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A Little Farm That Helps NC Thrive

By Laura Eberhard | May 3, 2019 | Community Health, Life at Blue Cross NC

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There’s this farm in Raleigh just off the busy beltline. You’d never know it unless you deliberately turned onto the dusty, gravel road. Once inside, the tree line hides the noise of the busy world just beyond the pines. Over the quiet grows the buzzing of volunteers. The clanking of post drivers echoes into the clear, blue Carolina sky. Tomato trellises are hoisted into place one-by-one. Dirt covers the hands and knees of casually chatting gardeners. It’s an ordinary Tuesday in May, but what the Inter-faith Food Shuttle Farm does daily is extraordinary.

“Even if it weren’t a non-profit I’d be out here,” said John Willis of Cary. “I grew up on a farm in Tallahassee and I love it.”

The fruits and veggies on the 10-acre farm, pretty much every southern staple you can think of, help feed people who might not be able to afford it or have access to it otherwise.

According to the Inter-faith Food Shuttle, more than 600,000 North Carolina households don’t have enough to eat, and almost 1 in 5 children in our state faces hunger on a regular basis.

The produce grown on the farm benefits programs like Grocery Bags for Seniors, school pantries, and the Inter-faith Food Shuttle mobile markets (like the farmer’s market, but free). Additionally, some local restaurants purchase the produce to help give back to the non-profit.

Recently, more than a dozen Blue Cross NC volunteers like Samantha Poole put their skills to use on the farm.

It’s part of the Thrive NC Service Series, an initiative to help improve food insecurity in North Carolina.

“It feels really good to help those who don’t have access to affordable food,” said Poole. “I usually plant flowers, but today I’m trading it for vegetables and service.”

Farm Director Jonathan Lee says without donations and volunteers, they wouldn’t be able to make nearly as big of an impact. Last year, they harvested 35,000 pounds of produce and had 2,600 volunteers. With only 4 full-time farm workers, he says volunteers are critical.

“If no one showed up, we’d have to spend a whole lot to buy machines to do the work, and with a lot of produce, you can’t even use machines,” said Lee. “From start to finish, this work directly impacts our community.”

Inter-faith Food Shuttle Farm Development Relations Manager Robin Madison says anyone is welcome to come volunteer. You can see your work full-cycle, from planting to harvesting, knowing it’s going to someone who needs it.

“The people who eat this will not only get the energy they need but maybe the positive energy we put into the plants,” said Madison.

And let’s be honest, couldn’t we all use a little more of that?