Less fortunate families are reaping the fruits of farmers’ labor after lower sales at markets left many farmers with more food to give.
Manna Food Center received 26 percent more produce than usual after the June 29 storm, about 1,000 more pounds, because many regular farmers market customers could not refrigerate their perishables.
The storm left at least 428,500 Montgomery County residents without electricity.
Because farmers already had picked their produce, markets saw about the same number of vendors, but not the same crowds, said Natalie Corbin, Manna’s director of development.
The attendance at Rockville’s farmers market dropped significantly, said Mike Coppersmith, the city’s special operations supervisor, although he could not provide attendance numbers. Normally, about 1,500 to 2,000 people show up, he added.
Montgomery Village Foundation’s market, which normally attracts about 900 to 1,000 shoppers, saw about 450 to 500, said Duncan Mullis, who runs the market for the foundation.
Manna has developed a relationship with about a dozen of the farmers markets in the county, so farmers can donate unsold produce to those in need, Corbin said.
By distributing food to families at locations countywide, such as homeless shelters and food banks, Manna feeds about 800 families each week; each family receives about 70 pounds of food.
Although Manna normally collects about 3,800 pounds of produce from local farms and orchards each weekend, that weekend the nonprofit collected 4,800 pounds, Corbin said.
Westmoreland Produce, which has two farms in Hague and Warsaw, Va., sold considerably less produce at both the Olney and Bethesda markets, said Cristina Medina, whose father owns the farms.
Although Westmoreland Produce usually donates hundreds of dollars of leftover produce to Manna, they donated a lot more after the storm, Medina said.
But Medina said farmers realize they always will have food that goes unsold, and she and her family are glad to be able to give.
“We are more than happy to know that Manna is serving people in need, and that [our food] is going to people who will need it,” she said. “We feel grateful to know that our food isn’t going to waste.”