Many moving companies take a very serious view of their responsibilities to their community and the wider world, but few have taken their involvement as far as JK Moving in Washington, DC.
In 2018 the company started the JK Community Farm with the sole intention of helping to feed local people who could not afford enough to eat. It’s been a huge success.
Samantha Kuhn is the executive director. She worked on a community farm while at college and said that she was aware of a lot of problems for local food pantries in receiving access to fresh food. “There is not enough fresh food at the food pantries and a lot of the fresh food they receive comes from grocery stores so is at the end of its life,” she explained. “Everything else is packaged and processed so my opinion it is hurting the families more than helping.”
She explained that three years ago, the farm was just a field. “JK bought the 150-acre site for the community farm,” she explained. “We started with the help of a local organic farmer and, at first, just farmed a four-acre patch of land.” Samantha explained that they did a survey to find out what food people wanted that they couldn't afford. “We wanted to make sure we were growing the things that they were used to eating.”
The farm is run by two full-time members of staff, Samantha and her farm manager. The rest of the labour is provided by volunteers. “In our first year we had 700 volunteers to help with the planting and harvesting,” she said. “In the second year we had 3000 volunteers and expanded to farming seven acres. Most of the volunteers come from corporate groups, local organisations and the church. “We can take up to 100 volunteers at a time.”
“We grow over 40 varieties,” said Samantha. “Today we have been harvesting peppers, broccoli and kale but we have watermelon, cucumbers, onions, everything really.” The farm also includes a protein side with cows, chickens and pigs all processed locally with the meat again distributed through the food pantries.
The farm now has the addition of greenhouses for bringing on seedlings and high tunnels that allow the growing season to be extended throughout the winter months.
Once harvested, the food is collected by the food pantries. “Last year 49,000 people had access to our food,” explained Samantha. “But this year we have tried to ramp up production because coronavirus has increased food insecurity. This year we will feed four times as many.” The cash required to run the farm comes from donations, fund raising events and commercial partners, such as JK Moving. Every $35 donation enables the farm to grow an additional two weeks of food for a person in need.
To maintain social distancing during the crisis the farm had to reduce its volunteer force to ten people a shift. But by increasing the number of shifts it has still been able to donate 35,275 pounds of healthy, locally grown produce and protein since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. During this year’s harvest it will be able to extend the staffing level to 40 volunteers per shift.
“We are committed to creating a safe environment for our volunteers while also meeting the large and surging need for food in our community. That’s why we are conservatively increasing the number of volunteers for each shift and continuing to have more shifts so we can still meet our harvest goals,” explained Samantha.
“We will definitely keep growing the farm as there's so much need and so much food insecurity,” said Samantha. “We are seeing spikes in chronic disease just because of the quality of the food that people have access to. Our ten-year goal is to be donating 500,000 pounds of food every year.” This year the farm hit 135,000 pounds so is well on its way.
The farm is also starting an herb program, focussing on food and nutrition education programs, and transforming its barn into an education centre, food prep and teaching kitchen.
Photos (top to bottom):
Josh Rose, JK’s senior VP global sales and his wife planting
The farm now has greenhouses for bringing on seedlings
A young volunteer