Tons and Tons of Squash!

By Bob | September 28, 2022 |

A perfect harvest day greeted our 21 volunteers (and two dogs) on Saturday. In a bit over 4 hours we harvested nearly 6 tons (!!) of butternut, delicata and acorn squash which was delivered to The Food Group in the Twin Cities and Channel One Regional Food Bank in Rochester. These organizations distribute food to smaller food shelves in the Twin Cities and southeast Minnesota, respectively. Here’s a quick video of the team in action:

Squash Harvest Video

And here’s the hearty harvest crew. Huge thanks to (left to right) Julie (and Jenny), Nat Case, Cara M Rodriguez, Greg Soucha, Sarah Purdy, Mike Muehlbach (and Chuck), Isaac, Kim Muehlbach, Sarah York, Ari, Oswaldo Alvarado, Hans Barkei, Theresa Taylor, Sarah Furniss, Sarah McCarthy, Suzanne Rhees, Robin Murie, Jon Freise, Barb Pratt, Rachel FK, Marjorie Kostouros and Quinn McCauley.

Squash Harvest Volunteers, September 24th, 2022

On Monday and Tuesday I had the honor of delivering the squash to our food bank partners. For the record, the delivered weight of squash was: The Food Group delivery #1: 3,814 lbs; Channel One: 3,806 lbs; The Food Group #2: 4,076 for a grand total (so far) of 11,696 lbs! Here is some of the squash at The Food Group’s warehouse:

A portion of our winter squash in The Food Group’s warehouse

I went back to the farm yesterday and filled the pickup with another several hundred pounds of squash and all this is in addition to the estimated two tons of sweet corn we donated this year.

Of course, none of this would be possible without Dana Jokela of Sogn Valley Farm. Dana’s knowledge and counsel have been essential to our success and his equipment: greenhouses for growing baby squash and corn plants, tractors and tools for tillage and transplanting – have been the backbone of this whole endeavor. Please help us raise funds to help pay for Dana’s time, equipment and – significantly – fuel for his work on this project. Please donate on this GiveMN page.

Thank you!

A Grand Corn Finale 2022

By Bob | September 4, 2022 |

Three workers from Pillsbury United Communities accepting sweet corn donation

Mohamud, Ibsa and Ganga accepting corn donation at the Brian Coyle Center

The Division of Indian Work in Minneapolis

Last Friday saw a stupendous finish to this year’s corn season: a far bigger harvest than I expected after Tuesday’s fabulous haul. The corn was shared with the Division of Indian Work on Lake Street and the food shelf at the Brian Coyle Center (a new location for us but part of Pillsbury United Communities who a a regular collaborator) who were expecting 400 families over the weekend.

Huge thanks to Dulce de la Rosa for organizing the family work crew including Juan, Dan and José plus sister Mayela with her daughter, another Dulce to keep me confused. Welcome to new volunteer Rosa Morales and thanks yet again to our stalwart, never-miss-a-chance Cara Rodriguez.

L-R: Cara Rodriguez, Rosa Morales, Juan, Dulce de la Rosa, Dulce, Mayela de la Rosa, Dan

It was another great day for huitlacoche which both Dulce and Mayela know how to prepare.

Huitlacoche or "corn smut"

Huitlacoche!

When the work was done Juan fired up the grill and Dulce provided carne asada, tortillas, salad and horchata for everyone. Then there was music and even Jenny (our dog) got to join in the fun!

A Sparkling Harvest

By Bob | August 31, 2022 |

L-R: Cara Rodriguez, Beth Gilleland, Jon Carlson, Denny Carlson, Charlie

With glorious August sun and a bald eagle circling overhead our hearty volunteers gathered another generous harvest for Pillsbury United Communities and Groveland Food Shelf. Thanks to Beth Gilleland who organized a family work party including Jon and Denny Carlson plus soon-to-be 5th grader, Charlie. We were joined by the indefatigable Cara Rodriguez as well (100% harvest attendance to date!). I was delighted to find the harvest even better than I expected and the usual hour and a half stretched a bit longer followed by gathering some produce from the garden and a bit of squash harvesting for the volunteers! A perfect morning at the farm. And then . . .

Once again it was a party at Pillsbury United Communities where Jovita and her crew enthusiastically loaded the corn into boxes and crates for distribution that very afternoon. Then off to Groveland Food Shelf where Jay and his team swiftly gathered the rest of the harvest into large barrels.

I was struck, yet again, by the scale of need and the great work these food banks do. Groveland Food Shelf serves over 5,000 individuals each month, Pillsbury United Communities has two locations and typically serves about 100 families a day and over 200 on peak days. According to the StarTribune, 2020 saw the largest use of food shelves on record and those I work with at the various food banks report that usage has not dropped off as the pandemic situation has changed.

As in years past, there are cash costs associated with this project most associated with tools, fuel, and labor by Dana Jokela and at Sogn Valley Farm. Thank you for stopping by this blog and please hop over to this GiveMN page to help us raise funds to pay Dana for his essential contributions! Thanks!

Harvest photos courtesy of Beth Gilleland – Thanks, Beth!

Huitlacoche Day!

By Bob | August 25, 2022 |

L-R: Cara Rodriguez, Debra Goodlaxson, Pat O’Loughlin, Sarah McCarthy, Jon Freise, Tomas Goodlaxson

Huitlacoche (wheat-lah-ko-chay) is a much prettier name than Corn Smut but no matter the name, today was a day for it. A mushroom that grows on corn, huitlacoche is a delicacy in Mexican cuisine often used in quesadillas. Perhaps it’s the high humidity in the Sogn valley that encourages it but we gathered lots today and passed it along to families who really enjoy it.

Huitlacoche

Today’s harvest was so abundant that we were able to supply three food shelves with all the corn they wanted: Groveland Foodshelf was first – open 5 days a week and experiencing increased demand since the pandemic began. Next stop was the Division of Indian Work on Lake Street. It’s hard to imagine a warmer or more enthusiastic welcome! With corn still on the truck we brought four more boxes to Joyce Uptown Food Shelf – just the right amount for their needs. I wish I had thought to take a photo of the volunteer when she tasted _really_ fresh, raw sweet corn for the first time. She had eyes like saucers!

Jaye smiling as Groveland Foodshelf accepts 4 large barrels of sweetcorn

Volunteers at the Division of Indian Work help unload sweet corn

Thanks again to today’s volunteers: Cara Rodriguez, Debra Goodlaxson, Pat O’Loughlin, Sarah McCarthy, John Freise and Tomas Goodlaxson.