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Moving Produce from Farms to Food Banks a Win-Win for KY

Moving some produce from this farm in Shelby County and others to food banks in Kentucky is seen as a win-win. (Courtney Farms, LLC)
Moving some produce from this farm in Shelby County and others to food banks in Kentucky is seen as a win-win. (Courtney Farms, LLC)
May 24, 2016

SHELBY COUNTY, Ky. - Not everything Kentucky farmers harvest from their fields can go to market but there is a way for them to recoup some of their costs and help others at the same time.

Farmers who deliver produce rejected by retailers to a food bank distribution center can have the cost of picking, packaging and transporting the No. 2 grade vegetables paid for.

Mary Courtney, who along with her husband Shane, farms 30 acres of produce at Courtney Farms in Shelby County, says they first participated in the Farms to Food Banks program in 2012 when they were unable to sell some of their cucumbers on the high-quality market.

"It provided work for our workers, it provided a home for our product, and it provided some cash flow," says Courtney. "Do we make a lot of money selling to Farms to Food Banks? No, we don't, but what it does is it helps cover our costs."

According to the Kentucky Association of Food Banks, which runs the program, more than 300 farmers participated last year, delivering enough produce to fill half a plate full of fruits and vegetables for more than 4 million meals.

The program is supported by $600,000 a year in state funds.

Courtney, who is now busy harvesting her early-season vegetables, lettuce, radishes, green onions and spinach, says it's a "fantasy world" to believe you can sell everything you grow on your own.

"So to be able to have a home for these seconds, these extras, I mean those are the food that we bring into our home," she says. "There's nothing wrong with them, but our market doesn't want it. So we communicate and let them know we've got it and when they can use it, we get it to them. It's a win-win for the hungry and the farmer."

The produce Courtney calls "the ugly vegetables" are delivered to seven regional food banks across the state which supply more than 800 food pantries and soup kitchens.

Last year the average payout to producers who participated in the Farms to Food Banks program was $1,570.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY