Matthew 25 Farm donates fresh produce to food insecure in CNY
In the fall of 2008, Rick Rarick’s brother, Jeff, had a vision. The Raricks didn’t have any land or any farming experience, but he dreamed of creating a farm that would provide fresh vegetables to those in need in Central New York.
“I kept poking holes in his idea time and time again,” said Rick Rarick, now the farm’s manager. “We didn’t have land. He said, ‘God will provide it.’ And I said ok.”
Four months later in the winter of 2009, The Matthew 25 Farm vision became a reality. The brothers received a donation that enabled them to purchase land and used farming equipment. Seven years later, the dream has turned into a 19-acre farm in Tully and a 36-acre farm in LaFayette. Since 2009, the Farm has donated more than 250,000 pounds of produce to the Food Bank of Central New York, regional food pantries, and soup kitchens throughout six Central New York counties.
One sixth of the population of Central and Northern New York is considered to be “food insecure”—meaning that they do not know where their next meal is coming from. The Matthew 25 Farms helps bridge that gap by growing, harvesting and distributing a variety of vegetables and fruits. Because pantries either purchase their goods or rely on donations, they have a difficult time obtaining produce. Food pantries carry a lot of canned goods and foods with salts and preservatives, but hardly any fresh produce.
With the help of a Community Foundation grant, Matthew 25 Farm recently purchased a new tractor to replace a previous tractor from the 1960s. The former vehicle was not up to date with modern safety standards which put the farm manager Rick Rarick at risk on a daily basis.
“All we could afford at the beginning was old, antique, junky equipment that these guys would wield and put together and then you pray, ‘Please don’t break in the field,’” said Elizabeth Esmark, the Board of Director’s secretary and Rarick’s mother.
“We are about to break new ground with the new tractor which is very nice but the most important thing is the improved time factor,” said Rarick. The new tractor is able to safely till about five to ten more acres that were too steep for the older equipment.The farm will now be able to donate more food at the end of this harvest season.
The Farm heavily relies on the help of volunteers to help plant, harvest and tend the crops. The majority of volunteers come as a part of school, church or corporate groups. The farm’s summer intern, Kaleigh Gitzen spoke about a corporate group that came yesterday, “They left so happy and they said, ‘This work just makes me feel so good. It feels good to put in hard work.’”
Those who are in need can also work the farm and reap what they sow, so to speak. “We get families that come and they’ll be feeding a whole neighborhood,” said Esmark. Many from Syracuse’s refugee communities come to the farm. The only stipulation is that they leave half of what they pick to the food pantries, but normally the families pick so much that they can’t even take half. “We ask no questions,” said Esmark. “We do not care what your religion is, what your ethnicity is. If you need food, we give it to you.”
A central theme of the Matthew 25 Farm is community helping community. “People talk about farm to table and we are farm to pantry to table and that’s close enough,” said Rarick. The farm relies on the support of the community to sustain its valued food contributions. The Boy Scouts, Rotary clubs, and individual community leaders have come together to raise donations to help develop the farm. The majority of their support comes from their Annual Harvest Golf Tournament. This tournament will be taking place on Saturday, September 12th at Orchard Vali Golf Course. More information can be found at www.Matthew25Farm.com.
More photos found here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/cnycf/sets/72157656308302229