“But is it local?” A Farm to Food Bank Partnership

Chubby Bunny Farm

Michael Deitering of Chubby Bunny Farm

Since July, UDFB has been placing weekly orders with the Puget Sound Food Hub. The Food Hub is a network of farms and partners operating cooperatively in the Puget Sound region to market, aggregate and distribute locally produced food from farm to restaurants, hospitals, preschools, grocery stores, universities and more. We are thrilled about this partnership that lets us offer the freshest produce possible to our customers and the opportunity to support our local farmers.

Michael Deitering, owner of Chubby Bunny Farm, is one of the producers for the Food Hub. We’ve been working with Michael to develop UDFB’s first forward contract to purchase fresh vegetables from his farm for our Home Delivery program this fall. The forward contract is an agreement between our food bank and Chubby Bunny Farm to purchase designated amounts and types of produce at a wholesale rate, in which the farmer is paid partially upfront.

Chubby Bunny Farm is in its first season, growing on two acres in Everson, WA.  The farm specializes in salad greens, and Michael is also experimenting with a variety of row crops such as brassicas, which perform well in our climate. Items our Home Delivery customers can expect to see this fall include broccoli, spinach, kohlrabi, beets, and cabbage.

Interview with Chubby Bunny Farm

The following is an interview with Michael about his introduction to farming, his role in the emergency food system, and why he values the forward contract model.

Q: How did you first get interested in farming?

A: In 2013 I volunteered at a community garden and really enjoyed it. That led me to an eight-month internship at Cloud Mountain Farm Center, which essentially taught me how to be a farmer. My passion and interest in farming was clear so I took the next logical step and Chubby Bunny Farm was created.

Q: What made you decide to partner with food banks?

A: Most small-scale farmers start out selling at farmers markets and through CSAs. I noticed that model was serving a very limited portion of society and saw there was definite potential in working with some of the great organizations in my community working to feed people.

During the Cloud Mountain internship, I was exposed to the Bellingham Food Bank (BFB) and have been volunteering there weekly ever since. We developed a forward contract for me to grow produce for BFB this fall through their Seed Money project. The project gives food banks the opportunity to get a feel for working with farmers and farmers to work with food banks, and decide if they want to continue those partnerships. The “seed money” allows farmers to purchase seeds and fertilizer when they are needed early on in the season.

In addition to growing winter squash for BFB through the forward contract model, Chubby Bunny Farm has donated 600 pounds of salad greens for food bank clients.

Q: How do you think farmers and emergency food providers can work together to improve access to fresh local produce for low-income people?

A: Building relationships between food banks and small farms is key. Farmers should reach out to their community to determine the need and how best to establish early-season crops. They [emergency food providers] can use an analytical eye to identify gaps in their donations when produce isn’t coming in and then work to fill those gaps locally.

Access to a certified kitchen with a processor and cold storage space is one strategy to preserve large quantities of crops like zucchini. Extra storage means I would also be able to save my leftovers from the farmers market and then distribute them to food banks later on in the season when fresh local produce is not as widely available.

Q: Why forward contracts?

A: Having forward contracts is really useful because they allow me to grow and manage crops more easily, as I know their end market and harvest date. This allows me to navigate resources such as time and labor appropriately.  Ideally, contracts should contain a crop mix with target percentage goals to allow for flexibility. If one crop fails, I can substitute it for another previously agreed upon crop.

Forward contracts also help develop a sense of community. For example, I correspond with the food bank throughout the season, sending photos and updates about the crops. This keeps everyone feeling engaged and makes the food bank feels like an extension of the farm, and vice versa.

Follow Chubby Bunny Farm on Facebook here.




Picardo P-Patch

image(6)The Picardo Community Garden, located in the Wedgwood neighborhood on two acres of land, was the original P-Patch in Seattle, established in 1973. The city-wide P-Patch network works collaboratively to grow plant starts, share resources and materials, and best practices among garden coordinators. In 2014, the Picardo garden donated over 4,000 lbs of produce to a few food banks, UDFB included, in Northeast Seattle.

Laura Matter, Giving Gardens coordinator for Picardo, has been a food bank customer herself and remembers receiving seemingly endless beans and rice. She knows how much fresh produce is appreciated, as well as how many people don’t have the space or capacity to grow food themselves. “Being able to supply that is really special,” she says. Laura also really enjoys growing plants and using the garden as a teaching tool for different groups. “I love watching people get excited about it.”

Laura chooses to grow crops that she considers easy maintenance like root veggies, salad greens, peas, bush beans, and squash. When making the annual farm plan, she rotates crops based on health and production of the soil, as well as targeting what is really wanted by food bank customers. Examples include beets for our large Ukrainian population and lots of Asian greens.

She’s very conscious of quality control for donated produce and makes sure to teach proper harvesting and washing techniques to volunteers, as well as use of IPM (integrated pest management) and floating row covers to prevent insect damage. Plans are underway to build a larger shed and food bank closet with a wash/pack station, and covered storage area for produce. According to Laura, this shed will help extend shelf-life of items, as well as help them get an earlier start to the season in April.

Volunteers are highly organized into groups – some are responsible for managing the 22 designated food bank beds while others coordinate gleaning or deliver produce to food banks. A few beds are adopted by individuals or groups and the rest are managed by a group of 8-10 people who work in teams to harvest and deliver produce to food banks four times a week.

