Surrey farm that supplies food banks appeals for pickers to keep crops from rotting

JENNIFER SALTMAN
VANCOUVER DESI

Jas Singh checks out a bin of pickling cucumbers at God’s Little Acre farm in Surrey, B.C. Monday August 12, 2013. The farm supplies local food banks and church soup kitchens with free produce and recently expanded from eight acres of planted land to 34 and has relied on volunteer help to harvest the crops. Singh needs more pickers now or a lot of the needed produce will rot. The farm is also selling pickling cucumbers so that it can be self-sufficient. (Ric Ernst / PNG)

Looking out over acres of carrots, potatoes, cucumbers and squash, Jas Singh had one thing on his mind.

“I’m thinking we need to do a lot more — it’s not enough,” he said.

Singh runs God’s Little Acre, a hay-field-turned-food-growing-farm in Surrey that has provided fresh vegetables to local food banks and soup kitchens since 2011.

In two seasons, the farm expanded from three acres producing 62,000 pounds of potatoes that were donated to the Surrey Food Bank to eight acres of mixed vegetables distributed to food banks in Surrey, Maple Ridge and other municipalities.

The farm is now in its third year and producing its largest harvest yet. It is expected that with 34 acres planted, more than 200,000 pounds of vegetables — potatoes, carrots, cabbage, turnips, beets, squash, corn and more — will be donated to local food banks and soup kitchens.

Thousands of pounds of pumpkins will also be harvested for schools to sell in support of lunch programs and other fundraising projects.

Singh is glad to have expanded and to have been able to grow so much more food, but his current crop of volunteers is not enough. Within the next few weeks, vegetables will rot in the ground if they are not picked, and Singh is appealing to the public for help.

“The only thing that’s holding us back now, because we went from eight acres to 34, is volunteers. They can barely keep up,” Singh said. “If we don’t pick (the vegetables) and they just sit there, eventually they’ll just stop producing.”

Those who can’t volunteer can support the farm by purchasing pickling cucumbers, a crop that was planted in an effort to make the farm self-sufficient and hopefully provide Singh with a modest income so that he can keep pouring his efforts into farming. He used to drive trucks on the side, but currently has no income.

“I don’t look at it as money,” Singh said of his crops. “I look at it as food and I look at it as something I’ve been gifted to grow.”

Singh believes that with the right support and equipment — and more land — his farm could produce a million pounds of food per year for food banks and other charities. He said it’s important to supply those in need with high-quality food that is grown just for them.

“It shows that somebody actually cares and loves them,” Singh said. “We actually care about the people we’re supplying.”

The Surrey Food Bank was a beneficiary of God’s Little Acre’s first and second harvests, and executive director Marilyn Herrmann said the fresh food makes a big difference when you’re serving 250 to 300 families every day.

“We always are eager to get fresh fruits and vegetables for our hampers — that’s absolutely crucial,” said Herrmann. “Working with donors like Jas is a wonderful, wonderful opportunity.

He’s got a great big heart and he’s trying so hard to help so many different groups.”

■ Volunteer pickers can show up at the farm at 16582-40th Ave. Wednesdays from 4 p.m. until dark and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. until the end of October. Those wishing to volunteer on a different day or to make a donation of money, machinery or supplies can contact Jas Singh at 604-375-1172 or email jassingh65@hotmail.com. Pickling cucumbers can be picked up at the farm Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For more information, visit godslittleacrefarm.com.

jensaltman@theprovince.com
twitter.com/jensaltman

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