Potato Pro­ject set for a bumper crop for food banks

Pota­toes, sweet corn and car­rots will be dis­trib­uted to food banks through­out Berks

The Kutztown Area Patriot - - LOCAL NEWS - By Reno Unger Rotary Club

The Potato Pro­ject, for­mally named IHeartHar­vest, Inc., is on the way to pro­duc­ing a bumper crop of pota­toes, sweet corn and car­rots for dis­tri­bu­tion in food banks through­out Berks County, Kutz­town Ro­tar­ian Robert Hobaugh an­nounced re­cently as vol­un­teers col­lected and loaded pota­toes from a do­nated field in Rich­mond Town­ship.

He also com­mented that the rainy sum­mer would likely pro­duce a far larger crop than the or­ga­ni­za­tion has man­aged yet, all of which would be de­liv­ered to the Greater Berks Food Bank and food pantries in five coun­ties through­out the area.

Over the last 10 years since IHeartHar­vest’s found­ing at Trin­ity Lutheran Church of Kutz­town, car­rots, squash, sweet corn and more than 800,000 pounds of pota­toes have been raised and de­liv­ered to needy fam­i­lies.

“A few years ago, we reached the point that we were turn­ing out more pota­toes than the food bank could use,” Hobaugh said. “The ex­cesses ended up be­ing traded for other ed­i­bles with food banks out­side of the area.”

We were asked to ex­pand into other prod­ucts, so we be­gan to plant squash, sweet corn and car­rots. In an at­tempt to be­come self­sus­tain­ing fi­nan­cially, we also be­gan grow­ing cat­tle corn as a cash crop. As of now, we are gain­ing on the cost of run­ning the op­er­a­tion, but we are not quite fi­nan­cially in­de­pen­dent yet. The corn com­bine that was fi­nanced by Kutz­town Rotary, Rotary district 7430 and gen­er­ous pri­vate donors last year has been a big boost to pro­duc­tion.

The Potato Pro­ject is en­tirely man­aged and op­er­ated by vol­un­teers from area churches, Rotary chap­ters from all over the county, boy and girl scout troops the First Tee, Kutz­town Univer­sity stu­dents and oth­ers. Nec­es­sary fi­nances come from do­na­tions by many of the same groups.

The First Tee is a na­tion­wide or­ga­ni­za­tion with the pur­pose of in­tro­duc­ing chil­dren and teens to self dis­ci­pline and life skills through the prin­ci­ples of golf.

The pro­ject’s food is grown in small plots all over the area, do­nated on a year-to-year ba­sis by farm­ers and other land own­ers. Over the years, the Kutz­town Rotary, with the help of the Rotary Foun­da­tion, has fi­nanced a Kub­ota trac­tor, potato har­vester, other equip­ment and many man hours to the pro­ject.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO - RENO UNGER

Potato pick­ers from Rotary chap­ters all over Berks County, church, scout and First Tee vol­un­teers take a break for a pic­ture and, later, fresh French fries made from pota­toes dam­aged in the har­vest­ing process.

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