From sunup to sundown, farmers care for the plants and animals that feed us all. But even with the abundance found on farms today, some families face financial and geographic barriers to accessing fresh produce. To get farm-fresh foods into the homes that need it most, farmers are partnering with food banks through the Farms to Food Banks program.
Farms to Food Banks directs surplus and donated agriculture products from farmers to food banks with the help of volunteers from organizations such as Farm Credit. This program is a powerful way for farmers to connect their hard work with their communities and ensure everyone has access to the nutritious food they grow.
Tamara Sandberg, the executive director of the Kentucky Association of Food Banks said, “Farms to Food Banks more than tripled the amount of fresh produce available since the program began Kentucky just a few years ago.”
Farmers also see benefits from this program. While the majority of farmers generously donate their produce, Farms to Food Banks offers a modest reimbursement for costs associated with picking and distributing the produce. “When farmers have excess produce or produce with minor blemishes or size discrepancies that their buyers reject, we’re happy to take that,” says Sandberg.
“Farms to Food Banks is a home for the produce we cannot sell, and by participating in this program, we know that we’re providing food to people who need it instead of turning it into compost,” said Mary Courtney, a Farm Credit Mid-America board member and a Kentucky farmer who has been involved with the program since 2009.
For Erin Wright, the director of the ag clearance program for the Ohio Association of Food Banks, the program helps farmers directly feed their communities. “No farmer likes to spend 45 days on tomatoes and then have the vendors say they don’t need that much. Farmers go out to their fields every day, they grow vegetables and they want people to eat them.”
In 2016 alone, Farm Credit Mid-America sent nearly 500 employee volunteers to 37 locations, including packaging facilities, food banks and farms throughout Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. Altogether, Farm Credit volunteers packaged more than 42,000 pounds of produce and harvested nearly 20,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables over the course of three months.
“Our purpose as a lender in rural America is to take care of agriculture and the agriculture community,” says Mark Tangeman, a senior financial officer from Ohio who volunteered at a Farm Credit Mid-America Farms to Food Banks event. “When we live out our purpose and see everything come full circle like it does during our involvement with Farms to Food Banks, it makes you feel really proud and connected.”
**Language for this blog post was adapted from the Farm Credit Mid-America website that can be found here.**