News / USA

Volunteer Farm Feeds the Hungry

Virginia farm supplies tons of fresh produce to area food banks

Children with a church group help harvest potatoes that will be sent to area food banks to help feed the hungry.
Children with a church group help harvest potatoes that will be sent to area food banks to help feed the hungry.

Multimedia

Audio

Hunger in the United States is nothing compared to hunger in some parts of the world.  Nevertheless, 10 million American households report that they do not always know where they will find their next meal according to "Hunger in America 2010."

The report by Feeding America, the largest domestic hunger-relief charity in the U.S., also says that each week, more than 5.5 million Americans turn to emergency food sources such as food pantries.  Most of what they find in these charitable dispensaries is bottled, canned or dry goods.

But at a farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, fresh food is being harvested to feed the hungry.  

Volunteer farm

It looks like a lot of other produce farms, with rows of pepper, tomato and cucumber plants.

But nothing harvested here goes to market. Retired government worker Bob Blair owns the 26 hectares of land, but leases it to the Volunteer Farm of Shenandoah for $1 a year. "I woke up one morning and there was the idea firmly implanted in my head with all of the details, including the name, Volunteer Farm," he says.

Retired government worker Bob Blair leases his land to the Volunteer Farm for $1 a year.
Retired government worker Bob Blair leases his land to the Volunteer Farm for $1 a year.

A manager and a volunteer coordinator are the farm's only paid staff. As its name suggests, the farm relies on volunteers to weed, plant and harvest. Blair says in the seven years the farm has operated, it has had over 10,000 volunteers. They have come from nearly every U.S. state and 26 foreign countries.

One a recent day, a group from Tinkling Springs Presbyterian Church drove more than 100 kilometers to collect potatoes from a field. The majority of the volunteers, more than 50, were children.

Volunteering at the farm gives children a tangible way of knowing they've made a difference, says church leader Harriet Thompson.
Volunteering at the farm gives children a tangible way of knowing they've made a difference, says church leader Harriet Thompson.

Lesson learned

Harriet Thompson, one of the church leaders, says that after a few hours working in the sun, "the children go to bed extra tired, but they know in a very physical and tangible way that they have made a difference."  She says the church has been volunteering at the farm for a few years. "There are many individuals within our community that would not have enough to sustain them or their family throughout the week if it wasn't for this farm."

Produce from the Volunteer Farm is distributed through large food banks - warehouses where representatives of smaller, community agencies, like soup kitchens and pantries, get food for their clients.

"We received last year, approximately 71,000 pounds of fresh produce from the Volunteer Farm," says Teresa Yates, Operations Director of the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank Network.

These 26 hectares of land are leased to the Volunteer Farm of Shenandoah to help provide fresh fruits and vegetables for the hungry.
These 26 hectares of land are leased to the Volunteer Farm of Shenandoah to help provide fresh fruits and vegetables for the hungry.

She says the fruits and vegetables are important for proper nutrition. "We have so many issues with obesity now. Fresh produce is the way to go, especially for our children. It's healthier, so much better for their bodies and we are able to provide so much with the Volunteer Farm."

Free and fresh

Yates says the food bank has seen an increase in demand for assistance over the past four years, from 65,000 clients a month seeking food for their families to nearly 100,000.  

Even in Middleburg, Virginia, an affluent community of about 600 people surrounded by manicured estates and prosperous farms, some people rely on the Seven Loaves food pantry to help feed their families.

"We have a number of elderly who may have worked on those farms or in labor-type jobs who are retired and trying to get by on a relatively low social security income," says George Lengauer, president of the ecumenical faith-based, volunteer organization.

The food Seven Loaves distributes comes from many sources, but most is in cans or boxes. Lengauer says the Volunteer Farm's contributions are special.  

"We do have supermarkets in the area who contribute to us and some of them give us the gleanings off their produce aisle, which is good and nice. But any time you can get farm fresh produce, it is a real treat."

So far this year, the Volunteer Farm has harvested 5,500 kilograms of vegetables and the food will keep coming until the middle of October.

You May Like

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs