CG Column: OU students dig into sustainable farming at Good Earth
By CG Commentary Editor Lane Robbins
On Monday, Ohio University’s Hillel Foundation for Jewish Life sponsored a service project at Good Earth Farm. A group of OU students, including me, joined the farm staff to build greenhouses for the upcoming planting season.
Located just off the bike path at the north end of Athens, Good Earth provides fresh, organic food to local pantries and soup kitchens. The farm is a non-profit organization through the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd.
Many food pantries and soup kitchens serve food that is prepackaged and Good Earth offers healthy alternatives. This is very important work because healthy, organic food is often expensive and unavailable to low-income people. It is especially important in Southeast Ohio, which is one of the country’s poorest regions.
I did not help to build the greenhouse, but I worked with about 10 others spreading mulch between farm beds. The mulch went over leaves in one section and pieces of cardboard in the others. It was good, hearty work that involved trudging through light snow and mud for a few hours with shovels and heavy wheelbarrows.
Paul Clever and his wife, Sara, live at the farm. Clever is co-founder and manager of Good Earth. He obtains grants and speaks about the farm’s hunger projects and mission.
“We grow and glean and donate food to local food pantries; food that is high quality and picked for market quality,” Clever said. “In the process, we hope to educate people about where the food comes from, if nothing else [than] by just being a part of it.”
Good Earth leads volunteers in hunger-related work every week and seeks to strengthen our local emergency food system. In 2009, the farm grew and gleaned 15,000 pounds of high quality food for 25 food pantries, women’s shelters and other local centers in need. They hope to produce more in the future.
Now in its third season, the farm has thirty 100-foot by 3-foot raised beds for intensive vegetable planting and a four-acre space for field crops. There is a small, grass-based dairy operation in addition to about 30 laying hens, meat chickens, pigs, bees and a small “fleece” herd. The property also has a small orchard, berry bushes and an herb garden.
How much is a fast food meal or processed meal in a box compared to a fresh, organic meal? How much more time is it to prepare the latter? I feel like I spend an arm and a leg on healthy food, if only because I know it’s better for my physical and emotional well-being. Healthy food should not be a privilege only for those who can afford it.
Affordable, local and organic produce is a food justice issue and an environmental issue. It means that food does not have to travel across the country on trucks powered by polluting diesel fuel. It means that farmers, wildlife and consumers are not harmed by toxic residue left by chemical fertilizers on fruits and vegetables.
Good Earth Farm is leading the way to an equitable and sustainable future by providing healthy food to those who otherwise could not afford it.