Food bank volunteer firmly rooted in harvest program – Ottawa

Beth Trobridge has fond memories of a beautiful fall day harvesting carrots, the first of what would become many spent over the last seven years volunteering with the Ottawa Food Bank’s Community Harvest Program.

“You’d use a fork to sort of loosen the soil around the carrots and then you pull them out of the ground. They come out really easily,” Trobridge said.

‘I find being outside on the land like that is really a wonderful experience. It really grounds me and makes me feel like I have a place and a purpose.’
– Beth Trobridge, volunteer

That experience peaked her interest and led to a growing number of hours spent planting, harvesting and packaging produce.

The first harvest was small with only about 2,000 square metres of carrots planted, but it doubled the next year, expanding to include potatoes. Now around 700 volunteers spend 3,000 hours at a Stittsville farm planting, caring for and harvesting 17 crops on more than two hectares of land.

What started out as a 3.5-hour volunteer shift on Trobridge’s first day quickly ballooned into more than 100 hours a season.

This year, Trobridge set herself a goal of 150 volunteer hours — no easy feat in a season that only lasts from May and October. She ended up logging 169.5 hours. What’s even more impressive is that she completed those hours while working full time in tech sector.

Weather presented challenges

“It’s a very good thing to do for the community, but it’s also a really good thing for me, to do for myself. I find being outside on the land like that is really a wonderful experience. It really grounds me and makes me feel like I have a place and a purpose,” she said. “It’s such a big honour to be able to help people.”

Beth Trobridge harvests tomatoes at a farm in Stittsville. (Submitted)

Trobridge’s only disappointment? That she didn’t crack 170 hours, she joked.

“If I had only known, I would have found a way, I would have called my husband and said I’m going to be late for lunch to get that extra half-hour.” 

One record that was shattered was Ottawa’s annual rainfall amount, with more than 1,200 millimetres of precipitation falling across the city by last month. That rainfall, paired with the severe flooding in the spring, added extra challenges for the growing season.

Volunteers had to replant crops multiple times. Many plants were later damaged by hail or didn’t get enough hot, sunny weather and sprouted smaller than normal.

“It was just…

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