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Local Farm Relief Effort gets fresh produce to food pantries

Donation dollars from the community are used to purchase produce from small farms. That produce is given to those in need through partnering pantries.

HOLLAND, Mich — There something special happening in Ottawa County that can best be summed up with that old cliche: it's a win-win.  

It's called the Local Farm Relief Effort. It was created to assist small farms impacted by COVID-19 restrictions. 

Funds donated by the community are used to purchase fresh produce and then distributed through partnering food pantries to help families in need. The farms win, and so do the families.

"Schools are closed, restaurants are struggling, farmers markets have restrictions and for many of these small farms, that is how they sell their produce," said Craig Schrotenboer, the Executive Director of Harvest Stand Ministries in Zeeland. He is one of the visionaries behind the Local Farm Relief Effort.

"It helps the farmers it helps the families and it keeps the dollars in our community," explained Schrotenboer.

Emily Pratt is the program coordinator. "I work with the farmers buying the produce, transporting it, and working with the pantries to deliver the produce."

Credit: Meredith TerHaar

It's an effort Eighth Day Farm Director Andy Rozendaal is thrilled to be part of. "We are loving this partnership because its a way for us to provide produce for those in need, but not only that it benefits the community-the economy is stronger because we can hire more staff. It gives us a way to provide our certified naturally organic food to those who need it," said Rozendaal.

And when it comes to those visiting the pantry, "A lot of people are surprised because they aren't used to seeing it so fresh," explained Pratt. "A lot of produce that we get from other avenues is older sometimes. With this program for example, we pick it up on Monday and sometimes people get it on Monday."

Case in point: fresh kale. It was cut at Eighth Day Farm in the Holland Town Center around 10 a.m. and in the cooler at Harvest Stand Ministries in Zeeland by 11 a.m.

Credit: Meredith TerHaar
Credit: Meredith TerHaar

 "I think that as we look at this program, Covid is not going away," said Schrotenboer. "The economic impact on the farm communities and the families that we serve is going to be here for a while so the need remains."

The program has already been wildly successful, they are just $2,500 shy of their $40,000 goal to keep the program going through October. If you'd like to help visit their website.

The 13 ON YOUR SIDE Food For Families effort is underway now. If you'd like to help families in need across West Michigan, click here.

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