Message from COO Rick Gerwe on The Giving Fields

Mediaon April 28th, 2011Comments Off on Message from COO Rick Gerwe on The Giving Fields

Here we are in April of 2011 and just finishing up the wettest month in our regional history. Yes, we have, as of today, surpassed the amount of rain that fell in January, 1937. Anyone who has lived here for any length of time has heard of the Great Flood of ‘37. I know, growing up in Latonia, Kentucky, where the high water level mark was: up to the second floors of many homes in that area. So you can imagine how difficult it has been to get our Giving Fields project off the ground.

As a reminder, we have begun a project to develop a community farm in Melbourne, Kentucky. The farm is between Route 8 and the Ohio River in Campbell County, Kentucky just past Silver Grove. Sheila and Doug Bray donated the land. The Freestore Foodbank is developing the property to grow fresh produce that will be distributed to select member agencies in Northern Kentucky for our Northern Kentucky neighbors in need of emergency food assistance.

With the oversight of Doug Bray and his very able project manager, Tony Burns, much progress has been made to build a state-of-the-art infrastructure to support the farm. Two acres of land have been tilled, prepared and fertilized for the growing season. During the past six weeks, a well has been dug to support the newly installed drip irrigation system. Weed control tarps have been laid. A fence bordering the overall property has been installed. Also, a solar powered, electrified deer fence has been put up around the planting area. This is movable and as the planting and harvesting area expands, the fence can expand. A half dozen bee hives have been installed for pollination and are being cared for by a neighborhood beekeeper. I want to mention a special appreciation for the help we received from the young men at Campbell Lodge. They were essential to clearing the perimeter of the property so the fence work could proceed and be completed.

All of this infrastructure improvement comes at a cost. We have received generous support from the Bank of Kentucky, the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, Griffin Industries, Bray Trucking, Icon Solar Power, Bert’s Plumbing and the Lafarge Company. We need additional financial support to cover these infrastructure costs and the continuing operating costs of the farm. Whether you are an individual or a small or large company, please consider a donation for this wonderful project. Click here to make a contribution to the Giving Fields Project.

Because of the never-ending rain, it has been very difficult to conduct planting days supported by our volunteers. So far, we have had one planting day supervised by our Farm Manager, Susan Turner. Susan and Ben Franzen have taken advantage of the few additional good planting days and continued to plant through the month. We have several rows planted with early season vegetables including broccoli, kale, mustard greens and cabbage.

We will be planting more this Saturday, April 30th. Volunteers have been scheduled to work from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Dave Koester, of the UK Cooperative Extension Service has been extremely helpful with designing and planning the planting schedule and providing plants.

At this writing we have approximately 95 volunteers signed up to support this project. As the season unfolds all of our volunteers will have the opportunity to support this wonderful project. Our goal is to work with Susan to make sure she has the volunteers she needs to get the work accomplished. We want our volunteers to have a positive experience when they help at the farm. Mother Nature will continue to play a role in when we can work.

We are currently meeting to streamline our communications processes so we can keep our volunteers informed. As the season proceeds, we will really need all the volunteer help available. In the beginning, we will use smaller groups to get the planting accomplished. Dave Koester will train Susan and Ben in the safe food handling methods necessary for healthy harvesting of the produce. They in turn will train the volunteers when they are scheduled for planting or harvesting duties.

Sheila and Doug’s vision for this property and the mission of the Giving Fields is becoming a reality. All of us at the Freestore Foodbank are extremely appreciative of their generosity and the generosity of their family and friends who have been so instrumental in getting this project off the ground … or should I say in the ground.