Lichtenstein: Growers adapt, give back during pandemic
Last week, Dairy Creek Community Food Web (DCCFW), an active nonprofit in Forest Grove, received an email from Flamingo Ridge Organic Farm in Gaston: 10,000 heads of romaine lettuce were ready to be harvested, but the restaurant and school accounts the lettuce were grown for had been canceled due to COVID-19. Could volunteers come harvest at least of portion of the crop, to take to free food pantries?
Within two days, nearly 1,000 heads had made their way from the greenhouse to distribution outlets, and more are on their way this week.
DCCFW has been around since 2011, initiating a variety of projects to broaden awareness of food-related issues, educate, and offer a means for interested people to connect and have fun. Over the years, the group has held an annual Seed Swap, annual Spring Plant Sale, classes in gardening and canning, offered movies about food and agriculture, started the School Garden Program in Forest Grove, and held "Farm Your Yard: Kitchen Garden" tours. They've also developed a lending library of gardening and farming books.
The biggest initiative has been the Gleaning Program, with volunteers harvesting fruit from local backyard orchards. The bulk of the fruit is taken to nearby food pantries, while the remainder is for the volunteers who harvest, and windfall fruit is given to a nearby farmer for her livestock.
The program also collects unsold fruits and vegetables from vendors at the Forest Grove Farmers Market on Wednesdays, to deliver to a food pantry open on Thursday morning. As some vendors have indicated, the food they donated wasn't always surplus; while they might have been able to keep it for their next market, they chose to donate because generosity is an important value to them.
Most of the funding for DCCFW's efforts have come from the Spring Plant Sale, and from grants. This covers the cost of liability insurance for the group, which is necessary in order to run the Gleaning Program.
While a month ago, volunteers started seeds in anticipation of the sale, it since become clear that the sale would not be feasible given the limitations of advised physical distancing. So instead, the group has decided to use their plant starts in a market-scale garden to directly supply the local food pantries and other food give-away programs.
Jude Lichtenstein is a friend and supporter of the Dairy Creek Community Food Web. She lives in the Forest Grove area.
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