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Plenty! of Good Ideas for Growing and Sharing Healthy Food

Posted by Barbara Bowen, NRCS Virginia in Conservation Food and Nutrition Farming
Jul 22, 2016
Plenty! volunteers deliver homemade canned soup and apples to neighbors with school-aged kids. When schools are closed due to weather, families relying on school lunch and breakfast can really use this extra help.
Plenty! volunteers deliver homemade canned soup and apples to neighbors with school-aged kids. When schools are closed due to weather, families relying on school lunch and breakfast can really use this extra help.

In Southwest Virginia, a unique agricultural operation seeks to provide something that many in the community don’t have … plenty. The 18-acre combination vegetable farm/food bank/food hub on the Little River welcomes all to sample the bounty of sustainably-grown products.

Plenty! Farm began with a trip to a local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). I was interested in taking extra beet greens to the local food pantry and was surprised to learn that no one had the ability to receive the vegetables or a means to distribute them. That’s when McCabe Coolidge and I began to collect unsold or extra produce from local farmers and gardeners.

McCabe Coolidge and Karen Day were recently honored for their contributions to the community at Plenty!'s Founders' Day celebration.
McCabe Coolidge and Karen Day were recently honored for their contributions to the community at Plenty!'s Founders' Day celebration.

With Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) funding, McCabe installed a high tunnel less than a year after first meeting NRCS District Conservationist Hunter Musser in December 2013. This latest addition allows the farm to expand to four-season production for our food bank and portable produce routes. It also offers year-round “pick your own” options for those interested in the freshest vegetables.

Most families don't have a greenhouse or high tunnel, so they are eager to see what’s inside growing and learn how the high tunnel works. It's a great draw to bring folks to the farm and show them the vegetables they normally eat growing out of the ground. We also offer to teach them about growing and preparing their own produce.

A NRCS-designed irrigation system was installed at Plenty! Farm in May 2016 with funding from the Roanoke Women's Foundation.
A NRCS-designed irrigation system was installed at Plenty! Farm in May 2016 with funding from the Roanoke Women's Foundation.

With grant funding from the Roanoke Women’s Foundation, we are installing a NRCS-designed drip irrigation system that will pump water to a holding tank for gravity-fed release to farm plots and the high tunnel. This more efficient system will help conserve water, suppress weeds and improve disease management.

Not all farmers are USDA certified, but they can still use organic practices for the demonstrated short- and long-term benefits. As a result, the produce tastes better, the soil looks healthier, and the land has much more diversity.

McCabe chats with participants at one of the farm’s community lunch events complete with homemade soup, bread, dessert, and great conversation.
McCabe chats with participants at one of the farm’s community lunch events complete with homemade soup, bread, dessert, and great conversation.
The Plenty! Farm crew harvests plots at Floyd County High School. Plenty! helped fund some of the seeds and compost for the high school program and used much of the vegetables in the Portable Produce program for families across Floyd County.
The Plenty! Farm crew harvests plots at Floyd County High School. Plenty! helped fund some of the seeds and compost for the high school program and used much of the vegetables in the Portable Produce program for families across Floyd County.

Freshness is important to McCabe who hosts weekly community lunches for our neighbors.  Bringing more to the table is especially important in this part of Virginia where many go hungry. Floyd is one of more than 900 focal areas for targeted assistance through USDA’s StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity. NRCS is doing its part by providing one-on-one conservation assistance on farms like ours.

A NRCS-funded high tunnel helps Plenty! offer year-round “pick your own” options for those interested in the freshest vegetables.
A NRCS-funded high tunnel helps Plenty! offer year-round “pick your own” options for those interested in the freshest vegetables.

We started Plenty! because we believe everyone deserves fresh, healthy food regardless of income-level. Over time, the farm has become much more than a local distribution point. With our collaborative approach to food, it has become an open space for the community where we nourish bodes and celebrate Floyd County’s rich land and culture.

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