Just when I am thinking the world is surely going to hell in an ugly, over-priced and foreign made handbag, I meet someone like Pastor Dan.
My son requires so many volunteer hours as he progresses through Boy Scouts to (hopefully) an Eagle Scout rank. He was alerted to an opportunity to pick veggies for the Great Plains Food Bank. We had amazingly no plans for the long weekend and decided it was something we could do as a family. We headed north of town, following the hand made "Veggie Picking" signs and found ourselves dead-ended at a farmstead surrounded by acres of waving corn and crawling squash.
Moments after we arrived, a pickup pulled up and a spirited older man in thick glasses and floppy hat got out and introduced himself as Dan. I loved his energy immediately. As a refrigerator semi trailer purred in the background, he instructed us, the only volunteers that day, that we were going to be harvesting sweet corn and which cobs to pick. We headed to the acres of sweet corn, splitting the sections into rows of 5 at a time. My husband took the inner rows and the kids stuck to the outer rows, searching for the dark brown silk that indicated maturity. Armful by armful we loaded gigantic pallet boxes of corn.
As we worked, Pastor Dan (who by this time had shared that he was a retired Lutheran pastor) told the story of how this mission came into being. He told of hearing the expected increased need for food due to a down-turned economy advertised on the radio. His first year he planted a few acres of squash on this land, which was his home place in which he grew up, with the purpose of donating to the local food bank in our community. After harvesting the squash, he learned our local food bank had no means of storing the squash and was pointed in the direction of the Great Plains Food Bank located in Fargo. This developed into a relationship that is now in its sixth year. Pastor Dan expressed great gratitude for (say what you will but...) Monsanto for donating the seed and the Great Plains Food Bank for parking a trailer that allows him and his volunteers to load on their own schedule. He has volunteers from the local college, VCSU, who harvest the acres of squash and several other volunteers and groups who help. So far this year, Dan reports he has shipped off over 50,000 pounds of food to the food bank.
As we slowly worked, we told the kids that their actions would directly and positively affect people in North Dakota. I gave them examples of elderly people, Grandmas and Grandpas, who have to decide between food and their heat bill. I told them there were probably kids in their schools that do not always have enough healthy food to eat. I exhausted them with different situations in which hunger occurs.
I needed them to understand these situations to counter my ongoing fear they do not realize their reality;
They are healthy, white, middle class AMERICAN children who for nothing should they want or need.
We slowly made our way through the six feet tall stalks, our chatter having tapered off.
As the serrated leave edges occasionally marred my skin, I was overcome with a sense of oneness. The skin on my arms burned and itched from the armloads of husks I had been holding; the work was hot, mosquito-laden and dusty. But despite all the obvious discomforts there was a communion with nature and God in the experience. If you are not a God believer, than a harmony with Mother Earth. (If you don't believe in anything bigger than human experience I can't help you relate...) I always seem to feel more at peace when I am surrounded by greenery and dirt and this was no different. In the thick humidity of the corn (FYI: An acre of corn gives off about 3,000-4,000 gallons of water each day and why Iowa is so humid) I heard the teachings of Jesus, Ghandi and Mother Teresa roll around in my mind. Teachings about kindness, change, your neighbor. Teachings about Love. Pastor Dan initially took one small action, a few acres and some squash seeds, and his action has morphed into this amazing and valuable resource that directly impacts people in our state.
Pastor Dan and his produce are living, breathing, growing proofs that one person can and does make a difference in the world. He inspired not only me, but our family that day and the next, when we went back to pick more corn. I challenge you to let him inspire you.
If you would like to donate your time and energy picking veggies, call Dan & Beatrice at 701-845-9384