In just over a year, Max Crain and Sherri Clixby have helped prepare and orchestrate a real working farm from a once vacant lot of stubble and rock behind the First United Methodist Church in the rural community of Safford, Arizona. The considerable fruits (and vegetables) of this labor are used to supply its sister operation — Our Neighbor's Pantry food bank — with fresh produce.
The farm, known as Our Neighbor's Farm, and the food bank are part of the Graham County Interfaith Care Alliance's mission to feed Graham County. Together with many community volunteers and internship and service-learning students from the University of Arizona, Crain and Clixby grow anything and everything that they can successfully produce within the Southeast Arizona climate/environment.
Max Crain looks on as the Farm got started in June2012.
The farm harvest includes nutrient-rich greens including kale, chard, collard, green leaf lettuce as well as other meal-making vegetables, such as onions, broccoli and peas. The yield for August, 2013 was 2378 pound, consisting of amaranth, basil, cantaloupe, cucumber, edamame, eggplant, lima beans, okra, peppers (chile and sweet), potatoes (fingerling), snap beans, southern peas, squash (summer and winter), sweet potatoes, sweet potato leaf, tomatillo, tomatoes, and watermelon. From March through August, total production was 9,634 pounds.
As Our Neighbor’s Farm production increases, so does the amount of Farm produce on the Pantry shelves. With shelves stocked with fresh vegetables from the Farm that is right outside the Pantry doors, the Pantry has served as many as 94 families or approximately 364 people in one day.
Now a prolific Farm, 14 students in a Rural Health Service-Learning Course from the University of Arizona, Zuckerman College of Public Health helped weed and harvest in August 2013.
Sometimes, people don’t know how to prepare lesser known vegetables such as eggplant, so it gets ignored and left on the shelf by the Pantry customers. When that happens Cindy Pearson, Program Coordinator for Graham County Cooperative Extension, sets up shop at the Pantry to show people how to prepare these vegetables in delicious ways. As the clients come in, they are offered samples of the dishes — eggplant bruschetta, eggplant pizza, fried eggplant and eggplant medley —along with the recipes. This results in the eggplant flying out the door with the food bank clients.
The Graham County Interfaith Care Alliance recently received the Pride of Safford Award! “a recognition that it has gone above and beyond what is necessary to make the City of Safford a great place to work, live, and visit” and ”the most prestigious award given by the city.” The Alliance also received three small grants to grow the work of Our Neighbor’s Farm and Pantry.
- $58,373 grant to the Farm from United Way of Graham County to:
- Increase production to new level throughout the year
- improve and expand the garden-based school program
- recruit, train, and sustain volunteers for both the Farm and Pantry
- $20,000 grant to the Pantry from United Way of Graham County to:
- increase food-distribution capacity
- make a more client-friendly site by improving signage, seating, and shade in outdoor areas
- offer education about food and nutrition and help clients apply for federal assistance programs
- $12,110 grant from USDA to complete work on the Farm irrigation and greenhouse infrastructure
Graham County Cooperative Extension partners with the Pantry to teach clients delicious ways to prepare vegetables.
For more information visit www.ourneighborsfarm.org.