Locally Grown Produce for the Food Bank of Iowa
In a nutshell....
The simple story is we grow vegetables and donate all the produce to the Food Bank of Iowa which distributes the food to those in need. Volunteers come throughout the season to help plant, pick and help in other ways to provide fresh produce. In 2014, over 18,000 pounds of nutritious produce was donated and delivered to the Food Bank of Iowa. This project allows us to utillize our land for helping those in need, teaching others how food is grown and promoting healthy eating.
The "gardening" area
We live on a 20-acre farmstead that has been developed for vegetable production. The area is divided into smaller blocks that can be irrigated from a pond that catches the tile drainage water from farm fields in the watershed. We irrigate with drip irrigation under black plastic mulch that reduces weed pressure and watering needs.
The Food Bank of Iowa has a warehouse and distribution system that supports hundreds of outlets for food. One type of outlet is what many communities commonly call a "food pantry".
The result is an efficient way for large amounts of vegetables to be easily distributed to areas and people in need.
Example of an outlay for a food pantry
Containers of the produce are laid out for people to take as part of the food pantry distribution during their scheduled time. Many of the food pantries located in smaller towns have a scheduled time (often once a week) where people in need can come and get non-perishable and canned food. This project helps expand this offering to fresh produce, in season, for pantries.
Throughout the growing season, volunteers come and help plant and harvest. One type of volutneers is from companies. There are a number of companies that give their employees paid volunteer time to help on this project. Below is one of the groups from Farm Credit Services from Perry, Iowa.
Family and friends volunteer
Below is a picture of a couple of families and their friends that signed up for a morning harvest. What they picked is weighed and photographed and brought to the Food Bank of Iowa in Des Moines, usually the same day.
Using methods for the larger scale
As we moved to longer rows, we also were able to utilize some methods that make the work easier and more efficient. The picture below shows the black plastic mulch with drip tape underdeath. On the left is a fence with hog wire fencing that the tomato plants are tied to as they grow through the season.
Extending our rows
When we first stared planting a large garden, we brought our "extra" produce to our church or the local food pantries, At this point, we had moved to 50 foot rows. When we figured out the Food Bank of Iowa could distribute large amounts of produce we moved to 200 foot rows or longer. When we worked with Food Bank of Iowa to recruit volunteers, we planted more and more rows in more and more blocks.
Transporting food to the Food Bank of Iowa
What produce is harvested and the amount varies throughout the season. For much of the season, a pickup with a couple layers of crates can handle the volume. During heavy harvest periods we have two trailers we use to haul crates of produce, as well.