Our project started when Master Gardener-trained Bill Zimmer and Norm Knaub cultivated parcels of land on their properties to grow produce to donate to area food banks. They continued on this path for 10 years, using their own funds and resources.
In 2018, Ken Lipson offered to use a portion of his property to grow food for the hungry and joined their effort. In 2019, gaining assistance from Penn State University, AmeriCorps, and various volunteer groups, we harvested 25,000 lbs. of fruit and produce (1/2 grown by PSU) and donated all to Centre County food distribution programs.
COVID-19 hit in 2020, shutting down all growing activity and volunteer support to TWnM from the University. Undaunted, Ken and Bill expanded their fields to maximize their output. With assistance in field preparation and equipment maintenance from Jim Boyce, and Karen Robinson assuming expanded volunteer and administrative responsibilities, the volunteer base of TWnM grew to over 50 people. Our grower properties increased to 5 and the Centre County food distribution centers we support to 19, as we grew over 15,000 lbs. of produce for the food insecure.
In 2021, Penn State was again able to donate vegetables from their research gardens and we had the benefit of our first group volunteering days. Tess Kutasz Christensen, a devoted volunteer, joined our Board and expanded our administrative team to manage volunteers, distribution, marketing and fundraising. Our output reached 33,000 lbs. with contributions from additional gardeners, including 1 acre of sweet corn from our newest field on Fox Hill Road.
2022 started with great promise. We incorporated as an 501(C)(3) non-profit and gained access to 2 new orchards, only to see a late Spring frost severely diminish our harvest. A mid-summer drought had a big impact on our crop output but we were still able to deliver 22,000 lbs. of vegetables and fruit against a goal that was well over twice that amount.
Our story is a story of community.
Landowners and volunteers are the backbone of our effort, but our food growing program would not exist at its current level without the financial and advisory support from Centre County business, philanthropic and education organizations.
Since 2019, funding for a major portion of our seeds, seedlings, equipment, and supplies has been provided through the generous support of the University Park Plaza Corporation. We are extremely grateful for the substantial funding we received in 2022 from 100+ Women Who Care – Centre County and Aramco Americas Corporation.
Many others have helped us along the way with the donation of money, goods and services, whose support we gratefully acknowledge.