A few less people in Williams Lake will go hungry this winter thanks to efforts by the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society.
The Greening Project is a three-year-old-endeavour that sees the society partnering with local farms at the end of the harvest season to collect fruits and veggies they could not sell or that were leftover.
“Our mandate is to reduce food waste,” said co-ordinator and sustainable life educator Vanessa Moberg. “Whatever is leftover, we’ll take it.”
And by using vegetables that haven’t made it to the shelves, they are doing just that.
For the third year they partnered with Earl Wilson at Silver Birch Farm in Soda Creek to collect a few rows of untouched potatoes. Eight people and one child armed with hoes and picks took to the fields on Oct. 20 to hand-pick approximately 4,000 pounds of potatoes.
Wilson went through first with a tine plow to turn the rows over and eager members of the conservation society went through to harvest and haul the spuds to a trailer for transportation to the Potato House.
“Just to get out of the office for a day and get my hands in the dirt, it was a really cathartic experience for me personally,” noted Moberg. She adds that it was a really great day to get some fresh air.
And last week at the Potato House, other members of the society could be seen enjoying the fresh air as well.
Chief green officer Oliver Berger and president of the society Bill Lloyd spent a day on the front lawn of the Potato House prepping the potatoes for the cellar. They sorted and dried them before boxing them up and loading them down into the basement.
A couple of years ago, the conservation society decided they would rent out a space in the Potato House and built a community root cellar. And it is certainly a community endeavour in more than one sense.
According to Moberg, the cellar was constructed using 100 per cent donated materials and volunteer labour. The cellar houses the society’s yearly produce haul. Although this year they harvested only from Silver Birch Farm, in the past they’ve partnered with Ross McCoubrey from Rose Lake and Brianna van de Wijngaard of Puddle Produce.
In their first year, they collected carrots, beets, potatoes, and squash. In the second year, carrots and potatoes. This year, potatoes.
Moberg noted that the whole point of the project is to take whatever leftovers people are willing to give and they are always looking for more volunteers for next year.
Once the food is in the cellar, what happens next?
The cellar proves its true community roots once again as organizations from around Williams Lake can call the society and come to pick up some produce for their members.
Barbara Jones is the program co-ordinator at the Pregnancy Outreach Program in the lakecity, an organization that has benefitted from the Greening Project in the past.
“For the families that use our program, we also have a food bank of non-perishable items that are all donated from the community so when we go to the Potato House and get carrots and potatoes, we’re able to get fresh vegetables to add to our non-perishables to give out to the families, which is really nice,” Jones said.
Being able to add some fresh produce to canned and boxed goods is no doubt a welcome and nutritious addition for families who make use of the food bank. Jones added that their program receives generous donations from different groups from all over the city and that the outreach program makes sure their members know that some of their food is donated by the local community.
Sometimes, they’ll even also show interested members different ways to creatively cook the fresh donations. Jones used the example of getting a large donation of apples and having a class on making apple crisp, just to give people new and creative ideas for the kitchen.
Community ventures like the Greening Project are bringing real and visible benefits to families in need in Williams lake and according to Moberg, “it’s a win, win because we’re reducing food waste but also helping people who can’t afford fresh produce.”