The Squirrel Hill Food Pantry is taking the “think globally, eat locally” saying very seriously.
The pantry announced last week that it has an arrangement with a Tarentum area farmer to plant fruits and vegetables on a plot of his land and to distribute the yield to its clients.
The pantry is now seeking volunteers to go out to Serenity farms along Butler Logan Road at least once a week throughout the growing season to assist with planting, weeding and harvesting. The first volunteers were at the farm this past Sunday.
Among the crops to be planted are corn, tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers, lettuce, raspberries, strawberries and blackberries.
“This is our first year; we’re interested in seeing how this works out,” said Becky Abrams, director of the Food Pantry. “It’s just so important because of all the nutrients that come from fresh produce; it’s such a benefit to our clients’ diet.”
The Jewish owner of Serenity Farms, who spoke on condition his name not be used, said he offered the use of his farm after touring the Pantry about two months ago.
He said he is marking off a plot of land about 100 feet by 65 feet. That size plot can yield crop sizes in the thousands of each variety.
“For me, this is what the land is meant for,” the farmer said. “I get so much pleasure from it. Tikkun olam, that’s it; it’s my time to give back.”
The yields from Serenity Farms will “supplement,” but not replace the produce the Pantry currently buys from its distributors, Abrams said.
“We have been raising money through our Fresh Produce Initiative for three years now, and we’ve raised enough money to purchase fresh produce through local distributors,” she said. “We haven’t been able to get a relationship going with a farm, so this would be our first one. The produce that is grown at Serenity Farms will be donated to the Food Pantry.
She said fresh produce was one the highest demand items her clients listed when they were surveyed three years earlier.
(Lee Chottiner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)