Local farms give Wakefield-Brookfield Food Pantry a helping hand
This year's been the most successful in the three-year partnership
September 08, 2010
WAKEFIELD — This summer, about 50 needy families per week have had access to lots of fresh produce this summer through the Wakefield Food Pantry's partnership with two local farms.
"This has been by far the most successful season due to the number of volunteers and the abundance of crops," said Martina Cyr, the Brookfield representative to the Wakefield Food Pantry.
Sherman Farms, in Conway, and McKenzie's Farm, in Milton, allow food pantry volunteers to harvest some of their crops from June to September. The partnership is part of Carroll County Cooperative Extension's Veggie Volunteer Program, which started about eight years ago.
In 2010, that program is still going strong. For the first time, Kingswood High School students were recruited to harvest and distribute the crops including tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, squash, blueberries, apples, lettuce, greens, zucchini, and broccoli.
"Picking the veggies is a big commitment in time, gas money, and hard work," said Cyr. "It is during the summer when most people are trying to relax, so it is a great act of community service."
This summer the Wakefield Food Pantry, located at 132 Meadow Street, is a busy place. It's been serving an average of 50 families per week — with the average family consisting of three people. The demand is up considerably from 2004 when the food pantry was formed. That year the food pantry served 19 families per week.
The Kingswood students were organized to volunteer through the school's Key Club, which does community service and raises money for good causes, said Kingswood senior Sarah Clay. After working one harvest at Sherman Farms, the students got so into it they came back for a second round. The first time they picked about 12 boxes of food and in the second trip they collected eight or nine, said Clay, of Ossipee. The other Kingswood volunteers were Adam Braun, David Mesa, Emily Martin, and Megan Ziegler.
"It was an incredible feeling to know we helped so many people," said Clay. "And we had a great time doing it."
For seasonal Brookfield resident Jan Ledbetter, volunteerism is a family affair. She and her six nieces and nephews enjoy picking the produce together. The family began the tradition of helping the pantry a few years ago at Christmastime. To teach her nephews and nieces about giving back to the community, Ledbetter took them on a tour of the food pantry. The children noticed the shelves were bare and the pantry wouldn't have enough food for the following week.
"They said 'We have to do something about that,'" said Ledbetter.
Since then, the children, who are from urban Georgia and Michigan, got into donating everything from books to their time picking vegetables.
"For kids who come from the city, to see food growing out of the ground is a treat," said Ledbetter.
Kathy Sherman, part owner of Sherman Farms, said her business is happy to help the food pantry. Sherman added she's glad that volunteers will come get the food. The 50-acre farm always produces more than its farm stand can sell. That surplus wouldn't get to feed hungry people if the volunteers didn't come pick it up.
"This is our way of giving back," said Sherman. "We've always had the produce but not the hands to distribute it. This has worked out to benefit both of us."
This season has been productive because of the warm weather, she said. This fall is a busy time for Sherman Farms. In addition to local produce, milk and meats, the farm also offers a corn maze, which opens Sept. 18 through Oct. 31.
Brett McKenzie said the crops at his farm are coming in well — especially the tomatoes. He's pleased that his farm is can assist those in need. His farm has also been helping two food pantries in Milton.
"It absolutely makes us feel good to help people out," said McKenzie.
McKenzie's Farm is hosting an event called "McKtober Fest" on Oct. 9 and Oct 10. There will be musical bands, apple picking, trailer rides, face painting, and cider donuts (donuts made with apple cider).
The following is a list of Wakefield Food Pantry volunteers from the community:
Rosemary Stewart, Wade Cyr, Brian Cyr, Mary Cyr, Kylie Cyr, Sarah Tierney, and Dot Currier.