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Posted: 11/14/12

Local volunteers helped pick squash Nov. 4 at the Van Houtte farm in Bruce Township. The food will be given to needy families.

(Observer photo by Marianne Weiss)

Forgotten Harvest gleans for
the good of those who need it

Observer Special Writer
      In Bruce Township last Saturday, local volunteers gathered at George Van Houtte's Farm on 33 Mile Road to collect the remaining crops, now that fruit and vegetable stands are closing for the season.
       The dedicated volunteers finished packing a large truck for Forgotten Harvest in a matter of hours.
       In metro-Detroit, one in five people face hunger every day.  Forgotten Harvest is an organization that works to gather up produce from farms at the end of the harvest season and leftover food from companies so it does not go to waste. The goal is to feed hungry families with the help of local individuals and corporate donors.
       Ryan Rowinski has been the farm produce manager at Forgotten Harvest for a year and a half.
       "We had a dozen volunteers come help today," he said.
       During early November mornings the farmland outside is chilly so the volunteers gathered the crops quickly.
       "They pick what is left in the fields and we pack it up. We probably got 20,000 pounds of winter squash today," he said.
       "We have 12 farms that participate," said Rowinski, who started the farm program at Forgotten Harvest.
       Next, the food is brought to a distribution facility in Oak Park, which then fills 42 refrigerated trucks to distribute to 260 different agencies in the metro-Detroit area.
       "Our agencies then give the food out to those in need," he said.
       Across Macomb County alone there are more than 600 businesses that have roadside produce stands or farm-based enterprises employing more than 3,000 people. Along with small and large companies, restaurants, schools and entertainment facilities, Forgotten Harvest has more than 455 food donors throughout Michigan. 
       Some companies that have donated 5,000 pounds of food or more include: Absopure, Beaumont Hospital, Blake Farms, Nino Salvaggio, Olive Garden, the Palace of Auburn Hills, Don Van Houtte Farms, Kroger, Sara Lee, Entenmann's, Spartan Stores, Sweetheart Bakery, Gordon Food Service, Henry Ford Museum, Honey Baked Ham, Joe Louis Arena, Lakeside Produce and George Van Houtte Farms. 
       Van Houtte, who is a graduate of Romeo High School, grew up in Bruce Township. His farm is known for growing organic produce and for using a minimal amount of insecticide. Van Houtte is the owner of the Northern Farm Market, as well as vegetable farms in Bruce Township. He employs about two dozen people on his farms and at his roadside produce stand just north of 35 Mile Road on Van Dyke.
       Ed and Nicetas Proctor, longtime friends of Van Houtte, wanted to help out. The farmland borders M-53 and as the nearby freeway traffic raced by in the distance, they were both busy picking squash on the Van Houtte Farm.
       "We told George that we had volunteered for Habitat for Humanity and then he said he still needed some people to help for this on the farm this weekend," said Ed, who is retired and lives in the Village of Romeo. "Within three hours we picked quite a bit. More was gathered at Van Houtte's produce stand to fill the truck up."
       The couple worked two weekends in a row helping out.
       Martin Decker from Armada was busy driving a tractor on the farm helping out.
       "This is my second time volunteering for this," said Decker who has worked locally as a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning contractor for more than 23 years. "We picked acorn, spaghetti and carnival squash this morning. It looks good."
       Established in 1990, Forgotten Harvest supplies homeless and domestic shelters, food pantries, soup kitchens, children's homes, senior assisted living centers and group homes in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. 
       In order to fill increased demand, they want to increase the number of refrigerated vehicles to accommodate a larger amount of food. Another goal the Forgotten Harvest organization has is to improve their production facilities to add more prepared and bulk fresh food.
       Memorial donations are accepted in honor of friends and loved ones. A donation of $20 a month helps Forgotten Harvest feed three children a month.
       For more information see their website, or to volunteer, call their volunteer manager, Marci Fitch, at (248) 967-1500 Ext. 125.

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Retrieved 7/29/2015 at 8:03:33 PM.
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