Blogpost: God’s Little Acre Farm
We often hear about World Hunger and extreme poverty but seldom do we, here in North America, expect to find it in our own backyard.
A little while back, I stood and watched from a third floor window, as a man dove into a dumpster and retrieved what looked like a slice of discarded pizza. He took a couple of bites. Chewed on it for a bit. Examined what was left in his hand. Seemed to consider another bite…of that disgusting bit of food that had been cast out by another…and then shaking his head, glanced over at a seagull hovering nearby and tossed the waste in the gull’s direction.
As the Gull screeched in ecstasy and picked away at the morsel, the man shuffled on down the alley, dragging a shopping cart that was overflowing with what may have been all his worldly belongings.
It breaks my heart to know that there are people in this Land, this Country and even in my Community who cannot afford to buy food. They are the poverty-stricken. Sometimes they are homeless, living on our streets and despite whatever safety measures our societies put in place, these people are still going hungry.
I used to suspect the conditions of our poverty-stricken were of their own doing, they made poor choices, or were lazy. They’re different and could be dangerous. Their situation is depressing. I would look away and sometimes cross the street to avoid them. I realize now that my attitude toward the poor and homeless was mostly fear based.
Some time ago I decided to stop passing judgement, to stop wondering what circumstances could bring someone in our society to pull discarded food from the trash.
I accept that there are (and likely will always be) people in our society who lack the ability to care for themselves. Lately, instead of turning away in horror and disgust, I’ve started to turn towards them to ask…how can I help?
I cannot fix what is wrong. I cannot make it right. But I can join with others who are like minded…people who’s hearts break for those neighbours of ours who are hungry. Instead of turning away, I choose to join with people who are willing to offer up a bit of their time to help those who are struggling. I believe we need to accept these vulnerable members of our community, as neighbours in distress who are in desperate need of an act of kindness.
Shortly after I saw the man pulling food from the trash, I was serving at one of my Church’s Community Meals and that’s when I first heard about Mr Jas Singh of God’s Little Acre Farm in Surrey BC. Jas is a man who was open-minded and brave enough to follow a vision. He is someone who with a happy heart, is willing to live barely above the poverty line himself so that others may have ‘fresh food’ in their bellies.
The key words here that sing in my heart, are ‘fresh food’. As in real foods, whole foods, natural foods. Fresh foods that come straight from the earth. Foods that have nutritional value. Foods that are undeniably healthy.
It has always bothered me that our Food Banks are mostly filled with foods that lack nutritional value. It’s a known fact that the cheapest and easiest food to come by, are ones that are highly processed, packaged, and unhealthy. With the ever-growing numbers of people who rely on local Food Banks and Soup Kitchens, these service organizations are forced to choose food by price over nutritional value. There definitely is a lack of nutritious ‘fresh food’ in the diets of low-income families.
For me, as a Food Blogger, the point of the Whole Foods Revolution is not only about eating better myself but it’s about encouraging everyone to eat better, fresher, more nutritious unprocessed foods. Sadly, those with the greatest need for fresh nutritious food, are the ones who can least afford it.
When it comes to offering impoverished people less nutritious, cheap food, are we supposed to say oh well, food is food and beggars can’t be choosers? That’s what I was afraid of…until I heard about Jas Singh and God’s Little Acre Farm.
It started early in 2011 after Jas approached a local Food Bank with a promise of ‘fresh food’. He had secured the use of a thirty acre hay-field, two tractors (one without a clutch) and some minimal farm equipment. His plan was to work the fields and then bring the harvest to the Food Bank to distribute to the poor.
That first year, Jas worked the fields alone, doing most everything by hand. He planted a three acre section (which was all he could afford to grow). During the day, he worked at other local farms to support himself and after work, he spent his time on the newly founded God’s Little Acre Farm.
The 2011 season yielded 62,000 lbs of potatoes, all of which got donated to the Surrey Food Bank.
The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.
In the off-season, before year two, Jas drove a semi-truck to support his family and save some money for the farm. He fell short of his funding goal in 2012 but that didn’t stop him. He continued to work as a trucker on the weekends and farmed GLA Surrey the other 5 days of the week.
After hearing the story, a few volunteers showed up and the farm started to get a bit of media attention.
In the 2012 season, a ten-acre section of the farm got planted with a mix of vegetables. The farm yielded about 70,000 lbs of vegetables which got donated to various local food banks and community soup kitchens.
In 2013, the farm expanded from thirty acres to thirty-four acres. Every single acre got sowed, mostly by hand or with garden seeders. As the farm grew, things started to fall behind. A plea to the public went out in a media release and 580 people showed up in one day to get the weeding caught up on the farm.
Jas says that day when so many people from all walks of life, of faith and non-faith backgrounds, showed up, was his happiest day on the farm. The Sikh temple fed the volunteers and a Muslim group came out later in the evening to help. After that day, God’s Little Acre Farm has had a steady stream of volunteers who show up weekly.
In the 2013 season, the farm yielded about 200,000 lbs of vegetables which got donated to needy people, soup kitchens, food banks as well as some schools for lunch programs.
Here we are in 2014, the fourth season for God’s Little Acre Farm. The goal this year is to produce about 500,000 lbs of vegetables for charities. At the beginning of this year, GLA Surrey had 5 farms and a total of 70 acres. Another 20 acres has since been added. At this time, God’s Little Acre Farm encompasses a total of 90 acres.
Jas no longer drives truck. He manages to sustain himself by growing and selling crops on the side. He has pledged to always keep God’s Little Acre at zero administration costs and refuses to take a salary from the charity side of the farm.
I have no problem living in the same poverty spectrum as the people we serve
One of Mr Jas Singh’s goals, is to have Gods Little Acre Farm produce enough fresh vegetables to supply every needy person, soup kitchen, food bank and school lunch program within a 75 km (45 mile) radius. That’s everyone living in poverty from Vancouver to Chilliwack.
And he doesn’t plan to stop there. Earlier this year Jas travelled 1880 km (1168 miles) to Yorkton Saskatchewan where he helped to start a God’s Little Acre farm in that community. His goal is to have GLA go National.
Mr Jas Singh…a man with vision along with a team of local volunteers who, seed, weed and harvest crops of fresh vegetables to give to needy people, local food banks, community soup kitchens and school lunch programs. That my friends is God’s Little Acre.
See you at the farm! ~Jas Singh
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