Q: I’ve grown more vegetables than I can use and wonder if food shelves could use this excess food. Also, are there any programs to harvest vegetables from backyard gardens and distribute them to people who could use them?
A: Yes, food shelves will gladly take extra produce though some are less inclined to take highly perishable items like lettuce or other greens because they don’t have refrigerator space for them. For Backyard Harvest, we ended up bringing our extras to a place that had both a food shelf and a daily meal program – the Aliveness Project on 38th and Chicago. The fact that they have a meal program allows them to use perishable items quickly. So if you have highly perishable items, look for a shelter or church or someplace with a daily meal program.
At this point, Backyard Harvest has not coordinated an effort to collect excess food from citizens’ veggie gardens. This is not the first suggestion/request for it, however, and we may end up adding this service in the future. Fruits of the City at the Minnesota Project will take fruit and harvest from fruit trees.
Q: I’m confused. Backyard Harvest seems like a small business yet you are a program of a 501(c)3 nonprofit. How does that work?
A: Yes, folks do this very service as a for-profit business. In addition to offering this fee-based service, we also offer community events, training for our farmers, educational opportunities for our garden clients, gardens that are dedicated solely to providing food to food shelves, etc. The significant difference between how we run our “business” and how it could be run as a for-profit is in what we do with the money that we do make (which was none this first year). Any profits that we make will be rolled into offering more programming for the community including classes, low cost options for low income clients, more food shelf gardens, more community-building services, etc.
Do you have questions about Backyard Harvest, backyard farming or urban permaculture? Just ask and we will do our best to answer!