|Total Harvest helps put organic in the cupboard|
|Written by Dennis Hines/Stateline News|
|Thursday, 27 September 2012 13:47|
Denny Wright waters plants in one of the hoop houses at Wright Way Farm near Beloit. The farm is one of the partners in the Beloit Total Harvest effort. Dan Lassiter/The Gazette
BELOIT — Although the demand for organic food continues to grow, it’s often expensive, putting it out of reach for many family budgets.
So, a group including area growers and Beloit College students is teaming up to offer fresh, organic produce to area residents.
Beloit Total Harvest, which is affiliated with Caritas, an ecumenical ministry in the Stateline area that provides food and clothing to those in need, hosts a monthly organic food pantry program at New Life Christian Ministries, 1400 Harvey St. in Beloit.
Beloit Total Harvest was formed out of a partnership among Wright Way Farm in Beloit, Beloit College graduate Brian Shobe, Beloit College students Rachel McCarty and Matthew Walthius, John Ramstad of Community Action and Caritas.
In addition, dozens of other growers and Beloit College students are among the volunteers for the project.
Denny Wright of Wright Way Farm said he enjoys having the opportunity to work with Beloit Total Harvest to provide produce for area residents.
“These students are tomorrow’s leaders, and they’re doing something that’s right for the community,” Wright said. “It’s not something they’re doing for college credit. It’s something they’re doing on their own.”
Customers of the food pantry name their own price when purchasing items. The proceeds have been used to help support programs at New Life Christian Ministries. Any food that is left over is donated to local agencies.
“It’s pretty much a donation, but we say name your own price, so people have a sense of accountability,” said Adam Hinkle. Hinkle and his wife are volunteers for Beloit Total Harvest.
Hinkle said Amitaba Gardens in Whitewater is one of the many farms that donate items for the food pantry. Amitaba Gardens features organically grown flowers, herbs, tomatoes, berries and grapes. Hinkle said one of the objectives of the pantry is to help people become more familiar with local farmers.
“(Amitaba Gardens’) main objective is to get food to the people. Mine is to bring farmers and people together so that they can meet, and it makes the community a smaller place,” Hinkle said.
“It’s tangible-based. You’re just not getting these produce (items) and herbs from a mystery ghost man.”
Several farmers who participate in the Beloit farmers market donate any leftover produce to the food pantry.
“The goal is to work with other farms, not only the farm in Whitewater, but other farms that are involved with the farmers market,” said Donna Ambrose, executive director for Caritas. “There’s several other farmers involved with this effort.”
David Wolinsky of Amitaba Gardens said he wants to educate people about the benefits of eating organic foods.
“We want to show people it’s a healthy way,” Wolinsky said. “We’re not organic certified, but it’s organic matter, and it’s good for the earth, and it’s good for you and it’s good for agriculture.
“We’re trying to get more people out to see what we’re doing and just to educate them, and hopefully it spreads, and they will educate other people.”
The organic food pantry was started in May. Hinkle said the program has received a more positive response during the past few months.
“When we first went down (to the church), it took (people) a minute to know that we were down there for good reasons,” Hinkle said. “There’s a buzz now.”
Hinkle said his wife, Liz, also helps with the food pantries and has been supportive of his involvement with the program.
“I wouldn’t be able to do this without them and without the grace of God,” Hinkle said. “I thank my wife for her support. She puts up with me for doing this. Sometimes, I spend more time with (the pantry) than I do with her. This just isn’t mine, it’s hers.”
Hinkle currently works as a manager at the Blackhawk Technical College kitchen. He also works as a contract chef for various events and plans to establish his own restaurant. Hinkle said when he works as a contract chef, he uses organically grown food from local farmers.
“Since you can only grow certain things in Wisconsin, what it makes you do is step up your game,” Hinkle said. “I don’t have a set menu. Other catering companies can have a (set menu), because they have it all in a freezer. When you order from me, you’re going to get it the day of or the day before where it’s coming out of the ground, and it’s getting washed, being cut and cooked and set on your plate all within 48 hours. I hand-pick all of the fruits and vegetables for my clients.”
Hinkle said he has been living an organic lifestyle for several years. Since eating foods such as fresh produce, fish and herbs, he has lost about 90 pounds.
“I really feel that whatever problems we have health-wise, there’s a solution for it in nature,” Hinkle said. “The more grassroots that you are with what you eat, the healthier you will be. I really feel that the trinity is body, mind and soul, and when one is lacking, so are the other two.”
Stephen Lewis said: