The Salvation Army, after its Harvesting Hope farm program was put on hold last year, has the program up and running for the season — with officers from the organization reporting an impressive yield so far.
Salvation Army Lt. Gin Pack reported over 500 pounds of harvested vegetables as of this week and a clear intention of hitting their 12,000-pound goal by the season’s end.
All harvested goods go toward supplementing the supply within their food bank. Items that aren’t being used up fast enough are worked into menu plans created by Salvation Army partners like Snap Ed and Community Jobs, with live demonstrations conducted within the food bank.
In the meantime, volunteers help work the farm, which sits on slightly more than 1 acre of land adjacent to the Salvation Army in Centralia. Gin Pack said community partners help find volunteers to work the land or individuals in need of some community service hours.
“We have a promising crew coming out from the youth corrections on (Aug. 1) to do some work for us,” said Gin Pack, adding that the produce planted is the kind of stuff that people they serve wouldn’t be able to find for cheap at a grocery store — items like squash, zucchini and rainbow Swiss chard.
The size of some of the squash in the garden make Gin Pack, and her husband Steven Pack, confident their 12,000-pound goal is a reasonable one.
The Packs got the program up and running this year after it went a year out of operation. The year before that, they said, it ran at roughly half capacity. After moving to Centralia in October, and filling the roles of lieutenants at Centralia’s Salvation Army, they wanted to get the ball rolling and the plants growing again.
Prior, the farm had run for quite some time — at first on land off-site of the Salvation Army’s main building in town, before moving to the plot adjacent to the building.
It was modeled after GRuB in Olympia — a nonprofit that grows produce for people in low-income situations — and that organization provided a sort of curriculum that proved helpful in getting Centralia’s farm up and running again, said Gin Pack.
Steven Pack said the Lewis County WSU Extension Master Gardeners and members of the Salvation Army’s board have lent helpful farming and gardening expertise.
“It’s an incredible amount of work,” said Gin Pack, noting that a couple people who’ve been helping them throughout the season — since seeds were planted in May — have been putting in combined 40 hour weeks, and it hasn’t scratched the surface of what’s been needed.
Dillon Halliday, 16, has been working there since the season started, he said, and noted it’s rewarding to see the seeds sprout and produce a bounty of veggies — and then see people leave the Salvation Army with a selection of the food he helped grow.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” he said.
Roughly 90 percent of the farm started from seeds, which were planted during a large event on May 21 and 22. Mid-June, starter plants were put in the ground, which were donated by a community member and a nursery in Adna.
A gaggle of chickens sit in a pen, and provide further educational experience for the people volunteering to work and fresh eggs for the people the Salvation Army services.
“We got them as little chicks, they watch them grow, watch what we feed them … and watch them start to lay eggs and how that process works. … So it’s a good experience for the guys that have been here long-term,” said Steven Pack.