An Elkhart County farmer’s initiative recently provided Church Community Services’ Feed to Seed program with a financial boost just in time for the upcoming planting season.
Wesly Yoder, 64, and his wife, Ruthie, were presented Wednesday with a $2,500 check made out to their favorite local charity, courtesy of America’s Farmers Grow Communities and the Monsanto Fund.
The award is given annually to farmers in 1324 counties across the country, and requires only a submission of interest. As a farmer of corn, beans and hay, Yoder was able to apply, and when he was selected as a winner, he chose Church Community Services to receive his donation.
“Basically, our pastor volunteers and I’ve heard of Church Community Services before,” said Yoder, a member of Pleasant View Mennonite Church. “I got talking to him a little bit and he said it was a well run, well managed outfit.”
Church Community Services’ Seed to Feed program began in 2012 with the goal of providing fresh produce to Elkhart County’s food pantries.
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The program relies on contributions from the local community to sustain its operation. Farmers volunteer to plant and harvest crops or donate livestock, local businesses supply the seed and volunteers oversee the progress of the gardens and pantries.
Seed to Feed’s co-coordinator Natasha Weisenbeck said that the state of Indiana imports nearly 90 percent of the food it consumes and exports nearly 90 percent of its yield. The program aims to present guests of local food pantries with fresh, locally sourced dietary staples.
Last year, Seed to Feed collected 42,424 pounds of potatoes in a single day. The impressive feat was accomplished with the help of 500 volunteer hours and was one of many crops distributed to county food pantries.
This year, Seed to Feed is planning on exploring freezing methods for some seasonal items in attempt to stretch its supply into next winter.
“We’re looking for ways in which we can create stability around the program to offer it year-round,” said Rod Roberson, executive director of Seed to Feed.
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As for Yoder, he plans to retire from his night mechanic position at NIBCO in March, and spend more time tending the farm he and Ruthie purchased back in 1979.
“I plan to farm ’til I drop,” he said.