Vashon food bank ends farm program

The Vashon food bank’s farm behind Granny’s Attic will no longer be used to grow food for the organization, according to Vashon Maury Community Food Bank Executive Director Robbie Rohr.

On Monday, Rohr said that the 2-acre plot of the land the food bank began preparing for farming three years ago, required too much work and was too expensive. After a year of work on amending the soil, the farm supplied produce to the food bank for the first time last year.

The food bank employed a farm manager, whose employment ended with the decision, as well as a seasonal part-time assistant for the summer months.

“The gist of the issue was we had a special committee who looked at the costs and (one of the board members) said something along the lines of, ‘Is what we’re doing in our wheelhouse?’ Meaning basically, is this our purpose? And the answer was ‘no,’” Rohr said.

She said that the purpose of the food bank is to provide food.

“Procure and distribute,” Rohr said. “That’s what we do best.”

She said the project was not only expensive, but also took time away from that true mission of providing food.

Rohr said the food bank’s new approach has three parts: purchasing more food during the off-season when produce is not growing, joining with Master Gardeners to tend to the group’s garden at Sunrise Ridge and use produce from that garden, as well as working proactively to solicit and coordinate produce donations from local farmers.

“We want to work more closely with the community to channel fresh, local produce,” Rohr said.

The farm behind Granny’s Attic was made possible in the spring of 2014 after Norm Mathews, the owner of Vashon Thriftway, approached former food bank Executive Director Yvonne Pitrof with the idea to let the organization use a portion of the 5 acres of land, which he also owns.

Zero Waste Vashon is using another portion of Matthews’ land for its experiments and research into sustainability and the reuse of waste.

The agreement allowed the food bank to use the land without paying rent, but it was still responsible for water and covering farm expenses. A $30,000 grant from the Seattle Foundation awarded in 2014 helped get the project off the ground.

“We’re happy to partner with another organization or the public,” Rohr said. “It’s not that we’re not willing to work with the land, but we just don’t have the money.