(ABOVE: Tom Black in front of greenhouses with produce for the Ottawa Food Bank. Photo by Barry Gray.)
Every day there are people in Ottawa who go hungry. But they shouldn’t have to. At least that’s what Stittville area farmer Tom Black and his family believe.
“This is the land of milk and honey,” says Black. “No one should have to go hungry. Most people are not at the food bank unless they are desperate.”
In 2012, Black and his family were talking around the dinner table about what could be done to help the Ottawa Food Bank.
Ultimately, Black reached out. “Tom approached the food bank to see if we would be interested in some of his land,” says Jason Gray, Ottawa Food Bank Community Harvest Coordinator.
Black describes his conversation, “I said, let’s take two or three acres and start with that. ‘No, That’s too much!’ I was told.”
What Black didn’t know is that the Community Harvest Program was already underway, starting with a half acre on another farm in 2010. The donation of the land from Black Family Farm, now up to five acres, exponentially increased the Program. Additionally, Black donates a tractor for use and his time.
“It’s not really a big effort for me to find the time,” says Black. “It’s not something you can put off doing. But, I seriously do enjoy it.”
And Black is quick to acknowledge all the other individuals who volunteer or businesses that have donated the help grow the program.
Describing his contribution, Black says, “It’s only a drop in the bucket for what needs to be done.”
Black remains humble about his contribution. “He’s very modest about it,” says Gray. Though the results are anything but modest.
Last year, the land donated by Black Family Farm produced over 33,000kg of food for the Ottawa Food Bank. “The beauty of this,” says Black, “is that every produce you produced gets used.”
This year, the farm is well on track to produce over 36,000kg of food. There are 14 crops that include broccoli, cabbage, carrots and potatoes.
While the farm is not certified organic, the program does refrain from using synthetic pesticides or herbicides.
“The program is beneficial because we ensure we are producing a really high quality product,” explains Gray.
The produce is distributed amongst 140 local agencies and programs that reach 50,000 people every month.
“I feel good about it,” says Black. “It’s just been a great project to be involved with for me. Just seeing all the people come out for nothing but the good feeling. I’ll continue as long as they want to.”
It is the volunteers that make the Community Harvest Program possible. In 2014, 655 individuals and groups donated over 2,000 work hours at the farm.
“There are a handful of volunteers that come regularly, week after week,” says Gray. “”One person is even trying to meet a goal of 100 hours this year! We can accept individuals to volunteer and also host groups as well.”
Every volunteer hour adds to the very generous drop in the bucket provided by Black Family Farm, helping to feed families across Ottawa.
For more information about volunteering with the Ottawa Food Bank Community Harvest Program, contact Jason Gray at email@example.com