Potato Project set for a bumper crop for food banks
Potatoes, sweet corn and carrots will be distributed to food banks throughout Berks
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.
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.