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Fostering Sustainable Agriculture through Research, Education and Policy since 1984

A Helping Hand

It’s that time of year when you may come home to a basket of summer squash or tomatoes thoughtfully left by a neighbor with a home garden. Or maybe you’re the gardening ninja leaving excess produce around the neighborhood. It happens every year. We all have the best of intentions to can or preserve for leaner times, aka winter, but life happens and we end up with way more than we know what to do with.

This happens on the farm too. Of course we try to sell as much as possible but there comes a time when our market customers don’t want any more green beans or zucchini. What do we do then? Well, I’m happy to say this year less and less is going to our compost pile and more and more is going to good use. Not that compost isn’t good use but…

Our students have been amazing this summer at taking our seconds or overstock and turning it into delicious creations. Everything from a spicy mulberry jam to kimchi pickled asparagus. As a closet foodie I love to see the creativity inspired by the desire to not let things go to waste. It warms my heart to overhear conversations in the wash shed like, “Put those farmer food carrots in this basket. I’ve got a plan for them.” Or, “I wonder what this combo will taste like.” After all, love of good food is what lead me to farming in the first place.

If we don’t have time to experiment in the kitchen or if we just have way too much of a harvest some weeks, then we look for other outlets. This summer we’ve partnered with Mukwonago Food Pantry and Twin Oaks Homeless Shelter in Darien. The wonderful people there are so appreciative of our deliveries of fresh produce. Something so little to us means the world to them and that’s a very humbling experience. We’ve been blessed with hundreds of pounds of green beans this fall and while we see it as punishment to pick them week after week the pantries and shelters love it! They welcome us with huge smiles and big hugs and it makes all the time and effort picking worthwhile.

If you find yourself sneaking around your neighborhood dropping off produce under the cover of darkness please consider checking with your community food bank or shelter. They would love the fresh food and your neighbors won’t avoid you when they see you coming!