For nearly a century, the 150-acre Harlow Farm in Westminster, Vermont, has produced healthy, nutritious food for both Vermonters and our neighbors throughout New England. The farm’s commitment and benefit to the Vermont community continues to spread as one of the largest donors of fresh local produce to the Vermont Foodbank.
In any given year, Harlow Farm can donate as much as 56,000 pounds of produce through the Foodbank’s Gleaning Program. The farm plays a significant role in helping the Foodbank grow our network of volunteer support and expand our ability to distribute more fresh, local produce throughout the state.
Paul Harlow is a third generation farmer. His grandfather purchased the farm in 1917 and in 1965 the family converted the farm from dairy to vegetables. As one of the largest organic vegetable farmers in New England, Paul donates lettuce, kale, collards, carrots, beets, peppers, broccoli, cabbage, summer squash, zucchini, winter squash, pumpkins, and more.
“The quality and quantity of produce that Harlow Farm donates is exceptional,” says Vermont Foodbank Program Manager Michelle Wallace. (See “Insight Look: Program Manager.”) “Paul has been incredibly generous to the Foodbank, entrusting us to drive in his fields and bring volunteers twice a week to harvest excess produce. He offers more food than we have the staff and volunteer power to gather. With more volunteer help, we could be gleaning two to three times more food.”
Harlow has been donating produce to the Vermont Foodbank for six years. As a farmer, he views his stewardship of the land to be closely linked to the well-being of people. “We are committed to the health and bounty of both the land we farm and the community we share,” says Harlow. “There seems to be a considerable need. There is a large percentage of people who can’t afford fresh or organic produce and more and more people are going hungry or don’t have access to good food.”
Gleaning offers farmers a chance to make a difference, provide food for those in need, and avoid waste. “We always had seconds or throw away stuff that couldn’t go to market and lots of produce left in the fields after picking. I really liked the idea of getting food out to people who didn’t have access to it, but I didn’t have time to collect and deliver. When the Foodbank approached us, it was a perfect situation,” says Harlow.
It’s a win-win all around. Growers who have surplus or seconds find a good home for their edibles beyond the compost pile; the Foodbank’s network partners get much-needed fresh food for their patrons; and the gleaners get to give back in their communities. Without the gleaning program, “thousands of dollars worth of food would get tilled under,” says Harlow.
As a result of Tropical Storm Irene, as much as 75 percent of Harlow’s crops were destroyed in 2011. Even with significant loss, Harlow Farm’s commitment to helping others is unwavering. The farm continues to be one the largest donors of fresh, local produce to the Vermont Foodbank. But Harlow recognizes he is not alone in his efforts, “Seems like more and more people are coming together for the better part of the community especially around local agriculture and access to healthy food.”
Each year the Foodbank receives about 400,000 pounds of donated produce from more than 75 farms in Vermont. Hundreds of volunteers are a part of our network, receiving gleaning alerts via email each week. For more information about donating produce or volunteering please contact: Michelle Wallace at (802) 477-4125 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.