Harvest to Feed The Hidden Hungry
Tim Friary, owner of Cape Cod Organic Farm in Barnstable, is again donating lots of vegetables to help support the Cape’s neediest. More accurately, tons of veggies.
Here on the Cape, the budgets of some of our friends, families and neighbors limit the amount of healthy options they can put on their tables. “There are so many elderly and single parents with kids all around us having real difficulties putting good meals together,” says Friary. “That’s just a huge void of people with no access to nutritious food and I felt I could help.”
The choice of what to plant was a nobrainer for Friary, who’s been growing produce organically for most of his life. “Sweet potatoes are one of the most nutritious, delicious and well-storing vegetables I could choose, and butternut squash is a close second,” says Friary. Both will be distributed across Cape Cod to the thirty food pantry members of the Cape Cod Hunger Network.
This is the third year that Friary and his employees have prepped the fields, planted the sweet potato slips and squash seeds, cared for the plants, weeded the beds, and this dry summer in particular, irrigated the plants daily.
Now during several weekends in September, when much of the farm’s help has already exited, volunteers will meet at the farm to do the final chores—digging the sweets, culling out the non-keepers, and setting them out to dry. The don’t dry out as much as cure in a slightly heated greenhouse, healing any surface scars, sweetening the potatoes, making them much tastier to eat and more long lasting in storage. Likewise, albeit a much easier chore needing far fewer hands, the butternuts will be picked, sorted and delivered to the appropriate food pantries.
In 2014 Friary grew butternuts for the cause, followed by sweet potatoes in 2015. This year he decided to grow both, saying, “It’s a wonderful time of the year to do this and get these veggies into the hands of those preparing for Thanksgiving and winter meals ahead.
“We’ve had great folks come to help including lots of veterans and some wonderful kids from local schools. There is a bit of a learning curve in getting the potatoes out of the ground, though,” says Friary, smiling.
Potatoes that get cut by the pitchforks, instead of retrieved intact, can’t be cured and stored. “Last year we had some volunteers who were real ‘stabbers’, so we tried to hill the plants up this time as we planted them so these sweets would be easier to harvest.”
Friary is backed by of the Cape Cod Five Bank, represented by Dave Willard, VP and Director of Community Relations. Again the bank will supply the storage boxes used to transport and store the produce, as well as sandwiches, water and coffee for the volunteers, and help out in other ways, including promotion. Kim Concra, Nutrition and Food Safety Specialist for Barnstable County at the Cape Cod Cooperative Extension, is also lending a hand in coordinating volunteers from the Cape Cod Volunteers.
“By the time I deal with my direct costs and things like equipment loans, I’m just squeaking by, but when I make it through another growing season, I try to give something back to others. Generosity is key to everything in life,” says Friary. “It comes back to you and makes you feel good. Not that I’m in it for that, but it is a nice side effect.”
This year should find Friary feeling great, because if all goes as planned, he’s hoping volunteers box up nearly four tons. That’s eight thousand pounds of veggies for Cape Codders. No small potatoes!
The Big Dig
Volunteers should preregister for one or all three workdays.
Volunteers in the past have spanned from ages 7 to 85, but it is a workday. Diggers should be prepared to work with a pitchfork (provided) and boxers should be able to lift a half box full of potatoes.
The sweet potato harvest is tentatively set to happen on Sunday, September 11th, with the sorting and setting out for curing done the following Sunday (9/18), and picking of the butternuts the third Sunday (9/25). Lunch is provided. Kindly bring gloves, sunscreen, water and some spud-y attitude.
For information, visit the Buy Fresh Buy Local Cape Cod webpage at