be inescapable, but Community Food Share strives to provide fresh produce all year round to all that utilize the food bank. The produce comes from all over the country every week – mangoes from Mexico, oranges from Texas, apples from Washington, and potatoes from Southern Colorado.

Bulk 2,000lb pallets of carrots. Volunteers usually sort these and put into cardboard boxes.

 

Large pallet of mangoes. One of five that came in a shipment.

 

With a well-established volunteer network, Community Food Share sees thousands of volunteers come through the doors every year. Almost every day, volunteers are engaged in produce sorting activities. Usually, volunteers are sorting large 1,500+ pound totes and pallets of produce into smaller boxes or into red mesh bags for easy takeaway. Sometimes the produce is in perfect shape, sometimes it isn’t. The trickiest part of our operation here is figuring out how to empower volunteers to make the correct decisions in “isolating” or composting produce. A carrot might have three legs, but that doesn’t mean it’s inedible!

 

Volunteers working on bagging apples from large tote in produce sorting area.

 

The AmeriCorps VISTA is currently working on signage and a standard operating procedure for volunteer produce sorting. This process has been interesting and has delved into the realms of food safety, food bank warehouse protocol, and produce research. The Feeding America network has many standards by which sorting occurs; it’s been up to Brianna to translate that information into volunteer-accessible instruction.

A few examples are:

  • A slightly bruised apple is not a bad apple
  • Onions skins sometimes have strange discoloration and its ok to peel a few layers back to check if it’s ok
  • Soft produce (like oranges and tomatoes) is much more likely to harvest mold internally than hard produce (like onions and potatoes)
  • Weird shapes are almost always ok!

 

Orange bagging by volunteer in warehouse.

With her supervisor, Brianna decided on creating large visuals that exemplify the above bullet points. Large magnetic signs will be made for the produce sorting area at Community Food Share. These signs will be attached to the wall above the sorting tables and will include visual “bad” and “good” photos of apples, citrus, carrots, potatoes, and onions. Since they will be magnetic, staff will also be able to move around the warehouse, if volunteers are sorting in another area. Additionally, the VISTA will create a Community Food Share produce sorting SOP by the end of her term. This will allow staff members to reference sorting protocol and provide that information to volunteers in an accurate manner.

no comment

Partnering with Rotary

05.04.2018 in AmeriCorps VISTA, Farm to Food Pantry, Harvest Against Hunger, Rotary, Volunteering, Washington Site

Elk Run Farm grows fresh fruits and vegetables for the food banks of the South King County Food Coalition. The farm believes that residents of South King County should have equal access to local, sustainably grown, and nutritious produce regardless of income. The farm sits on a former golf course in the heart of the suburbs near Seattle, WA where the land would otherwise go unused. The farm helps to increase the availability of healthy foods for families that visit the food banks while promoting sustainable urban agriculture.

 

Elk Run Farm is currently in its third year with a Harvest Against Hunger (HAH) VISTA. There is one thing that all three AmeriCorps VISTAs have had a chance to participate in developing relationships with the Rotary clubs in South King County. Rotary First Harvest, with its many Rotary connections, did what it does best and connected the first Elk Run Farm VISTA and current farm manager to key Rotarians in its service area. This was the tiny seed of partnership that was handed to the farm and has continued to be cultivated by the second and third-year VISTAs, to this day.

When the first year VISTA came onboard, Elk Run Farm was not a farm. The land was still covered in golf course greens and had no infrastructure to distinguish it from the rest of the use-to-be golf course property. Tasked with the ambitious goal of starting a farm literally from the ground up, the initial VISTA and the farm manager approached the south King County Rotary clubs with a request for funds to build Elk Run Farm’s infrastructure. This baton was then passed to the second year VISTA. Together, they met with all twelve Rotary clubs in the service area of Elk Run Farm. After seeing how Elk Run Farm aligned with their motto, “Service Above Self” and the potential it could have to help the communities they live in, Rotarians stepped up and 11 Rotary clubs made a donation. The first and second VISTA collectively raised $36,500 through this outreach and relationship building.

 

Rotary Farm Sign

 

These funds were used to build Elk Run Farm’s irrigation system, hoop house, washing and packing station, and farm office. The farm manager always says, “This infrastructure is what really separates us from a garden.” They allow the farm staff and volunteers to efficiently grow and harvest produce at a level that brings in over 100 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables a week during the height of the growing season.

There are also other funding streams that Rotary provides to their community that Elk Run Farm has received. On top of the initial funds that were raised, the first and second-year VISTAs both applied for and received the Rotary’s Assistant Governor’s, Express Grant. This grant is meant to have a quick turnaround that gets financial assistance to the recipient promptly. $5,000 was raised from this method adding more support to Elk Run Farm’s infrastructure.

 

Receiving AG Express Grant

 

Individual Rotarians have also stepped up and used their personal networks to leverage resources for the farm. On behalf of the farm, Rotary First Harvest made a call to the South King County Rotary clubs to see if there was anyone that could provide a solution to Elk Run Farm’s deer and elk problem. The farm sits under high voltage power lines where all the vegetation is kept low for miles and miles on either side. This gives the deer and elk that live in the surrounding forests an easy way to browse and travel across the land. It also meant that the farm’s vegetables were fair game to these animals. A need for a barricade was made very clear one fall when a population of deer and elk ate all the produce in the ground before it was harvested. After hearing this dilemma, Mickey Kimmerlee, an Auburn Rotary member that works for Quality Fence Builders, was able to build and donate the labor and materials for a double-layer fence that protects the farm’s main vegetable field.

The third-year HAH VISTA continues to cultivate the Rotary relationship and is presently meeting with the clubs that donated in the past to update them on how their gifts were used. She emphasizes the impact their funds have had in jump-starting the farm, as well as how the food banks have benefited from the additional fresh produce they can now offer to families in their communities. The third VISTA is also pursuing a district match for the gifts that have been generated from the Rotary clubs in partnership with a Rotary First Harvest board member. She hopes that this match could provide one of the last critical infrastructure pieces to Elk Run Farm: electricity.

 

Mindy in trench

SaveSave

SaveSave

no comment