CHICO, Calif. – A Butte County organic farmer works his fields, to bridge a gap between the region’s agriculture output and some members of the community who might not otherwise be able to enjoy fresh vegetables.
Action News Now Morning Anchor Julia Yarbough recently spent time on the farm, to learn more about the partnership between Chico State and the Organic Vegetable Project. It is a way of growing and offering the freshest of the fresh produce, to University students.
Organic farmer Scott Grist says it is important to be able to bring fresh organic produce to the people in need.
In this case, that fresh produce includes over 50 different types of vegetables, all homegrown at Chico State University Farm.
“This morning I harvested lettuce, pomegranate, zucchini, corn and eggplant,” Grist explained to Yarbough, as he clipped fresh rainbow chard from the field and pulled up a fresh head of curly leaf lettuce.
Some of the people in need include Chico State University students who rely on the Hungry Wildcat Food Pantry to keep their own pantry-shelves stocked.
“It is extremely critical,” explains Grist. “All around the nation, people are lined up around the corners at food banks to get food and Chico is no exception."
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that for 2019, food insecurity impacted people all across the country. Figures indicate some 35.2 million people lived in food-insecure households.
Joe Picard leads to Hungry Wildcat Food Pantry. He describes the work as truly, ‘farm to pantry.”
“Every week they bring in great vegetables like this [holding a fresh head of lettuce high into the air] and the students just love it.”
During the visit to the farm, Grist walked Yarbough around the three-acre operation, which includes rows of fresh greens, root vegetables, and hedges of flavorful herbs.
Yarbough asked Grist if he had a favorite vegetable.
“I like to grow sweet peppers, including these Jimmy Nardellos [showing Yarbough a thin, bright red pepper known for sweet flavor].
Grist explained the farm produces year-round, despite cold and rainy weather.
“In the dead of the winter, we shift our focus to root crops, like beets, carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli."
Grist walked Yarbough through rows of peppers, with basil plants intermingled.
The farm includes long rows of tall corn.
Yarbough asked Grist if his days feel like work and why his farm produces such plentiful and healthy vegetables.
“It's the heart and the love that you put into the vegetables,” explains Grist. “And it feels so good to be growing it for people in need in my community."
Grist says none of the produce ever goes to waste. The project also provides food for the Butte County Local Food Network.
The entire project, is powered thanks to a grant from the Center for Regenerative Agriculture of Chico State. Because of that partnership, Grist is able to grow food and offer it to students at the pantry, for free.
The farm serves an additional purpose as well. Students can earn credit hours for working the farm, while learning agricultural and organic principles. The farm also offers paid internships for those seeking careers in organic farming.
The general public can take part as well. The Organic Vegetable Project farm stand is open each Friday, from 12-4 PM.
“By giving students in need this produce for free, they don’t have to worry about in financially.”
It is something Grist says makes his work that much more satisfying.
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