COVID Food Project: What People Are Saying

Mar 30, 2021 | Beacon, COVID, Justice, News

‘When you feed the hungry, you feed your own soul.’

As the beet season winds down, and Farmer Jim is updating his list of spring chores, we thought it was time for some reflections about beet picking.

Farmer Jim Eichner started the Food Bank Farm in 2011 with 12 volunteers.  That year, they harvested 3,750 lbs, or about 5,000 servings, all sold at farm stands in Seattle’s urban food deserts, distributed free to families in need, and donated to local food banks.  Fast forward to December 2020, when Farmer Jim reports, “We have been so blessed by your generosity this fall.  Many people donated, as well as volunteered their time.  We’re almost to the end of 2020 and we’ve harvested 270,000 lbs of food for food banks, thanks to all that you’ve given of yourselves.  It’s a beautiful thing.  Our motto is, ‘When you feed the hungry, you feed your own soul.’”

Raised on a farm in Wisconsin, Farmer Jim combines passion for cultivating the earth with commitment to community at the Food Bank Farm.  He told me that the thousands of hours people give to the farm mean more to him than money.  He thrives on the diverse community of people who come together to harvest, wash, and pack produce, each offering what they are able to give.

“Farming is not the work of rugged individualists.  Farming, in general, is a deeply communitarian endeavor and for the common good.  Serendipity also plays a big part.  The sun shines, Chinook Farms arranges for lime and the lime truck just so happens to be at the neighbor’s farm with a little extra lime.  Liberty Mutual sends a check out of the blue, and Skagit Farmer’s Supply expedites a fertilizer order.  And our neighbor Bob Ricci stands in the breach when “the other Bob” is home convalescing from surgery.  Bob Ricci discs and grooms the fields on top of his already 10-hour day.  It takes a village to plant a field.”

More than 65 people from East Shore gave nearly 300 hours to the Food Bank Farm harvesting beets this winter.  Many families came out to the farm more than once.  This is what they had to say:

“I so enjoyed my day picking beets!….We had about a 5 minute lesson from Farmer Jim and were then invited to ‘have at it’ in the rows and rows of ripe, deep red, beets.  We got to pull, shake, twist and throw all those wonderful veggies and were amazed at what we accomplished in a few hours. The rain held off and the sky was striking in its billowing, cloud formations as we all sat on buckets and visited with friends….In the meantime, my hubby Peter, became a beet washer. He and Carrie loaded all the beets that were collected in the big bags onto the conveyor belt where they were washed and then fell into a big bin, ready for distribution to Food Banks all over the State.  We took home some of the huge ‘discards’ left in the fields and had beet soup for days. YUM!  Such a delightful way to do a good deed.  Hooray for Farmer Jim!” – Kirstie Lewis

“My two kids (ages 7 and 6) and I thoroughly enjoyed our time picking beets together….The time we spent also inspired many beet related questions that we pondered for weeks and ultimately we decided to embark on a beet science experiment in our home school that is continuing to this day! We can’t wait to go back out to the farm and get good and dirty soon.” -Tina Velazquez Hays

“I totally loved playing in the mud.  Haven’t been that dirty since I was 9!  Got to sit on a bucket and exercise my arms while having a great conversation….Best of all was contributing to the food bank!  And – I was encouraged to take a few beets home and they were delicious!” -Louise Wilkinson

“Eowyn and Orson both loved connecting with their UU RE friends in real life even if it was socially distanced. It was great to help the community and get out of the house and reunite with friends all in one!” -Signe, Trev, Eowyn and Orson Lalish-Menagh

“I loved being outside in a huge open field and watching the sun go down, all the while pulling up gorgeous beets, seeing old friends, and meeting new ones!  The teamwork and friendliness filling the fresh air was just lovely in these COVID times.”  -Barb Clagett

“We dressed in our grubbies
We drove to the field
We pulled and pulled until we had 35 bags full
Grateful for the opportunity to help others.”
-Karen Ramsahai and Levi

“When I was a kid, and we had to stop for a train, we would always count the cars…out in the beet field, trains would occasionally pass out to the east and you could see twenty-five or thirty cars at once…I didn’t try to count, but bringing back memories of over fifty years brought a sweet, deep smile.”-Mike Radow

“.…It was a way to get my teenagers to engage with our church community. It was a great way to get the family away from screens for a few hours.” -Leta Hamilton

“What blew me away about picking beets was everything! The generosity of the land owner, farmers, seed supplier, Farmer Jim, the volunteers. The abundance of the soil, the different types and sizes of beet roots, the greens. The difference between what is edible and what is marketable.  The blessing of sunny days in the field.” -Doug Strombom