I'm excited about something that has happened on the farm for the last two weeks and it has me wanting to share it. I like to give food to people. Giving food to people who appreciate it is something that makes almost any gardener happy. Asking money for the food I grow was a really hard transition for me several years ago. It was a transition that was necessary for us to grow as a farm, but it was hard. Sometimes it still is hard. I get really excited when someone else is excited about something I've grown and still want to say "Take this! Because it still amazes me that I can grow something this fantastic!"
For several years now we have donated our excess produce on Saturday morning's to a women's shelter in Little Rock. I really didn't put a lot of effort into this donation though until this year when one of the volunteers mentioned how much the cooks at the shelter appreciated the food and found ways to use all of it. That was all of the affirmation I needed. Since then we've picked extra on Fridays with the intention of donating. When our CSA season ended a few weeks ago we were left with a surplus of produce on Tuesdays as well. A friend mentioned taking it to the food pantry in Vilonia for their Wednesday morning pick-up. So we have. And they have shown a lot of appreciation for the food.
Over the course of the last few weeks though, it's obvious to me that our small farm runs on a small enough profit margin that I can't continue paying my helpers to pick a large amount of food to be given away. A friend helped put me in touch with the Society of St Andrew. This faith based program coordinates a huge network of volunteers that go into farmers' fields and orchards at the end of harvest, glean what remains and distribute it to food banks across the country. This is a fantastic program! To our farm this week they sent a group of volunteers from Michigan that were going through a program called Harvest of Hope to glean eggplant and cherry tomatoes. As they were gleaning, a truck from the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance arrived to take everything immediately to the food bank.
Over the course of the morning I had a chance to visit with the man in charge of the Harvest of Hope program and the man delivering to the food bank about the possibility of planting extra next year specifically for them to harvest. I'm excited about the possibility of helping them in the future. I also came away with some thoughts about setting up our own small network of volunteers branching out from our CSA community. Throughout the summer I have moms volunteering themselves and their kids for picking cherry tomatoes or retirees offering to help pick a little bit. I now see a niche these people could fill on the farm. I'm so excited about all of this!