Fresh & Local
Volunteer Community Farms
Column #21, Published Feb 10, 2012
There is currently a food revolution going on, and locally grown food is making permanent inroads into the food we eat.
In previous columns, I have written about the different distribution channels for locally grown food. I have written quite a bit about farmers’ markets, and CSA shares. I have written about locally grown food wholesalers and a retail store. Last week I wrote about on-site farm retail.
This week, I want to finish out this subject by talking about another channel known as volunteer community farms. This is usually a non-commercial channel, and I want to mention it because there is a volunteer community farm here in Culpeper.
As the name would suggest, most of the farm’s planting and picking is done by volunteers. There are several different operating models, but often the produce is donated to local food banks to help feed the hungry. Community farms also often provide educational programs covering food, agriculture and nutrition.
Anyone interested in this subject in general can Google the words, “volunteer community farm” to see examples of different models.
Both Volunteer Farm of Culpeper, and Volunteer Farm of Shenandoah in Woodstock are run by a non-profit charity World Foundation for Children (www.volunteerfarm.org). The charity was founded in 2004 by Woodstock, VA resident Bob Blair. In eight years, the two farms have produced a total of 214 tons of fresh vegetables provided free to food banks, food pantries, and soup kitchens in Virginia that feed 150,000 people per month.
Since the farms do not receive any funding from the food banks, they depend on donations from churches, individuals, businesses, and civic organizations. More than 175 churches regularly support the farms. And, of course, the farms also depend heavily on communities of volunteer workers.
The volunteer management team of the Culpeper farm is Dewey McDonnell, Rev. Arthur Fellows, and Donald Whorton. I recently talked to Dewey about the Culpeper farm’s plans for 2012.
The Culpeper farm is a 97 acre tract on Cherry Hill Road. Most of the land is wooded, but about 20 acres or so has been cleared and is tillable. Dewey told me that they have set a goal of growing 30 tons of produce this year, and reaching that goal is going to require many volunteers.
Anyone interested in volunteering can sign up by going out to the www.volunteerfarm.org web site and clicking on the ‘Volunteer!’ tab. After filling out a liability waiver form, there is a calendar of the planned activities for each day. Volunteers can sign up for any time Monday through Saturday, 8:00am to noon, by clicking the “Sign Up To Volunteer, Click Here” button at the top of the left column.
Dewey wants to emphasize that groups of volunteers are welcome, and that no experience is necessary. The farm provides on-the-job training, and provides a great way to learn about agriculture.
Anyone looking for more information is welcome to email Dewey at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bryant Osborn and his wife Terry own Corvallis Farms in Culpeper County. His column on fresh and locally grown food runs every Friday. He can be reached at email@example.com