While ‘soup kitchens’ and ‘food pantries’ are the experience of urban environments, located in northern in Virginia is a rural ‘feed the hungry’ program Volunteer Farms.
The World Foundation for Children (WFC), http://worldfoundationforchildren.com/, the mother organization of Volunteer Farms, was granted Public Charity status by the Internal Revenue Service in March of 2004. Since then, the goal of this farm has been to increase the availability of nutritious foods to feed the food insecure who reside in the Shenandoah Valley, Northern and Central Piedmont, and Northern Virginia.
Present-day crops include beans, cabbage, cucumbers, onions, peppers, potatoes, summer/winter squash, tomatoes, turnips, kohlrabi, beets, watermelon, asparagus, and cantaloupe; and in the Spring of 2015, apple trees were installed which should yield crops in the next two to three years.
The Volunteer Farm, an on-going program, follows a central Virginia agricultural schedule. Crops are selected for upcoming growing seasons in late-fall; and many items, such as seed for onions and potatoes, are ordered months in advance. Similar to other farming efforts, seedlings are stated in early spring and planting occurs in April/May, depending on the crop. Crops are harvested by staff and/or volunteers; and donated to local food banks, pantries and soup kitchens. Through mentoring and outreach to volunteers, the farm strives to instill a perspective of life-long love of serving others in young volunteers.
How can you help? The farm provides an array of volunteer opportunities – office workers as well as field workers. Ultimately the decision of tasks that are done each day is up to the farm manager, whose first responsibility is ensuring a harvest that will feed the most people. There is also a ‘wish list’. This list contains a number of ideas of things needed but normally not affordable. You can donate cash for the farm to buy items or donate the actual item. Such Donations In Kind are tax deductible. One such donation is 200 apple trees which were added to a current orchard of 150 fruit trees. A pending ‘wish list’ item is asparagus. This vegetable is grown as a very nutritious perennial, harvestable each year in February through June. The farm would like to plant one-half acre, at a cost of $2,000 for 5,000 crowns, fertilizer, manure and materials. Why is asparagus a nutritious food investment? Asparagus is low in calories and is very low in sodium. It is a good source of vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium and zinc, and a very good source of dietary fiber, protein, beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, rutin, niacin, folic acid, iron, phosphorus, potassium, copper, manganese and selenium, as well as chromium, a trace mineral that enhances the ability of insulin to transport glucose from the bloodstream into cells. It sells for $3.50 per pound in the super markets, so it is normally too expensive for hungry folks, the food insecure.
Whether an urban, suburban or rural community, why not make your priority nutritious foods to feed the food insecure. For further details of Volunteer Farms activities, visit web site www.VolunteerFarm.org or call 540-459-(DIRT)3478 or email Officemanager@volunteerfarm.org.
How do I volunteer?: Go to www.volunteerfarm.org to register or call 540-459-3478.
When: Mondays-Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon. Rain or shine.
Where are they?: 277 Crider Lane, Woodstock.
Who can volunteer?: Anyone who wants to work. There are no age limits. You must sign a waiver, available online or at a farm, before volunteering.
What should I bring?: Sunscreen, bug spray, a hat, snacks and plenty of water. Wear long pants and sneakers, and don’t be afraid to get dirty.