Farmers & Growers
Our partnership with farmers and growers offers many opportunities to receive produce that may otherwise be discarded to make it available to the hungry in our communities. In the state of North Carolina alone, there is nearly 200 million pounds of produce that goes unharvested or is unsalable each year. Within Food Bank of the Albemarle’s 15-county service area, it is estimated that there is in excess of 44 million pounds of produce that goes to waste annually because it does not meet the specifications of the buyer or it is not economically feasible to harvest the crop. Some of the reasons the produce is not harvested or sold can include:
- Grade B’s: The produce may be smaller than usual.
- Culls: There may be cosmetic issues with the produce such as slight blemishes, misshapes, too large or discoloration.
- Denied Loads: There are instances when a load may be denied by the buyer as a result of a “spot check” on the product.
- Excess Produce: The yield may be larger than the market can accommodate or a gardener may have an overabundance of produce coming off the plants.
The Food Resource Manager works closely with the area growers to help ensure the Food Bank can rescue as much of this surplus or blemished produce as possible while taking some of the burden off of the grower. In these instances, the Food Bank provides the necessary packing supplies and secures transportation arrangements in order to move quickly and efficiently, and not disrupt the producer’s operation.
In 2014, Food Bank of the Albemarle and the North Carolina Association of Feeding America Food Banks in collaboration with the owners of Pamlico Shores Produce, a large potato operation in Hyde County, initiated a pilot program to absorb the Grade B potatoes and culls from this facility. By adding a line and a separate bagger for these potatoes, the Food Bank was able to rescue 346,736 pounds of potatoes during the first two years of operation. Once the Food Bank of the Albemarle had absorbed all we could through our network, the excess potatoes were then distributed to the 6-sister food banks located across the state.
The Food Bank is currently working with Mattamuskeet Fresh Produce, another produce donor located in Hyde County, to rescue green beans. This packing facility estimates they discard up to 10 truckloads of green beans daily during the 5-week harvest season because of the stems or minor blemishes on the beans. Potentially, this pilot project could enable the Food Bank to capture up to approximately 500,000 pounds per growing season for distribution to families in need.
The Beacon District of the United Methodist Church has spearheaded gleaning efforts for Food Bank of the Albemarle and our partner agencies. This group of dedicated volunteers hand harvest the crops left in the farmers’ fields after they have been commercially harvested or on fields where it is not economically profitable to harvest, and give this produce back to the community.
Some area growers plan for an annual gleaning, while other farmers realize they will be unable to harvest the remaining crop and offer gleaning as an opportunity to capture more produce. During the recent growing season, these volunteers gleaned approximately 20,000 pounds of produce for the Food Bank.
Plant a Row for the Hungry (PAR) is a national program created by The Garden Writers Association that encourages garden communities and individuals to donate fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs to people in need. Food Bank of the Albemarle works with several Community Gardens to garner donations. In 2016, through a partnership with Riverside Methodist Church, several raised bed gardens were erected on Food Bank property. This produce benefitted the clients of the Albemarle Food Pantry which operates out of Food Bank of the Albemarle’s facility.
This program also encourages local growers to plant an extra row or more, to be donated during harvest season. During 2016, Lassiter Farms Inc. of Northampton County approached the Food Bank and planted three acres of sweet corn for the sole purpose of donating 100% of the crop to the Food Bank. Harvested by the family and friends of the Lassiter’s, this crop yielded 24,490 pounds of sweet corn which was distributed throughout our 15 county territory. While this is not a usual occurrence, it is one of the best examples of how partnerships can impact our region.
Wild Game Donations
With an estimated $29.4 million of deer related crop damage in North Carolina annually, the Farmers and Communities Manage Deer is a successful program demonstrating that farmers, sportsmen, and community groups can work together to limit deer damage to crops, increase local farm and community revenue, and provide harvested venison to food banks and pantries. The project engages local civic organizations, churches, hunting clubs, youth groups and businesses in order to support deer management programs in their community.
The Farmers and Communities Manager Deer program was developed by the NC Wildlife Federation to help sustainably manage white-tailed deer, assist farmers and feed the hungry. It is a collaborative effort with NC Hunters for the Hungry and financial support comes from the NC Tobacco Trust Fund Commission.
The North Carolina Hunters for the Hungry, Inc. is a coalition of conservation and nonprofit organizations working with corporations, individuals and state agencies. Their shared goal is to be actively involved in the fight against hunger and malnutrition in North Carolina. The primary focus of this coalition is to efficiently utilize legally harvested whitetail deer, an abundant natural resource in our state.”
Through these two programs, local hunters and hunting clubs can be a part of the solution to end hunger just by doing what they love to do – hunt!
In 2015, a van was acquired through a USDA grant and generous contributions from AgCarolina Farm Credit, Farm Fresh Supermarkets and the NC Tobacco Trust Fund. This van is designed for the purpose of transporting the deer to a USDA approved processing facility, where the venison will be ground and packaged. The van is available for special hunts to benefit Food Bank of the Albemarle.
Become an Approved Partner:
If you are interested in becoming an approved Venison Donation Program partner, please contact Steve Mace, Food Resource Manager, at 252-335-4035 x 114.
Approved partners will be given access to a van that has been outfitted specifically for the transportation of deer. Partners will need to sign a Memorandum of Understanding and provide proof of automobile insurance. In addition, partners will be required to come to the Food Bank of the Albemarle for a food safety training.
We welcome your participation. Please take a moment to read each document below: