Chapter 81- Hunger Task Force Farm

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(My friend Raina Johnson wrote a piece for Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service about this adventure, as she’s a freelance writer and fellow Metroparent blogger.  It’s also been picked up by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

I was invited by Metroparent Magazine to have a tour and volunteer session at The Hunger Task Force Farm a few weeks ago.  After I asked “you know I have four kids under age five, right?” and still got the ok, I packed up my kids and drove to Franklin for some fun in the dirt.

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Amy Wallner and Dana Hartenstein welcomed us, and gave us a quick run down of the farm.  I’ll just tell you that Hunger Task Force serves over 50,000 meals per month, helps over 35,000 people at their food pantries per month, and delivers Stockboxes to 9,000 seniors each month.  Last year they delivered over 10.3 MILLION pounds of food to local pantries, soup kitchens and homeless shelters.

Volunteering at the farm is for kids ages 16 and up, but since this was a special group outing, my young kids got to help out and got assigned to picking swiss chard and kale.  Little T and Little A took it upon themselves to carry a bin to our raised garden bed of greens, and we started out by identifying which are good and bad leaves.

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For anyone who is wondering, bad kale leaves have small holes in them and have lost the purplish color to the stems.

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Here’s an opportunity for me to tell you how amazing this farm is.  The Hunger Task Force got into the farming business because they were presented with a unique opportunity to lease the 200 acres from Milwaukee County.  They employ 5 full-time farm employees and have created a successful farm with the help from community volunteers.

Dana Hartenstein, Communications Manager form Hunger Task Force gave me the scoop: “We researched fruits and vegetables that would grow during a Wisconsin summer and were able to come up with a variety of over 20 different options. Seeds are planted in our greenhouse in spring and transplanted into the fields when they’re ready. We have a schedule that leads to a long harvest season so we are able to deliver fresh produce longer. The fresh fruits and vegetables replace canned options at our soup kitchens, food pantries and senior centers which creates a win all the way around. Our clients enjoy greater variety in their diet, healthier options than canned and we are able to reserve non-perishable canned fruits and vegetables to use during winter months when fresh is no longer available.”

Pretty good stuff, eh?

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Tomatoes are Little T’s favorite veggie, so she joined the crew over there and sampled some of the delicious cherry tomatoes.

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Some of the haul we harvested.

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Dana and Amy  took us around the farm a bit, and we proceeded to run up and down hills because that’s pretty much all my kids want to do.

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And then we saw the goats!  The goats help keep invasive species at bay, and keep the grasses “mowed”, while providing some decent entertainment to kids as well.

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Three out of five looking at the camera…not bad!

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Little T wanted her turn at holding the camera, and took the above photo of her baby sister, who she adores like no other.

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People often ask how I manage to take four young kids out on adventures.  And here’s my secret: I am lucky to have people like Dana, who help me along the way.  Above, she’s showing the kids a toad she spotted.  And below, she’s escorting Little A back to our group after falling behind.

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And she helped lift Little A up so she could see the fish, a task I couldn’t perform because I had one kid on my back and was pushing a stroller.

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The experience was really refreshing.  We got to play in dirt, walk outside, see animals, and learn about a community organization.  I’m always looking for ways to get my kids thinking about people and the world outside of our home, and this was a great way to do so.  I hope you’ve learned a little more about Hunger Task Force along side of me, and can find a way to stay connected and help out such a great effort.

A. Storm

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