Friday November 30, 2012

CHRIS MAYS

Brattleboro Reformer

WESTMINSTER -- The kitchen at Harlow Farm was filled with apples and talk of Black Friday. There were four women peeling, coring and slicing apples on Saturday morning.

"Ideally, when the apples are used at the Our Place Drop-In Center, they can either use it on pies or to make sauce," said Theresa Snow, executive director of Salvation Farms.

Snow oversaw the project and told the women what they needed to do to help. As they worked, the volunteers talked about buying gifts for Christmas.

After they were done cutting up the apples, they would put them in water with lemon juice, so they won’t change color. Then later Snow and some volunteers would bag the apples. That may happen later in the day or on the next day.

"I thought it’d be hard to cut for two hours, but so far, so good," joked Catherine Audette, of Westminster.

The women were working from 10 a.m. to noon, then another shift would come in and work until 2 p.m. Sunday would be pretty much the same two-hour shifts, but different times of the day.

"I love to eat and I hate the thought of other people not being able to," said Lisa Delmar, who works for the YMCA in Bellows Falls.

She had been part of a group that surveys food insecurities and told the Reformer about how she had heard of a man who only ate once a day. That made her think about what she could do to help. Salvation Farms has been an organization since 2004, which started out gleaning. It distributes food to charities, pre-schools, high-schools and nursing homes. The goal of the program was to re-integrate Vermont foods into people’s lives, Snow said. The organization met Paul Harlow at a Food Bank and has worked with him ever since.

"His farm was the primary farm we gleaned at in 2010," said Snow. Salvation Farms works to help the hungry, but the primary focus is on managing available food from farms and helping to eliminate unnecessary wasting of farm food. Another goal of the organization is to make more food available to vulnerable populations.

The Our Place Drop-In Center in Bellows Falls helps Salvation Farms get volunteers for this program. The center is one of a few places that Salvation Farms donates food to.

"They’re really happy to have food for their winter meals."

Paul Harlow owns and runs Harlow Farms. He donates kitchen space and products like kale, squash and pears.

This is the second year the kitchen has been operating. As Harlow went out to work with the chickens, Snow said, "thank you, Paul." Salvation Farms has been working with Harlow since the fall on processing foods. This was the third weekend of processing crops and it marks a multi-partner event in product development, between Harlow Farms, Salvation Farms and Our Place.

Our Place appreciates the work Salvation Farms does to help them out.

"The produce we get through Salvation Farms’ program saves us a lot of money since we buy a good percentage of the food we distribute. The process Theresa has devised is building community in this region," president and Board of Directors of Our Place, John Bohannon, wrote in an e-mail to the Reformer. "At least three employees of Our Place and three board members have been involved in the last several sessions at Harlow’s. There, we’ve met and worked with dozens of people we might otherwise never have known. The two-hour sessions are actually fun!"

Last week, volunteers helped process kale and the week before that, they helped with sweet peppers. In the freezer, there were about 3,200 servings, Snow guessed. Next weekend, volunteers will help process winter squash.

Snow said that Salvation Farms likes to hear feedback from the meal sites or food shelters that they donate the food to. This is part of the product development. She also mentioned that Salvation Farms was hoping to help out Brattleboro senior citizens by donating a portion of the processed food that she and her team had been working on.

"People are becoming more disconnected from their land. With this work, I’ve become more responsible, independent and at the same time, interdependent."