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.
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!
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.
What a day! A cool, cloudy morning and an abundant harvest then the sun shone on deliveries to two food banks. Our stalwart volunteers started at 9:00 and by 10:30 the truck was loaded and ready to go.
First I went to North Minneapolis and volunteers at Camden Promise Food Bank took all the corn they thought they could use.
The truck was still half full so I called Ethan at Pillsbury United Communities in the Phillips neighborhood who said, “Come on over!” You should have seen the smiles on the volunteers’ faces as they pitched in to unload the corn. Bystanders were texting their friends to quick come and get fresh sweet corn. I was worried that there might be more than they could use but I was told, “This will be gone by 4:00!” That’s my dream: fresh picked corn on family tables the day it’s picked. Thanks to today’s volunteers: Dug Nichols, Sarah Purdy, Carol Anne Broad, Theresa Taylor and Cara Rodriguez and to the volunteers and staff at Camden Promise and Pillsbury United Communities.
Last week a neighbor came by with a flail mower and chopped the remaining corn stalks and what remained of the squash plants. All that organic matter can now decompose over the winter and return to the soil. With that – and a few remaining minor chores – the 2021 Farm to Foodshelf season draws to a close. Thank you to all the donors who took us past our $6,000 goal, to all the volunteers who harvested, processed and delivered carrots, corn, beets and squash, and to the cooperating food shelves and institutions including The Food Group. Huge thanks to Dana Jokela of Sogn Valley Farm – this couldn’t happen without you. Even with the loss of 2/3 of our planned corn planting we still had an excellent season.
Now it’s time to look to the future – the future of this project and the future of our farm. How can the land we now steward best serve our communities? Over the coming months I hope to craft a longer range vision for our farm using what we’ve learned about this place over the last 10 years, and what we’ve learned about communities’ needs over the last couple of years. Comments, thoughts and ideas are welcome! Feel free to comment on this post, email me or get in touch some other way.
Once again, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.
It was a sunny Sunday for filling the truck one more time with winter squash and this morning I took the last of the harvest to People Serving People “the largest and most comprehensive emergency shelter for families experiencing homelessness in Minnesota and a dedicated leader in homelessness prevention’, Camden Promise at Gethsemane Lutheran Church in North Minneapolis and VEAP (Volunteers Enlisted to Assist People) which was suggested by Jerome Ryan. As ever, I was overwhelmed by the staggering need and grateful for the opportunity to lend a hand. I’ll follow this post with a season summary but, as ever, your tax-deductible financial support of this project via this GiveMN page will help pay our heroic cooperating farmer, Dana Jokela, for his time, expertise, use of equipment, fuel and more. Please help us finish the season with a solid check for Dana! Thank you.