Most farms in the Boulder and Broomfield area are smaller, producing on 10 acres or less. With their smaller operation size, they also have smaller staff sizes. These farms find it difficult to donate as they do not have the means to deliver the produce they have after markets or when they have excess. The concept of the pick-up came from the concern of a small farm that wanted to donate but did not have the staff available to drive to the warehouse facility. The VISTA proposed the idea to some of these farms to create a routine Monday morning produce pick-up throughout the summer. Monday was chosen to best suit farms that sold at the farmers markets on the weekends and would collect the excess from their Monday morning harvests for the week. The VISTA used the food bank van and had 3 farms for stops in the trial year. Volunteers showed interest in the program to take over for years to come. The program captured over 6,000 pounds of produce in its trial year.
Summer produce pick-ups resulted from the initial conversations with farms in the area when the VISTA began donor outreach. Many wanted to donate but could not figure out how it would work for them and their operations. Three farms decided they wanted to participate and found the program to be very successful. They were very happy with the results from the first year and are on board to sign up for next year.
Community Food Share (CFS) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit food bank serving Colorado’s Boulder and Broomfield Counties. In operation since 1981, it is a long-standing hunger relief agency operating as part of the Feeding America network. Last year Community Food Share distributed 10.4 million pounds of healthy, nutritious food to food-insecure individuals and families through 42 partner agencies and pantries, as well as three direct distribution programs. As part of its organizational mission, Community Food Share strives to provide fresh, high-quality food – ensuring that 35% of food product is produce and 40% is high protein items such as milk, eggs, and frozen meat.
In 2016, Community Food Share began the three-year VISTA assignment with Harvest Against Hunger in order to further build out its Garden Share program. Garden Share encompasses several growing and harvesting programs that bring fresh, local produce into the food bank. During the 2017 season, the VISTA brought in 17,300 more pounds than the previous season without the VISTA. Through the Garden Share program, there are three major ways that Community Food Share interacts with the community to secure fresh produce: maintaining relationships with farmers for Farm to Food Bank, utilizing volunteers for the Gleaning Program, and reaching out to backyard and community gardeners through Community Garden Donations. Each of these active networks expands the conversation around food security in Boulder and Broomfield Counties and encourages the community to engage with fresh, local fruits and vegetables.
The Community Garden Donations portion of Garden Share is a collaboration with Earth’s Table, a nonprofit community of gardeners who maintain several garden sites throughout Boulder County. Earth’s Table grows everything from seed to harvest for donation to Community Food Share and a few of its partner agencies. Additionally, Community Garden Donations also encourages home and community gardeners to share their bounty from backyard and community gardens. The second VISTA launched an official Grow a Row campaign throughout the food bank’s service areas to highlight particular ways gardeners could help including particular types of produce to grow, and how to volunteer. The Farm to Food Bank program works with local, regional and state farmers to bring in fresh produce, meat, and dairy items to the food bank. Many of these farmers work with a culled produce recovery program, donating excess product already harvested from their fields. Various local Boulder County farmers have participated in the Monday Produce Pick-Up program, started by the first VISTA, to collect excess produce from farms after farmers market weekends. The second VISTA continued this program and also continued picking up from a local farmer’s market throughout the season. The Gleaning Program works with various farms and landowners to procure the leftovers from a first harvest. Over the past two VISTA terms, farms have contacted Community Food Share and the VISTA communicates with them throughout the season to confirm gleanings. The second VISTA also worked with many local fruit tree owners in gleaning apples, plums, and pears.