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

Mood Tense Ahead of Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, 'No' voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve, 'Yes' vote not worth the risk More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country 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.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid