More than 60 volunteers lined a 16-acre field on a cold November day to hand harvest more than 150,000 pounds of cabbage to help feed Ohio's hungry.

A Harvest From the Heart

With mud already caked to their boots and sweat dampening their brows, more than 60 volunteers continued to hand cut and load the rows of cabbage in Sandusky County farmer Daryl Knipp’s field, hardly noticing the increasingly chilly rain.

They had already determined, rain or shine, that more than 150,000 pounds of the vegetable had to come out of the ground that day.

The sauerkraut plant to which the cabbage was originally destined had reached its quota for the year. Without a place to go, the 16-acre plot of faded green vegetation was facing a killing freeze in a matter of days that would likely result in the field having to be plowed under and prepared for the next crop.

Knipp and other farmers of the Sandusky County Farm Bureau thought it would be a shame to see it all go to waste. “Farmers care about other people, not just about their pocketbook,” he said, referring to the county’s idea to salvage the excess crop.

Through Ohio Farm Bureau’s new county-based “Farmers Feed Our Needs” campaign, farmers throughout the Buckeye State are combining with partners to help provide hungry and less fortunate Ohioans with safe, abundant and healthy food. Sandusky County Farm Bureau saw the cabbage as an opportunity to make a difference through the program.

Initially, the county imagined a small project, where volunteers would hand-harvest cabbage for a few area foodbanks. But through the compassion of regional and statewide farmers, it became much more.

“We’re always willing to help our neighbors,” said Sandusky County Farm Bureau Board member Jerry Cunningham. “It’s been that way with farmers for years and it still persists today, even though we have fewer farmers today than in the past. We never imagined (the event) would become as big as it did. But when you have somebody offering something to somebody that really needs it, it comes together pretty quick.”

In just a matter of days, and through cooperative efforts of the county and state Farm Bureau, dozens of volunteers from the agricultural community had committed to hand-harvesting, loading and transporting the crop that would be donated to the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks (OASHF) throughout the entire state.

The harvest was originally planned to take two full days, but the outpouring of assistance helped wrap up the program in half that time.

“The response to this was tremendous,” said Allen Gahler, organization director for Lucas, Ottawa, Sandusky and Wood County Farm Bureaus. “Farmers and people who live the rural lifestyle really embrace this kind of thing and they like to reach out to their community.”

In all, 112 bins of cabbage worth an estimated retail price of $85,904, were donated to Second Harvest – enough to produce 121,875 meals. An additional eight bins were also harvested to be provided to Toledo-area foodbanks as needed, bringing the overall retail value of donated cabbage to more than $90,000.

With Ohio foodbanks facing unprecedented demand, the massive donation – completed just in time for the holiday season – was well-appreciated.

“This gift from the Farm Bureau and Ohio’s cabbage farmers is an extraordinary opportunity for our foodbanks and pantries to make a difference when several of our clients are struggling to keep food on their tables,” said Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, OASHF executive director. “The availability of high-quality, nutritious meals now, or at any time of year, is critically important for families in our community.”

When kept cold, a head of cabbage can last three months, allowing foodbanks to serve it over a prolonged period of time, increasing the donation’s impact.

“Having food on the table should be an expectation, not a luxury, for Ohio’s families,” said Ohio Farm Bureau Executive Vice President Jack Fisher. “Our farmers are honored and humbled to help some Ohioans in need.”

“It makes you feel good as a farmer,” said Ottawa County Farm Bureau President Mike Libben, who was one of many volunteers to lend a hand throughout the region. “Instead of just harvesting your crop and seeing it go off to the elevator, here it’s going into a box and going out right away to those who need it,” he said, adding that it’s great to see the program in action.

Connie Ward, northwest regional supervisor for Ohio Farm Bureau, said she wishes everyone could experience the rewards of such a project. “You will never find a better group of people to do this,” she said. “Farmers are good-hearted people and people you can depend on. Even though it’s cold outside, it warms you up from the inside.”

Ohio Farm Bureau and Sandusky County Farm Bureau would like to thank the following for their hard work, dedication and compassion in helping make the “Farmers Feed Our Needs” cabbage harvest a success:

Ag Credit

  • Sandy Lenke
  • Mandy Stacy
  • Kathy Talbert

Allen County Farm Bureau

  • Todd Hager

FFA Chapters

  • Gibsonburg FFA Chapter
  • Lakota FFA Chapter
  • Oak Harbor FFA Chapter
  • Woodmore FFA Chapter

Fulton County Farm Bureau

  • Roger Snyder

Lorain County Farm Bureau

  • Dan Grim
  • Eric Grim

Lucas County Farm Bureau

  • Jerry Hannewald
  • Bill Myers
  • Bill Schweitzer

Luckey Farmers Cooperative

Montgomery County Farm Bureau

  • Kevin Dull

Ohio Farm Bureau Office and Field Staff

  • Pearle Burlingame
  • Anita Cook
  • Joe Cornely
  • Amanda Denes
  • Scott Donaldson
  • Rebecca Everman
  • Darren Frank
  • Allen Gahler
  • Katie Grove
  • Nick Kennedy
  • Gayle Lewis
  • Christy Montoya
  • Tammy Moore
  • Roy Norman
  • Adam Sharp
  • Jennifer Smith
  • Jill Smith
  • Dan Toland
  • John Torres
  • Connie Ward

Ottawa County Farm Bureau

  • Wes and Judy Gahler
  • Mike Libben
  • Trent Rothert

Pickaway County Farm Bureau

  • Rom Hastings
  • Polter Berry Farm
  • Danny and Carol Polter

Ross County Farm Bureau

  • Jim Bluck

Sandusky County Farm Bureau

  • Raymond Bermudez
  • Jerry Cunningham
  • Burdell Knipp
  • Daryl and Cate Knipp
  • Michael Yeagle

Stark County Farm Bureau

  • Jim Halter
  • Ron Hill
  • Tom Seifert, Jr.