The Giving Fields, a program of the Freestore Foodbank, is soon preparing for the season’s final harvest with plans to extend several crops into early November by utilizing low tunnels (miniature greenhouses). The mission of the ten acre farm, located in Melbourne, KY, is to provide fresh, nutritional produce with the help of community partners to our hungry neighbors in Northern Kentucky.
“We begin planting in April,” says Molly Jordan, Farm Manager. “Just last Saturday, I planted broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts and turnips. Their harvest will be the last of the season.”
The ten acre farm yields a wide variety of produce – everything from tomatoes, beans, kale, squash and cabbage, to herbs, fresh flowers and blueberries. A fruit orchard was planted three years ago and is expected to produce its first crop of apples, plums, peaches, cherries and pears next summer. “Once the trees reach maturity, their bounty will continue to grow each year,” says Molly.
Asparagus will also be ready to pick next year, and the bee hive established this summer is expected to yield its first honey harvest in 2015. During the off-season, Molly and the Freestore Foodbank collaborate with Dave Koester, a horticulture agent with the University of Kentucky’s Campbell County Cooperative Extension Office, to map out what will be planted the following spring and summer.
The off-season is also the time when soil testing is done to determine proper fertilization. Soybeans that are grown and then plowed under in the spring work to replenish the land’s vital nutrients with nitrogen.
Harvesting begins in early June, with teams of volunteers working several days a week to pick produce from roughly six acres of farmland. Delta and Kroger have sent multiple teams to work in the fields – everything that is harvested goes directly to local community partners to help distribute the food – that same day. “Nothing gets wasted,” says Molly.
Several elementary school groups have also visited the farm, providing the children not only with the chance to pick fresh produce, but also the opportunity to learn more about agriculture. “I’ll show them a ‘good’ bug, and tell them why it’s good, vs. a ‘bad’ bug, and why it’s bad,” laughs Molly.
This fall, a pavilion will be built on the farm to provide shelter, and a small greenhouse will also be added, allowing Molly to start cold season transplants – tomatoes, peppers, kale and collards – that can be planted in the early spring.
Research is currently being done on the prospect of some day adding shrimp and tilapia ponds. Eventually, Molly envisions building a chicken coop to provide fresh eggs. “With the communities support, the opportunities to grow this farm are really exciting,” she says.