Last Thursday was a corker! Starting at 8:30 the Fabulous Flying Flinks joined the Fantastic Field Family and picked bushels and bushels of sweetcorn. I brought the haul to The Camden Promise in North Minneapolis who took all they could use then visited Waite House and Pillsbury United Communities who also took all they wanted. Next was Groveland Food Shelf and finally Joyce Uptown Foodshelf: one harvest served four food banks!
To provide a bit of perspective, I asked the various food shelves about their work. Every one told me that the need is greater today than it was before the pandemic. At the moment, Camden Promise is open 6 days a week and serves 60-80 families each day. In the Phillips neighborhood Pillsbury United Communities at Waite House serves 80 families per day, 4 days a week. At Groveland Food Shelf Jaye and new executive director Kerry Ann measure things differently serving 265 people per day, 5 days a week. Finally, Matthew Ayres at Joyce Uptown Foodshelf noted that in June they served nearly 1,000 households of which 183 were first time users of the service. As I drive to the farm it breaks my heart to see acres and acres of GMO corn and soy that no human can eat. The soil and climate here is – even with climate change – amazingly productive. That anyone in this state should ever be hungry is an absolute indictment of our food “system”. This should not be.
That said, thank you to (L-R) Jordan Fields (arms only – blame the photographer!), Trenne Fields, Sebastian Lawler, The Fabulous Flying Flinks: Iris, Freyja, Willa, Carl and Emilie.
(Español abajo) Sunday night’s harvest was special: volunteers included the de la Rosa clan who stayed for a parranda (party) with grilled marinated beef and elote (Mexican-style sweet corn on the grill). FYI Dulce is a wonderful cook and her green salsa is delicious! This morning I took the harvest to The Camden Promise once again who took all they could use so it was on to Joyce Uptown Food Shelf with the rest. Big thanks to (L-R) Kevin De La Rosa, Karen Kleinspehn, Oscar Moctezuma, Juan Calixto, Dulce De La Rosa and Mayela De La Rosa.
La cosecha del domingo por la noche fue especial: los voluntarios incluyeron al clan de la Rosa que se quedó para una parranda con carne marinada a la parrilla y elote. ¡FYI Dulce es una cocinera maravillosa y su salsa verde es deliciosa! Esta mañana llevé la cosecha a The Camden Promise una vez más, quienes se llevaron todo lo que pudieron usar para que estuviera en Joyce Uptown Food Shelf con el resto. Gracias a (L-R) Kevin De La Rosa, Karen Kleinspehn, Oscar Moctezuma, Juan Calixto, Dulce De La Rosa y Mayela De La Rosa.
Omigosh what a harvest! Yesterday (July 27th) was the first corn harvest of the 2023 season and oh boy what a harvest it was. Despite challenging weather and serious racoon pressure the harvest was bountiful beyond my hopes. Huge thanks to Sarah York, Jordan Fields, Sebastian Lawler and Trenne Fields for braving the heat and humidity to help provide for families in need. We started at 8:00 AM to beat the heat and the corn was delivered to the food banks by noon. The Camden Promise in North Minneapolis was the first stop and they took all they could use. Then it was off to the Seward Neighborhood and Pillsbury United Communities at Waite House. Thank you, thank you to the volunteer harvesters and all the folks at the food banks. We know this is a drop in the bucket of need, but it is a joy to share this abundance!
First and foremost: Huge thanks to the Kenwood PTA for all hands on deck on short notice! So far, 2023 on the farm has been . . . interesting.
We started with fire
In order to control invasive species in our largest fields, in April we had a controlled burn. It’s amazing to watch experts work with fire and the crew from Zumbro Valley Forestry are experts. Check out these photos:
Our first succession of corn went in on schedule and things were looking good but in mid-June I learned that our cooperating farmer hadn’t started the rest of the corn or the squash and was too booked up to help us. Uh-oh! I learned this on a Wednesday night and reached out to the crew from Kenwood School who jumped into the breach and came that very weekend to get the crops in the ground. Hooray! You should have seen the crew: I marked the rows with our little tractor then a parent came along and marked each hole followed by a student who placed two pumpkin seeds in each hole and who in turn was followed by a bucket brigade of students carefully putting a cup or two of water in each hole. Meanwhile, another crew got the remaining corn seeded and set up drip lines to jumpstart germination in hopes of getting ahead of the seed corn maggot (which considers corn seed a delicacy). As you can see in the photos below, the corn germinated well and we’re off and running. Thank you Kenwood!!
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
It was another great day for huitlacoche which both Dulce and Mayela know how to prepare.
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 (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.
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!
Thanks again to today’s volunteers: Cara Rodriguez, Debra Goodlaxson, Pat O’Loughlin, Sarah McCarthy, John Freise and Tomas Goodlaxson.
With bright blue overhead and vibrant green around us today’s hearty crew gathered a bumper crop of sweet corn for our food shelf partners. Thanks to Barb Pratt, Barb Rose, Chuck Lentz, Cara Rodriguez, Katy Lowery, David Edminster, Julie Young, Evra (starting 5th grade in September) and – clocking in at 92 years old – the queen of today’s harvest, DeeBelle Young (Julie’s mom).
Someday I should figure out how much fills the truck. With a little help from the volunteers at Camden Promise Food Shelf I think it’s reasonable to guesstimate today’s delivery at around 750 lbs. We didn’t count the ears but it was dozens and dozens as you can see in the photos. Pastor Jeff’s crew in North Minneapolis took about half and the remainder went to Pillsbury United Communities in the Phillips neighborhood.
I didn’t know there was a theme but it turned out that today was the tie-dye harvest. I wonder what Thursday will bring as we venture into the second succession. It’s looking mighty fine!
On this perfect morning for picking corn a hearty crew assembled: Barb Pratt, Zhao Boukei, Babs Pilling, Dan Carlson and Cara Rodriguez.
We were highly selective this time choosing only the plumpest, juiciest ears. First delivery was to Sabathani Foodshelf who took all they could use. Sabathani serves about 300 families each month – it’s among the smaller food banks we serve.
After Sabathani I took the remainder to Joyce Uptown Food Bank who were delighted. Joyce serves around 400 families a month with about 700 individual visits. Both food banks offer culturally appropriate foods for our immigrant neighbors.
The consensus among the harvesters was that a lot of the corn needs another week to fill out so the next harvest will be on Monday August 22nd.