From the Bloomington Herald-Times, By Dann Denny, June 14, 2009

http://www.heraldtimesonline.com/stories/2009/06/14/news.qp-3407739.sto

Tons of organically grown produce could be coming to the area’s food banks and community kitchens this summer, thanks to a garden project collaboration between Hoosier Hills Food Bank and Stranger’s Hill Organics.

Stranger’s Hill farm, which last year donated nearly 1,500 pounds of food to the Hoosier Hills Food Bank, will set aside some acreage for food bank staff and volunteers to grow anything they like in a designated “food bank field.”

“This is a unique opportunity for the food bank to fulfill several important goals,” said food bank executive director Julio Alonso.

“To meet a rapidly growing need, we have had to consider new ways to obtain food,” he said. “The opportunity to provide healthy, nutritious fresh produce from a local source is a dream come true.”

Stranger’s Hill partner Dale Jones said Stranger’s Hill has offered the food bank a half-acre of land on its farm — along with plant starts, water for crops, free tilling and on-site expertise in certified organic farming.

Jessica Williams has been hired to oversee the project, which will be otherwise managed with volunteers.

Williams has extensive farming and gardening experience and has participated in the Plant a Row for the Hungry program through Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard food pantry for several years.

Several other small area farms have donated the use of growing supplies, but the project still needs implements, in-kind donations, cash donations, and volunteers to work in the garden.

The food bank has a wish list of items for the garden which can be linked to from www.hhfoodbank.org.

Williams will work with food bank volunteers to plant, cultivate, and harvest several types of produce in the garden. The agency plans to grow tomatoes, peppers, green beans, and butternut squash and expects the garden to produce 3,000 to 7,000 pounds of produce.

The food bank will be establishing regular volunteer hours in the garden. Groups looking for a one-time project are welcome to set up special hours. Stranger’s Hill is hoping volunteers will be interested in assisting on the production farm as well.

“We’re looking on this as a pilot project this year,” Alonso said. “If we determine that we can sustain it into the future we would love to continue working with Stranger’s Hill and potentially develop other garden plots in the community.”

Alonso said a recent survey of the food bank’s member agencies indicated they would take an additional 100,000 pounds of produce a year if it were available.

Anyone interested in donating garden tools, funds or volunteer time can contact the food bank at 334-8374, garden@hhfoodbank.org or visit www.hhfoodbank.org.