Rather than let surplus produce go to waste, Cecil Farms teamed up with Farm Credit Mid-America to host a “Clearing Day” on Wednesday. Volunteers got in the fields to pick produce, which was sent to Tri-State Food Bank to ensure it gets distributed to families in need in area communities.
In 2017, Farm Credit Mid-America established “Farms to Food Banks.” In this initiative, surplus produce is donated to distribution centers where it’s packaged and transported to local food kitchens, community churches, and other local emergency food providers.
On Wednesday, Farm Credit Mid-America employee volunteers helped pick peppers, grape tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, and zucchini from a roughly 15-acre field leased by Cecil Farms.
“This is a property that we lease from another farmer to put some of our fruits and vegetables on,” said Suzanne Cecil White, owner of Cecil Farms Produce and White Chateau. “We grow around 500 acres of watermelon for a national brand, so they ship all over the country. Then we grow about 25 acres of mixed fruits and vegetables, mostly going to a local distributor that then distributes to southern Illinois, western Kentucky, and southern Indiana restaurants and schools and other locations that prepare meals.”
Cecil Farms has partnered with Farm Credit Mid-America for “clearing days” for several years. Some years they’ve had more produce to offer, but White said weather played a big factor in the production this season.
“This year the volume has been really hard to keep up and maintain, especially for our distributor, because of the weather patterns,” White said. “We’ve just struggled with keeping the volume that we typically have, but every year is different.”
Still, she said the family-run farm is glad to give back whatever they can.
“We love helping and participating in any way we can to give to the greater good of the communities,” White said.
Hannah Walker, Customer Experience Specialist at Farm Credit, said their organization has volunteered at 24 food banks and two farms this year. At the food banks, they do everything from helping clean and organize to sorting produce and dry goods “to keep them operational because they rely very heavily on volunteers.”
At the farms, they help fill the gap to make sure no produce goes to waste. When there isn’t enough produce left to merit calling a full crew to come pick it, but there’s still enough that could help feed dozens of families or more, that’s were Farm Credit tries to step in.
“We’re coming in for what’s left so that it can serve a purpose and can feed somebody,” Walker said. “It’s our mission to secure the future of rural communities and agriculture and to be able to support farmers like Suzanne and her family. To be able to donate that back to our communities is really special.”