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Community farm feeds thousands impacted by COVID in the DMV, more volunteers are needed

Volunteers working at JK Community Farm in Purcellville, VA. Photo by Jay Korff
Volunteers working at JK Community Farm in Purcellville, VA. Photo by Jay Korff
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Reporter's Notebook: Food insecurity remains one of the great challenges we face in the COVID-age. ABC7 News has done a number of in-depth stories on this issue as it remains unclear how long people will continue to struggle to find work, afford food and return to the life they once had. A few years ago, JK Moving helped start a non-profit farm in our area that now feeds thousands for free. But to match the soaring need for healthy, fresh produce they need more volunteers. If you'd like to help on the farm head here.

A company known for moving your belongings is now a cog in Loudoun County’s food chain, helping harvest and transport fresh produce to those without. JK Community Farm donates produce to local food pantries helping those in need. There's plenty of food. The problem is they need more volunteers.

“We are one of, if not, the largest non-profits in the country that strictly donates everything that we grow to families in need," says JK Community Farm General Manger Mike Smith. "It’s a great feeling and truly a dream come true of mine to be out here like this and be able to contribute and give back to the community."

Only two people, Mike Smith and Samantha Kuhn, work full time at this farm near Purcellville, Virginia. Yet, this year alone, they expect to donate 135,000 pounds of produce to those in need.

“Our farm is 150 acres," Kuhn says. "Our mission is to alleviate hunger in our region with healthy, nutrient dense, chemical-free produce and protein. So, 100 percent of what we grow is donated to local food banks and food panties. So, our food will reach everywhere from Loudoun into DC. Our volunteers are essential to our mission. They do all of the planting and harvesting out here at the farm.”

On the day we went to the farm in late Jul, about a dozen volunteers picked everything from onions to squash and green peppers.

“We’re able to put food on our table," volunteer Amanda Rohr tells us. "We know out there that not everybody can, in general, and especially now it’s getting even harder. So, this is great that it’s fresh food going to families who need it.”

Karin Eane and her children volunteer here often.

“There’s hidden suffering in this country whether it’s people who are homeless or just can’t afford to go to the grocery store,” says Eanes.

Last year some 3,000 people volunteered here. Due to social distancing guidelines, the farm must rely on smaller groups of people covering more shifts to keep pace with need.

“So, we are facing an issue with less amount of volunteers this year," Smith says.

“And we’ve actually increased our production too to make sure that we are providing all of the food our community needs during this difficult time because food insecurity has increased so much,” adds Kuhn.

After volunteers pick produce, they help load it onto a truck that belongs to Loudoun Hunger Relief: the largest food bank in the county.

Jennifer Montgomery is the non-profit’s executive director.

“When the pandemic hit and everyone was ordered to stay home in March our numbers skyrocketed," she said. "People who have never needed our services before are now here saying could you please help me. People are afraid and they are nervous and afraid for their families."

We spoke with a couple clients. A young woman named Pearla told us she comes here often since he parents got laid off due to the pandemic.

“It’s been really hard," she said. "It makes a lot of us really sad because it’s really hard to be able to live without money in the house."

The numbers are numbing. Last year, Loudoun Hunger Relief helped 8,000 individuals. In the first half of 2020 they’ve served some 17,000.

Reina Miranda is responsible for three generations under her roof. Nine people. She’s here because the two breadwinners in her family lost their jobs due to the pandemic.

“If they don’t help us really we don’t have nothing to eat," she said. "I say thank you Jesus because people like them exist. And God bless them. It’s fresh vegetables. I feel like I’m in my country. Eating those vegetables, it’s so delicious. Thank you so much."

Places like JK Community Farm thrive because people like Mike Smith and Samantha Kuhn know full well that the price of not working hard means someone goes hungry. And, like those in need, they rely on the kindness of others to support this critical part of the food chain.

“We feel that everyone deserves a healthy meal no matter what your financial situation is,” concludes Smith.

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JK Community Farm uses about half their land right now. They’d like to expand and harvest more produce. But they can’t do that without more volunteers. If interested in helping the farm, click here.

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