A Letter from Tim, a FareStart Volunteer: From Seedlings to Salad

February 7, 2022

Since 2019, we have been supporting farm partners and reducing food waste through FareStart’s volunteer gleaning and harvesting efforts. We began working with new farm partners and purchasing produce from BIPOC-owned farms in 2021. The practice of gleaning helps farmers manage excess crops, control weeds, pests and maintain nutrients in the soil. FareStart uses gleaned produce at our mobile community market and in our nutritious hunger relief meals by diversifying ingredients and minimizing costs. From May through October, volunteers have a great time gleaning and harvesting broccoli, kale, blueberries, carrots and much more!

Recently, we chatted with one of our volunteers, Tim (he/him). Read about his experiences volunteering below.

“In summer 2021, I had the chance to experience the process of farm grown produce going from planting to harvesting to transport, at a unique farm near Snohomish, the Food Bank Farm. It made me appreciate the bounty of resources available locally to feed our community when we work cooperatively.

My small part was to coordinate volunteer work parties and get harvested bounty back to FareStart kitchen staff to do their magic, turning the produce donations into nutritious meals.

The journey started on a very hot summer day in July on the 17-acre Food Bank Farm where I met Jim, the coordinator of the farm, waiting by his tractor to get us set up to help with the first growing step - planting 800 donated cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage seedling “starts”. I volunteered to follow the mechanical planter and make sure it dropped the seedling properly in the hole it made in the soil. Those 200-yard-long rows looked long when viewed from your hands and knees under the sun.

To be honest, I had my doubts that in the drought conditions last summer I would ever see many heads of broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage make it to harvest, but I was wrong. I guess I underestimated the power and potential of a motivated coordinator with a volunteer army.

Come November, I went back to those same fields and was thrilled to see 10 long rows of large, beautiful and bug-free plants of a quality for which I would pay top dollar at an organic produce market. This time, it was a rainy fall day but with occasional sunbreaks. Our 6-person volunteer team had a great time chopping heads of cauliflower and cabbage, and in an hour and a half we filled the FareStart van to the roof with almost 1,500 pounds of gorgeous produce. I’m not sure which of the 5,000 meals the kitchen crew produce each day the vegetables were part of, but it seemed like a big contribution.

I’m looking forward to another season in 2022 and to helping these resource connections grow even bigger in the heat and the rain!”

Interested in volunteering? We have a wide range of opportunities available!