While many things were put on hold in 2020, Florida Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers & Ranchers’ efforts to gather food and monetary donations and volunteer their time to help those in need were as strong as ever.
Early in the pandemic FFB partnered with the Feeding Florida Food Bank system, which includes 12 food banks that serve more than 2,300 communities across the state. As part of the partnership, FFB helped provide food banks with a diverse menu of Florida-grown products. The partnership also helped farmers recover at least a portion of their costs in supporting the health of people who receive the food.
Working through this partnership, Florida Farm Bureau members, including YF&R members, mobilized to get fruits and vegetables that would have rotted in the fields into the Feeding Florida Food Bank system. In addition, county Farm Bureaus partnered with Feeding Florida Food Bank to set up pickup locations where anyone could drive through and get a box of free mixed produce.
Altogether, in 2020, FFB YF&R members spearheaded the donation of more than 43 million pounds of fresh produce and dairy products and 120,960 pounds of shelf stable peanut butter.
Along with the food donations, Florida’s young farmers helped raise more than $413,000 last year for Feeding Florida Food Bank. The monetary donations helped pay for harvesting, packing, transportation and distribution costs involved in providing additional nutrition for the state’s food-insecure households.
The young farmers gathered the money through several fundraisers, including a virtual fun run they hosted as part their FUSION Conference, held virtually in August 2020. They also held a Ford “Drive 4 UR Community” event at FFB’s Annual Meeting in October, allowing them to provide $2,000 to the local Feeding Florida food bank, Second Harvest Food Bank.
County Farm Bureaus throughout the state and the Florida Farm Bureau Insurance Company were so inspired by the Young Farmers & Ranchers’ commitment to help people in need, they donated more than $400,000 in total.
Florida young farmers also gave their time, volunteering more than 1,782 hours to help ensure Florida residents had access to fresh, Florida-produced food.
Along with participating in the virtual fun run, YF&R members gathered food for and assembled produce boxes that were given away at local food banks and community food distribution locations. They volunteered hours directing long lines of traffic as people came from all over to get fresh produce. Some locations had upwards of 100 volunteers dedicating six to 10 hours to ensure that everyone got food to take home to their families.
The young farmers also donated their trucks and trailers to help other farmers get their produce from the fields to the food banks or food pickup locations.
The generosity of Florida Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers & Ranchers earned them the top spot in the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Harvest for All program for donating the most food and raising the most money in 2020. FFB YF&R came in second for volunteer time.
Thanks to the generosity of Nationwide, FFB Young Farmers & Ranchers received $750 in grants to donate to a local food bank of their choice or for another Harvest for All project.
Now in its 19th year, Harvest for All is spearheaded by members of the American Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers & Ranchers program, but members of all ages from across the nation contribute to the effort.