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Love of Place: Feeding Those in Need

Rick Rarick, farm manager at Matthew 25 Farm, bases his life’s work on Matthew 25:35, a Bible verse that is special to him: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat.”

Matthew 25 uses its farms located in Tully and LaFayette to grow and harvest fresh fruits and vegetables for distribution free of charge to those in need. Over the course of the year, the resulting produce is delivered to food pantries and good-will organizations across Central New York.

Throughout its ten-year history, Rarick found that demands for the farm’s crops were continuing to surge. This led him to face an increasing challenge — how to efficiently grow more produce while navigating Central New York’s irregular weather and persistent pests. The answer came in the form of a hoop house: an in-ground greenhouse funded in part by a Community Foundation grant.

“We are now able to control things that were once unpredictable, such as temperature changes and deer, that would have at one time severely damaged our crop,” said Rarick. “We can now also plant a month early and extend the end of growing seasons by about a month.

Rarick and his volunteers are finding that this new addition is helping the farm to increase yields by about 8,000 to 10,000 pounds per year. Food pantries and churches in Onondaga, Madison and Tompkins counties are reaping the rewards by increasing their stock for the benefit of those who are considered food insecure.

Food insecurity is defined as the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. Within the three-county region the farm serves, approximately 14 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, according to the United States Census Bureau. And based on the Food Bank of Central New York’s Hunger Assessment, 30 percent of children under the age of 18 are considered food insecure in the region. Lack of access to healthy food increases one’s likelihood of becoming obese or facing other poor health outcomes.

While the art of farming is often grueling, for Rarick, it is worth all the hard work to meet with people and hear their stories.

“The personal connection is what I love the best,” said Rarick. “Obviously, I love gardening, I love being outside. I love being independent, but I’ve always loved helping people. That is why we do the work that we do.”