Farm to Foodbank: Partnering to Solve Hunger

Here in Oregon one of our greatest assets is our farmland and the natural resources that are so plentiful in the state. It’s not only a beautiful state, but it’s a diverse state. In Eastern Oregon, it is a wonderful community. We are so diverse in so many things that we can grow. It’s a great place to grow onions. It’s a great place to grow potatoes. It’s a great place to grow carrots. We farm probably close to 5000 acres in Umatilla County and we have probably 500 acres in Washington County. We live in Oregon. It’s beautiful. Everybody is happy. It just doesn’t look like this is a state that has such a huge hunger issue. When someone asked Mother Teresa what we need to do about hunger, she replied by saying “do what is in front of you”. It’s amazing living in a county like this with so much produce or ag around you, that you’re surprised that there are hungry people out there. I met with every one of my farmer friends in Eastern Oregon, and I asked them two things: One, if they knew this problem existed which all of them said “no.” And two, would they do something about it? And every single one of these farmers told me “yes.” And that’s why we formed an organization called Farmers Ending Hunger starting in 2006. The saying goes, when Fred Ziari talked to our dad about Farmers Ending Hunger, and the state that the state of Oregon was in with hunger, that “If you need shoes, you go to a shoe store…” “If you need food, you go to a farmer.” A couple of things have really been key to making Farmers Ending Hunger successful. One is that farmers and food processors are some of the most generous people in the world. Amstad Produce has donated, to date, over 6 million pounds of potatoes. That is a lot of potatoes. And we donate onions to Farmers Ending Hunger. We’ve been donating for the last 4 years. Last year donating about a million pounds of onions. We agreed that we would send 20 cows a month. That’s generated approximately three hundred thousand pounds of ground beef that has been distributed. Oregon Food Bank and the network does such a great job across the state of Oregon and Clark County, Washington of distributing product that there was no reason to reinvent that system. That partnership with Oregon Food Bank was really the key to make a meaningful impact in hunger relief in our state. The nice thing about the relationship that we have with Oregon Food Bank and Farmers Ending Hunger, is that it allows us to stretch the boundaries of our community to the full state of Oregon. As farmers, we are responsible for being stewards of the land. And as humans, we have a responsibility to each other. It’s now just a given that that’s just a part of our operation. Part of that crop each day, each month goes to Farmers Ending Hunger, to the Oregon Food Bank. It’s just a part of our program. I don’t see it ending. I’m just happy to give back to the community in any way possible. If we can continue to do that and if everybody does their small part, then what a world this would be. Whatever step you take, it will make a big difference. And it’s not going to be a huge burden to any single one, but that requires all of our communities, whether city dwellers, whether our urban and rural areas coming and working together. This is the culture of Oregon. This is where people are nice and giving. I am confident we can eliminate this hunger. And it should be eliminated, in our state.

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