Voices of Hunger Relief: Heidi Coe

October 17, 2013 By: Sara Blair Category: WordPress Import

On any given day during the peak growing season, you can find Heidi Coe, agriculture sourcing representative, making early morning calls to local farmers to see how their crops are doing, visiting local potato farms, or coordinating pick-up details for a bin of cucumbers.

In her job, Heidi works with farmers and growers in Minnesota and western Wisconsin to collect excess produce that would otherwise go unharvested, and brings the food in to the food bank system as part of Second Harvest Heartland’s produce capture efforts.

In 2012, more than 4.3 million pounds of surplus produce was collected from local farms and growers, nearly double the amount that was captured in 2011.

“I enjoy working for Second Harvest Heartland because we have the capacity to capture excess produce on such a large scale. We have all the resources in line to move large amounts of fresh, wholesome produce, and that’s very rewarding,” said Heidi, who has been involved with horticulture for more than 20 years.

Heidi’s favorite part of her job is meeting and building relationships with the growers, and learning about their work and their lives. “On a personal level, it’s great to get to know the growers and their families,” said Heidi. “On a professional level, it’s exciting to bring in produce that would otherwise go unharvested and be able to provide fresh, wholesome food to families in need.”

To Heidi, the best part of capturing produce is that it benefits everyone involved—both the farmer and those we serve. “The farmer feels good about their produce not going to waste. They work hard to grow this produce and appreciate that their labor is not in vain,” said Heidi. “The program also benefits our agency partner programs and clients, because the food we’re collecting and distributing is fresh and nutritious.”

As the need for fresh, wholesome food grows, Heidi and her team continue to improve and develop new ways to capture more food. One of their new initiatives is “concurrent picking,” where growers harvest and pack slightly blemished produce that would otherwise be left in the field at the same time they harvest produce to sell. “It can be challenging to work through the kinks and logistics, but at the same time, so rewarding,” said Heidi. “Sometimes I’m on the phone with a farmer five times a week, if not more. But it’s all about developing relationships, and that’s the best part.”


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