In 2009, the farm economy was doing well. Corn and soybean harvest yields were the highest on record, and winter wheat tied the yield record. But the overall economy was struggling and farmers in western Ohio’s Miami County were looking for a way to help their community.
Farmer and Miami County Farm Bureau board member Dan Sturgill recalls Miami County Farm Bureau board members discussing a program in another state where farmers would drive a semi-truck around the county to different farms, and the farmers would unload their crop into the truck for five seconds, then sell the grain and share the proceeds with the community. But Miami County wanted to put its own twist on it and desired a program that was easier to execute. They came up with Bushels for Hunger.
Now in its fifth year, Bushels for Hunger is a way for farmers to give back to the community by donating bushels of their soybeans, corn and wheat. When they deliver their crop to program partner Troy Elevator, a division of Mennel Milling Company, the elevator keeps track of who has donated, how many bushels were given and the price per bushel that day, then sells the grain. The collective money from the sales are combined at the end of harvest, and three local food banks receive a check. Giving cash allows the food banks to buy exactly what they need. Miami County Farm Bureau has raised more than $30,000 for community needs since the program’s inception.
“Pantries have been hit hard and ‘How can we give?’ is the thought. It’s a no pressure program for farmers,” Sturgill said.
Bushels for Hunger is attracting other community partners like Miami County Park District. Seed, fertilizer and pest control products were donated, and farmers did the planting and the harvest on land the district set aside. This is the third year the Park District has contributed, plus it publicizes the efforts to its patrons. The county Farm Bureau also partners with the Health Partners Free Clinic, which designates two acres earmarked for Bushels for Hunger and the proceeds from the harvest provide funds for nutrition education for the clinic.
Cindy Miller is executive director of Covington Outreach, which has twice received financial help from Bushels for Hunger.
“The pantry benefits: The money keeps shelves full. We can go out and buy more than we would have been able to because of their generosity. We are an emergency pantry and demand can fluctuate,” Miller said, noting Covington Outreach uses both canned and fresh food.
Covington Outreach serves 70 families a month. In addition to food needs, it also helps families with rent and utilities and its back-to-school program provides book bags, supplies and fees. There also are programs at the holidays and for senior citizens.
Bushels for Hunger has “been wonderful. Our core mission is the food bank. It is why we exist, but then we branch out. Area organizations and businesses have been wonderful. We couldn’t do what we do without community support,” Miller said.
Sturgill has donated grain each of the five years and says being able to farm is a blessing. “Yes there are tough years. Someone is in hard times and by the grace of God it could be me. I feel compelled to give. It’s an easy way to give, and I know it’s going to go somewhere to help and not pass through third party hands,” he added.
“We’ve had great cooperation with Troy Elevator, and we plan for this program to continue. It would be nice if there would be neighboring counties that would pick up on this. It’s so simple to do and simple to give. There are willing elevators out there as well,” he said.
Farm Bureau Organization Director Mandy Havenar said she is amazed at the generosity of the farmers. “We are so thankful for the giving spirit of our farmers here in Miami County. We could have never dreamed that in five years we would be talking about a donation of over $30,000 to our local food banks,” Havenar said. “When I think of all the meals our farmers have provided over the years, it reaffirms to me that farmers are always willing to help their neighbor or community.”
To follow all the activities of Miami County Farm Bureau, call 937-335-1471 or facebook.com/MiamiFarmBureau.