First Fruits Farm Donated 2.4 Million Pounds Of Food In 2022, They're Looking To Top That In 2023
BALTIMORE COUNTY - In Northern Baltimore County, less than five miles from the Pennsylvania border, a non-profit farm is working to improve access to fresh fruits and vegetables across the mid-Atlantic region. Last year, First Fruits Farm donated 2.4 million pounds of food to pantries, churches, and more. This year, they're looking to increase that number.
On Wednesday, to celebrate its 25th anniversary, the farm announced a massive expansion to its barn. This project is the farm's largest capital investment to date. The existing barn/shop building is currently under construction and will nearly double the square footage to over 13,000 SF on the 203-acre farm property in Freeland, MD.
Wes Krock, Chief Operating Officer and Project Manager for the expansion, says this project will transform all aspects of the operation.
"This capital investment will be a game-changer for the Farm and transformational for all aspects of our operations, providing the necessary infrastructure to better manage our expanded production operations; provide a safer, more efficient workspace for our volunteers; offer new volunteer opportunities; facilitate donations from other local farmers to our network; and better serve our community partners," Krock said.
Features of the expanded barn include a production line for packaging, large open and enclosed storage areas with refrigeration, a new loading dock to accommodate vehicles of all sizes, an equipment/repair shop, additional offices, and restrooms.
The need for expansion became clear to First Fruits Farm as many families struggled with food security during the pandemic. Before the pandemic, the Farm's distribution network included approximately 35 partners who would pick up produce in large bulk bins. By 2021, the farm had reached 81 total partners; by 2022, the Farm had tripled its distribution network to more than 130 partners in Maryland and the Mid-Atlantic region.
Richard Bernstein, First Fruits Farm Executive Director, and Jamison Hunsberger, Director of Farm Operations, said the pandemic severely strained supply chain logistics and emphasized the need for local non-profit farms.
The pandemic was a stark reminder of why our mission and local agriculture are so critical to the people we serve and with whom we partner," Bernstein said.
"The need for fresh, healthy food has increased exponentially, and the number of farms donating or providing reduced-cost produce is rapidly declining. This facility will help us more efficiently process higher volumes of food and allow for better product management from the point of harvest to the final product ready for delivery," Hunsberger added.
The funding for this project has been secured in full with support from several foundations and the Farm's first-ever support from the State of MD State – legislature and governor's budgets.
The project is slated for completion by Spring 2023. The new barn will impact operations for the 2023 harvest season and years to come. With the expansion, First Fruit Farm will "have the ability to grow more, give more, and serve more."