It’s the holiday season and along with chillier temps come requests from Manna to you, members of the community, to participate in food drives to stock our shelves and, in turn, our participants’ pantries.
As our warehouse gets filled with cans of vegetables (low sodium, please!) and boxes of pasta (whole grain, please!) we express our gratitude to the Manna drivers who transport bins of food around the County. We give thanks to the shoppers for generously choosing to purchase a little extra to share with a neighbor. We are grateful to the grocery store staff for hosting and advertising our drive, and the corporate level executives who encourage individual stores to get involved in charitable acts.
We seldom follow this thread of appreciation back to the people who first planted the wheat or put the seed in the ground. Yes, it may be large scale operations that bring the bulk of the food to grocery store aisles and often many stops between the soil and the dinner plate, but there is always a farm and farmworkers to ultimately thank for food making its way to our plates.
Manna’s Farm to Food Bank program recognizes highlights and supports the farmers that ensure food security in this region through direct purchasing. We are fortunate to have close relationships with four County-based farms: Red Wiggler Community Farm, One Acre Farm, Sandy Spring Gardens and Chocolates and Tomatoes Farm.
These farmers (Woody Woodruff, Michael Protas, Tom Farquhar and Mark Mills, respectively) commit to cultivating a portion of their fields each season for Manna to share with County residents. Partnerships with county-based farmers markets allow us to expand our scope to regional producers from Pennsylvania, Virginia, and other parts of Maryland. Vegetables not sold at the end of the market are passed along to Manna for a fraction of the cost.
The City of Rockville market, Central Farm Markets, and the Olney Farmers and Artists Market had dozens of vendors participating this year. Customers at each market supported participating vendors through cash donations supplemented by County grant funds.
We want to take a moment now to thank the many hands that grew and harvested nearly 114,000 pounds of greens, squash, tomatoes, peaches, and apples that ended up on the plates of thousands of Manna participants between June and November. We encourage you to amplify our gratitude by purchasing products from these farms and our participating vendors at these farmers’ markets. As Wendell Berry said, “Eating is an agricultural act.” Let’s not forget to thank all the actors that keep us eating all year round.