Millwood man honors friend with 1,898 pound potato donation | Community Spirit
Last week a Millwood man donated 1,898 pounds of potatoes that he grew in his own back yard to Second Harvest. For Jim Youngman the donation was about more than feeding the hungry, it was about keeping a promise to a friend.
In May 2012, Youngman was visiting with a good friend and fellow Vietnam veteran shortly before he died of cancer. Youngman's friend asked him about the land behind Youngman's home and then asked him to do him a favor.
“He asked me, 'Would you do something for me?',” said Youngman. “So to honor his memory I did what I did.”
So to honor a request made by a dear friend to grow a crop for Second Harvest, Youngman purchased a tractor and started tilling about an acre of land. When the Millwood community got wind of what Youngman and his wife, Paige, were up to they stepped up to lend a hand.
“I chose potatoes because they're a basic food source and they're healthy for people,” said Youngman. Northwest seed donated a 50 pound bag of Burbank Russet seeds to help Youngman get his crop going. After Youngman installed a small irrigation system, members of the Millwood City Council petitioned for Youngman to be given a reduced irrigation rate to make it more affordable. When it was time to harvest the russets, Justus Bag provided all the bags to package them up.
In order to get his memorial potato crop to Second Harvest he worked with Kate Burke, an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer that is managing a program called Plant a Row.
“It encourages gardeners to plant a little bit extra and donate back to us,” said Burke. She reports that about 500 local gardeners have donated produce from their gardens to Second Harvest this year. Fresh produce flies off the shelves of local food banks when it's available.
“We don't get a lot of things that aren't non-perishable,” said Burke. Through the Plant a Row program, food banks were able to stock leafy greens and garlic this spring and early summer and are now able to provide their patrons with cucumbers and zucchini among other vegetables. Through the fall, local gardeners will be providing hearty winter squash.
“The hope is that Second Harvest will be able to continue the program,” said Burke. Plant a Row has been in place since 2006, but it's only been in the last three years that there has been someone staffed to focus on it. However, the position was funded through a three year contract with AmeriCorps VISTA and come November that funding will be gone.
For now, gardeners like Youngman are still bringing in crops. Last Wednesday, Youngman was joined by Burke and some other volunteers to gather the final potato crop of the year. It took a year and half, but Youngman was able to keep his promise to honor the memory of his friend.
Youngman hopes that his experience will inspire others to Plant a Row and he wants them to know that there are simple ways they can give back to their community.
If you're interested in planting a row for Second Harvest contact Kate Burke at (509) 252-6272 or by email at email@example.com.