The call went out for help and over 250 volunteers comprised of families, business groups, teams, school groups, and individuals arrived to work in the dirt and the sun to help harvest over 32,000 pounds of potatoes within four hours on July 27 at the Outreach Farm Project in Rainbow.
“This was our biggest single harvest in our five-year history,” said farm director Troy Conner, “and by far the most challenging due to the scope, size and complexity of the operation. To put this into perspective, this is more pounds than we produced in our entire first year of production!”
Volunteers were treated to a barbecue, games, activities and refreshments.
Conner attends Rancho Community Church in Temecula and, five years ago, he heard about the need for food for local struggling families hit hard by the recession.
The non-profit Outreach Farm Project was founded in the spring of 2009 as Conner’s response to that need. His family runs an organic sunflower farm in nearby Rainbow and they initially donated two, then three acres to grow fresh fruits and vegetables to help supplement food distribution programs. Crops include tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, beans, squash, pumpkins, carrots, broccoli, peppers, beets, and radishes as well as potatoes.
In 2009, Rancho Community Church formed a joint venture with the Orange County Rescue Mission to create the Temecula Murrieta Rescue Mission. The Outreach Farm Project provided over 150,000 pounds of food to both organizations.
Last year’s potato harvest was 7,000 pounds; this year’s goal is 50,000.
“This potato harvest is a big part of our total produce production goal,” said volunteer coordinator Jayne Barrett.
In 2011, the harvest exceeded the rescue mission’s needs and the church opened a farmer’s market at its location Sunday mornings. All of the proceeds are donated back to the farm for the next season’s needs or to the rescue mission for non-food needs.
“This Saturday was the culmination of over seven months of planning, countless hours of preparation and hard work, with dozens of individuals and companies pitching in,” said Conner.
Southland Fabrication of Fallbrook generously donated design and fabrication services to provide the out-feed tables for the bagging operation.
Two trucking companies donated cold storage for the potatoes that will be distributed over the next several months.
The Outreach Farm Project relies entirely on donations and volunteers for seeds, equipment, supplies, as well as labor for ground preparation and harvesting.
Volunteers are welcome at the farm Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings. Contact Jayne Barrett by email at [email protected], or call (951) 232-5754 for more information.