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Apple harvest for food bank requires crop of volunteers


Volunteers will pick thousands of apples for the Seagate Foodbank at the Johnston Fruit Farm in Swanton from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sept. 28. There will be games, crafts, music, and hayrides.

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Fresh fruits and vegetables are among the most difficult items for food banks to collect.

“It’s not something we can necessarily go buy. We need the generosity of farmers,” said Aggie Alt, community awareness director for the Seagate Foodbank.

Luckily for Seagate, Ms. Alt said, many area farmers are happy to help out.

Often those farms donate what’s left in their fields after the harvest. The process is known as gleaning. It’s a good way to get fresh produce to the less fortunate while preventing waste.

Johnston Fruit Farm in Swanton has a different approach. Rather than offer the last few apples from their picked-over crop, Martha and Fernando Mora open their orchard at the peak of apple season.

“It’s a donation of our best, what we normally would sell,” Ms. Mora said. “It’s a lot more exciting that way.”

In previous years, the farm has given the Seagate Foodbank about 20,000 pounds of apples, picked mostly by volunteers who donate their time.

In case you were wondering, that works out to approximately 60,000 medium-sized apples.

“It really is mind-boggling,” Ms. Alt said.

Here’s another statistic: It only takes the food bank two to three weeks to distribute all those apples to needy families across the 18-county region it serves. In all, Seagate serves 94,000 people, Ms. Alt said.

This year will be the fifth for the volunteer harvest. Organizers said about 200 people came out last year, which was a down year for orchards because of the late frost.

This year they’re expecting a larger turnout.

The event takes place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sept. 28. Ms. Mora expects to meet, and possibly exceed, the 20,000-pound goal.

On the menu are empire and golden delicious apples. They’re what happen to be ripe this time of year, but Ms. Mora also said they’re good to donate because they’re so versatile.

“I like to donate those apples because they’re good for everything,” she said. “They’re wonderful for eating and they’re great for cooking.”

Beyond the fact that the food bank gets a haul of produce, officials say it’s also a good way to introduce children to volunteering and doing things for the community good in a fun way.

There will be children’s games, crafts, face painting, hayrides, and music all day. Everything is free except the games. Ms. Alt said the food bank will charge a quarter a game to cover the prizes it gives out.

She praised the Moras for their generosity.

“It’s not too often you have a business that takes this much time out of their prime season to help us out,” Ms. Alt said. “It’s amazing to have somebody that generous to support the food bank and support their community.”

For Ms. Mora, who said the community has supported her family farm for nearly 60 years, donating that truckload of apples brings more riches than selling them.

“I feel the greater the gift the greater the reward in your heart,” she said.

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at or 419-724-6134.

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