Picture 60,000 seedlings breaching the top soil on a farm in Ottawa County. Then imagine those seedlings growing into six-foot-tall stalks ripe with ears of sweet corn, each one destined for the plate of someone struggling with hunger.
As you read this, that’s exactly what’s happening.
In 2012, the West Michigan Agricultural Education Center (WMAEC) donated a portion of its lease on the Eastmanville Farm in Polkton Township, just north of the Grand River, to Feeding America West Michigan. This spring, those three acres will be planted and harvested — with help from WMAEC — by the Food Bank.
Our first crop will be sweet corn. It’s easy to grow, it’s nutritious and it’s something almost everyone knows how to cook.
“The benefit for us is not only that it’s going to be a product that we don’t normally get donated, but we can plan for it,” said food sourcing specialist Katie Auwers. “We can stagger the planting so we can harvest week to week so we know that it’s coming.”
Matt Hehl, a full-time hog and grain farmer and a member of WMAEC, will manage the farm. “I just think it’s a worthwhile cause, and it speaks well of the local farmers and their willingness to give back to the community they make their living in,” Matt said.
After all, he added, feeding the hungry is “something that we do and we do well.”
Katie hopes that in addition to providing badly needed produce to families in need, the Food Bank Farm will further WMAEC’s work to educate people about modern agriculture, especially the hundreds of volunteers needed to harvest the crop.
“People ought to be interested in it,” Katie said. “It’s part of our culture.”