As you walk into the greenhouse there’s a bustling scene - people are eagerly planting and transplanting everything from peppers to squash, and surrounding them is a sea of plant starts, resting end-to-end on makeshift tables. In the center of it all is Reverend Jim Eichner. Reverend Jim enjoys instructing and educating those around him on the correct way to transplant seedlings, and how the farm operates. While this might seem like another day on the farm, this isn’t just any farm - it’s Food Bank Farm, a fully volunteer-supported endeavor that donated 180,000 pounds of produce last year with the help of more than 1,400 volunteers.
Food Bank Farm is a ministry of The Episcopal Church of the Holy Cross in Redmond. The farm encompasses ten acres and is located at Chinook Farms, which rents space to the church. Located in the Snohomish River Valley, Chinook Farms is a community-supported farm on Elliott Road in the Cathcart area. Chinook Farms’ specialty is grass-fed beef, hay, and mentoring new farmers. Owners Sharon and Eric Fritch were recently honored as Conservation Leaders of the Year by Snohomish Conservation District (read more about our award winners here).
Church leaders are working to end hunger in the Pacific Northwest by growing fresh produce for area food banks. Washington is the 23rd hungriest state in the nation and 1 in 5 Washingtonians rely on a local food bank. Food banks have always acted as a vital distributor of food, but getting the freshest produce has always been a challenge. That’s where the idea for Food Bank Farm started. Reverend Eichner wanted to ensure that food banks could be given the first pick, rather than what is left over.
The 1,500 volunteers that will filter through this year aren’t just parishioners, Food Bank Farm attracts corporate volunteers, seniors, kids, and everyone in between. Each volunteer group is given a task and helps contribute to the bigger picture. While one person or group might be planting squash seeds, another group will continue caring for them throughout the growing season, and yet another group might be responsible for harvesting. Food Bank Farm has a goal to donate a million pounds of produce by 2021. It’s an inspiring place and Jim describes it best, “We have the support of a happy community and it’s just paradise
The District’s Lawns to Lettuce Program and Project Harvest will be hosting a harvesting event at Food Bank Farm later this summer. If you’d like to get involved in that event or bring a volunteer group to the farm, visit snocd.org/food-bank-farm.
Food Bank Farm by the Numbers
- Founded in 2011 with 12 volunteers, and donated 3,750 pounds of fresh vegetables.
- In 2018 they estimate 1,500 volunteers, and they hope to donate 200,000 pounds of fresh vegetables.
- The produce gets delivered to 350 local food banks.
- The cost per pound of food is under $0.04 because of volunteers.
By Kailyn Wentz, Design & Media Coordinator | From Volume 29: Issue 1 of The Nexus