In addition to the food bank beds, the students next door at University Prep have their own Kid’s Garden that donates veggies to the food bank. The garden also designates certain beds to grow vegetables for former gardeners who are no longer able to garden themselves. “[The P-Patch] is a happy place to volunteer because we’re doing something so positive,” says Laura.

The Picardo P-Patch always welcomes donations of fresh seeds, healthy plant starts, and materials like remay and burlap.




HIP Summer

By: Erica Miller

U District Food Bank is happy to continue our partnership this summer with Hunger Intervention Program, (HIP) to help end hunger in north Seattle. HIP provides many valuable services such as Senior Community Meals, Healthy HIP Packs during the school year, and five Summer Meal sites in the Lake City/North Seattle area. These meal sites provide a lunch and snacks for kids and teens Monday through Friday. HIP works with a vast network of volunteers to prepare meals for these sites and distribute them to the kids during the week.

Aside from helping out at the meal sites, I also help to coordinate the weekend packs that are sent home with each child on Friday. Summertime offers many challenges for families with children who rely on free-and-reduced lunch and many kids are unsure when their next meal will be when they leave school on Friday. For the third year in a row, HIP and UDFB are able to help ease these concerns by providing weekend packs filled with healthy snacks and easy-to-prepare meal options for kids to enjoy over the weekend.

We purchase the food through the Packs For Kids program and deliver it to the Lake City Presbyterian Church where it gets assembled into packs and distributed by HIP volunteers. With this team effort, we are able to distribute weekend packs to 130 kids every week! 2015 meal sites we are partnered with include: Cedarville Village, Jackson Park Community Building, Lake City Community Center, Lake City Court, and Nathan Hale High School. These meal sites also offer games and activities throughout the summer to keep kids busy and engaged.

By spending time in these communities, I’ve been able to see a lot of the same kids at distributions almost every day and getting to laugh and play with them is so much fun! They are so thankful for what we have to offer, and we are even more thankful that they offer us joy and laughter every day.

See the attached flyer for the meal site distribution  schedule!

HIP Summer Meals












University of Washington P-Patch

UW (4)Nestled between apartment complexes and a pumping station by the University of Washington campus are 500 square feet of garden space that make up the UW P-Patch. Kathy Krogslund has served as coordinator of the P-Patch for over 30 years. It contains more than 60 plots with around 80 gardeners, at least ⅓ of which have been working their plots for five or more years. Because of its affiliation with the University, the P-Patch is a fluid system with students graduating and new students coming in frequently. Kathy sees this as an advantage and enjoys the new enthusiasm this brings to the gardens each year.

She works primarily with a team of four to five interns each year from the UW College of the Environment who receive class-credit for working in the P-Patch.  For Kathy, this offers a great opportunity to “foster that giving back to the community makes you feel good.” Her interns are also encouraged to visit our Food Bank to learn how we operate and see how the vegetables they’ve grown are received by customers.

The P-Patch grows crops like sweet salad greens, beets, green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, and summer squash. They harvest on Tuesday evenings and volunteer drivers deliver produce to the Food Bank on Wednesday mornings. Her goal for this season (June – October) is to increase produce donations to 500 lbs. Most years average between 300 and 500 lbs.

Kathy recalled a story from a few years back when a new gardener at the patch approached her to thank her for her work at the P-Patch. After losing her job during the economic recession, she turned to the Food Bank for the first time and remembered how excited she was the day fresh tomatoes came in and how good they tasted. It’s stories like these that remind Kathy how important the garden is for our community.

When asked how the P-Patch has changed over time, she responded, “People recognize the importance of the P-Patch now more than ever.” She attributes this to the evolution of farmers markets, the local food movement, and a push for low-income and refugee families in Seattle to have access to fresh produce. Kathy believes this gives the P-Patch political clout and ultimately gives value to the city. “We’ve all marched together on this,” she says.

If you have spare gardening supplies, the P-Patch can always use hand tools for weeding such as trowels, buckets, plastic berry containers, paper bags with handles, and ziplock bags for packaging produce. All donations can be brought to the P-Patch shed, located at 4009 8th Ave NE. For more information on work parties or donations, send Kathy an email at kkrog@u.washington.edu.


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Donor Feature: Lar & Dorothy

FritchLar and Dorothy Fritchs’ home in the Lake City neighborhood is surrounded by fruit trees, berry thickets, rows of peas, strawberries, garlic, lettuce, and more. Since 2008, they have expanded their gardens to around 900 square feet in cultivation. For the past three seasons, they’ve planned for overabundance and donate to the Food Bank whatever they can’t eat themselves.

In 2014 they were able to offer us 150 pounds of fresh produce. Lar’s motivation for growing food can be explained by a simple philosophy: “I don’t like lawn,” he says. They have always enjoyed growing vegetables and the impact it can have in their community.

Their vision for the future is to expand the garden further, removing any traces of lawn, and get more people in their neighborhood involved who are interested in growing food but don’t have the space. Dorothy’s goal is to “change the neighborhood one child at a time by getting them hooked on the taste of fresh vegetables.” When neighborhood children pass by the house, Lar and Dorothy offer them fresh produce, hoping the children will then go home and tell their parents they want their own garden.

Lar and Dorothy’s commitment to growing food as a means of shaping their community is clear. Thanks to Lar and Dorothy and all our supporters who allow us to offer the best in locally grown fresh produce to our customers!


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