Bastyr Alumna connects area farms with local Food Banks

Tuesday, September 25, 2012




Lisa Harper, who coordinates Sno-Valley Harvest, explains to volunteers which lacinato kale leaves to harvest to allow the plant to continue producing. The food they harvest is donated to 10 organizations that serve nearby low-income and elderly populations. Photo courtesy Bastyr U.


By Mai Ling Slaughter
Senior Marketing Communications Coordinator
Bastyr University

Bastyr Master’s nutrition graduate Lisa Harper is helping small to medium-sized farms harvest extra produce for communities in need.

Imagine how many bellies a ton of food could fill. Now imagine if that food were unable to reach the food system because it simply couldn’t be harvested on time.

Until this summer, that extra food could have gone to waste in the Snoqualmie Valley, a farm-rich area east of Bastyr University.

But through Sno-Valley Harvest, a new program based at Hopelink, Bastyr alumna Lisa Harper, MS (’10), has so far organized the harvest, collection and distribution of more than 6,507 pounds of organic, fresh produce that has ended up in area food banks instead of as waste.

“We always have a lot of extra produce, but we don’t have time to harvest it,” says Siri Erickson-Brown, who owns Local Roots Farm with her husband, Jason Salvo. “This is really a great program.”

Local Roots owner Jason Salvo, right, shows Lisa Harper which turnips to harvest Aug. 9. The volunteers are helping the Duvall farm out by harvesting foods they won't have time to get to, which then will be donated to HopeLink food banks and other organizations. Photo courtesy Bastyr U.

On the morning of August 9, Harper organized a small group of volunteers to harvest some of Local Roots’ extra produce, which is also known as “gleaning.” Harper and Salvo showed volunteers which stalks of lacinato kale they should pick to allow the plant to continue producing, and they also picked out the turnips that were too large for selling at farmers markets.

“When a farmer harvests a plot of land, they take the prettiest of what’s there to sell at the market, but the remaining food is still just as tasty and nutritious,” Harper says. She organizes these gleaning events at seven small to mid-sized farms in the Snoqualmie Valley, but that number is growing.

Through Sno-Valley Harvest, Lisa Harper has organized the harvest, collection and distribution of more than 3 tons of organic, fresh produce that has ended up in area food banks instead of as waste. Photo courtesy Bastyr U.

With help from Hopelink, a North and East King County social services provider with five food bank locations, the freshly picked produce is then delivered to 10 organizations that serve nearby low-income and elderly populations.

“One of the coolest aspects of this is how fresh the food is when it gets to people,” says Harper, who estimates that the food they glean is typically on its way to a family’s home within two to four days.

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