Harvest will spoil without helping hands

By Amy Reid

34 acres of carrots, potatoes and other veggies grown for food banks at Surrey farm When Jas Singh began growing food for the Surrey Food Bank in 2011, he produced 62,000 pounds of potatoes on three acres of land.

Now in year three, God’s Little Acre farm has grown to 34 acres and is expected to yield a crop of 265,000 pounds. The bounty, which includes carrots, red potatoes, green beans, mixed squash and cucumber, will be dispersed to several Lower Mainland food banks.
There’s only one problem: more hands are needed to pick the vegetables before they spoil.

“We don’t want to waste all of that crop,” Singh said. Already, 2,000 heads of cauliflower, 1,000 heads of broccoli and 1,000 heads of lettuce have gone bad. With a farm this size, Singh said there’s a lot of preharvest work and a massive amount of weeding to do. Current volunteers are busy with the farm’s upkeep, and more are needed for the food that’s ready to pick.

Singh is putting out a call to the public with the hope that people will help pick the produce, so it can make it onto food bank shelves.

“There’s 15,000 pounds of squash ready, 10 people here for an hour could knock that off,” he said.

He is hoping for 100 volunteers every Saturday and said volunteers will receive free produce as thanks.

For the past two years, Singh has funded the project by trucking on the weekends and in the winter.

This year, he hasn’t done that and has instead put all of his time into God’s Little Acre – all he has to his name is an old pickup truck.

He began farm preparation in February and for the last two months he’s been at God’s Little Acre seven days a week, literally from sun up to sun down.

To make the project self-sustainable, and to hopefully pay himself a minimal salary, Singh has grown four acres of pickling cucumbers that he is selling.

He urges the public to support God’s Little Acre by purchasing cucumbers.

“Everyone who comes to buy cucumbers I consider an absolute hero. Everybody loves this project, but it’s very hard. I won’t give up, but it’s hard – we need some help in here.”

He’s charging $28 for 20 pounds of cucumbers – and he’ll even throw in a bag of free carrots.

“Without the public’s help to buy the farm’s no-pesticide-herbicide dill cukes, the farm will fail,” Singh said.

“That’s what’s going to keep us alive.”

This year, the project survived because of various donors, but Singh knows it can’t continue to survive on that alone.

Singh said he can’t – and won’t – give up. “People said in year one, ‘Jas, you won’t make it to year two.’ Now we’re in year three and look what we’ve grown. Either you go big or you go home.”

What keeps him going? Knowing that he’s helping put fresh, locally grown produce on the kitchen tables of those in need, he said.

“I love what I’m doing here. It’s so rewarding.”
Singh’s dream for next year would be to get his hands on a seeder. Right now seeding is done entirely by hand.

He said the 265,000 pounds of vegetables the farm is expected to yield this year could be half a million pounds with the same number of man-hours if they had a seeder.

In addition to this year’s food bank bounty, Singh has also grown 60,000 pounds of pumpkins for two Surrey schools that they will sell to raise money for their inner city lunch programs.

Also this year, Singh has started a “Kid’s Farm,” located next door to God’s Little Acre, where teens and children are encouraged to visit and learn.

Volunteer days for picking produce are Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Wednesdays from 4 p.m. to dark, from now until Oct. 31. Special arrangements can be made for corporate groups.

Cucumbers are available to pickup daily. Call in advance to order or drop by Fridays or Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call 604-375-1172 to get involved, or email jassingh65@hotmail.com. (Courtesy NOW Newspaper Surrey)