What Could Happen if you Teach Others to Grow and Share Produce?
Growing up, there were weeks when Ashley Rickards’ family needed to visit the local food shelf. “I remember it being a good experience and the people were kind and the food was good, but there wasn’t a lot to choose from as far as veggies go besides the staples such as potatoes, onions and carrots. For fruits, apples and oranges,” Ashley recalls. But Ashley and his family were grateful for the food shelf because he knows there are many people who don’t have access to that help even today.
Today, Ashley is the Farm Manager and Production Supervisor for Dan & Jerry’s Greenhouses in Monticello. Each day, he works to provide fresh, healthy food to people in the community – including those struggling with hunger.
At 7 a.m. each day, Ashley and a small crew arrive for a full day of work on the farm. In late August the majority of the day will be spent in the field harvesting. To ensure quality and freshness, Ashley and his team don’t pick anything until it’s ready to ship and everything is done by hand.
Throughout the season, roughly 50 varieties of fruits and vegetables are grown. While the majority of the produce is for local grocery retailers and wholesalers, Dan and Jerry’s Greenhouses also has a farm stand and small CSA program.
During a tour of the farm with Second Harvest Heartland staff, Ashley chatted about his garden at home. This time of year, even a small back-yard garden plot is typically producing more than a family can eat in any given week. Produce growers experience the same type of excess on an increased scale. What a grower does with that excess has changed over the past several years. For people like Ashley, it’s important to see the food he’s worked so hard to grow, going to people in need if it doesn’t sell. In fact, Ashley wants to take helping a step further. “If I could teach a few people every year to grow vegetables and grow a little extra and drop that off at the local food shelf, continue to do this for the remainder of my life, it might have some impact on this dilemma [hunger] that affects our world.”
Ashley and Dan and Jerry’s Greenhouses have supported nearby food shelves with their excess produce for several years. Last year, they expanded their donations beyond local food shelves to share even more of their fresh produce throughout the entire state by participating in the Share Fresh program.
Beginning with their first donation in January of last year, to date Dan and Jerry’s Greenhouses has provided nearly 18,000 pounds of yellow squash, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and green peppers for hungry Minnesotans.
Learn more about our efforts to increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables through our Produce Initiative.