Jim Raak grew up harvesting pine trees on his family’s farm near Fennville. As an adult, farming was the natural career choice for him, and he worked alongside his father as their farm took on many iterations. Over the years, he’s grown pine trees, corn, beans and pears, but today Dutchman Orchards’ 300 acres are dedicated mainly to peach, cherry and apple trees. Jim also owns a retail store — Dutch Farm Market — that offers produce from both his farm and other local farms. Shoppers can also pick from the fruit trees themselves.
Like any farmer, Jim has good years and bad. This fall, he shared he will likely have only a fourth of an apple crop due to environmental factors outside his control. In contrast, he had a great peach crop this summer. When it got really hot, a lot of the peaches ripened far quicker than they could sell, so Jim called the Food Bank Council of Michigan to donate the extra.
The Food Bank Council of Michigan helps the seven food banks in Michigan — including Feeding America West Michigan — access fresh, surplus produce and distribute it to neighbors in need. Because the orchard is in our service area, we get first dibs on accepting donations, but a benefit of the Food Bank Council is that, if our food bank can’t use a donation that’s offered (e.g. we have similar product already and accepting more would mean wasting some), we can pass knowing the donation will be offered to another food bank. Our staff also works with the Food Bank Council to find specific foods we need.
Ever since Jim’s father heard of donating to food banks in the early 2000s, the farm has donated surplus — but still tasty — produce to Michigan food banks.
Jim is glad the produce he can’t sell still ends up on the plates of Michiganders who will enjoy it.
“Growers like growing. They hate throwing things away when they can go to good use,” he said. “It’s just a good feeling knowing you can help somebody out that’s hungry.”