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I helped man the Master Gardener Help Desk early one spring morning. The morning was slow and a couple of us got to chatting and it was here that I learned about the Varney Farm. Intrigued, I asked more about it and eventually I had a chance to visit the farm, meet the owner and came away inspired.

The Varney’s have private land that they rented to a farmer. One year his eggplant crop was quite large. He had his share, the Varney’s gave away what they could and still had more. They contacted Foodshare in Hartford who gladly picked up the surplus. Foodshare has been the food bank for Hartford and Tolland counties in Connecticut for about 30 years. Their goal is to not only feed the hungry but to help be a part of the solution to end poverty.

            “Foodshare will work to end hunger as a part of the overall community effort to alleviate poverty in Greater Hartford.”

The Varney’s were intrigued and looked into Foodshare further. They realized the demand for food for those in need was great. Foodshare relies on CT’s farmers to supply some and folks, like the Varney’s, who have land to grow crops, harvest and then give to Foodshare. In 2007, they began a cooperative effort with Foodshare.

What is the operation like? I visited them on a beautiful New England sunny, summer morning, met Sandy Varney, owner, and Bill Marshall, Master Gardener who helps oversee the farm’s operations. Various volunteer groups were out tending the fields. Sandy, related to me that it takes one person one hour to hoe one row.  Volunteer hours are from 9-12 noon on a Wednesday. One person can hopefully complete 3 rows.They have 100 rows of crops.

Weeding is demanding and in this type of operation it is vitally important in order to harvest a viable crop. Many hands make light work. We all know that saying and at this farm it is evident. Corporations have community outreach services where employees are given time to perform some type of community service. Folks from some of these companies come here and help out. Other community groups participate as well. Foodshare does all the coordination.

They do not use pesticides, herbicides or insecticides and rely on nature to provide water. When non beneficial bugs show up they use powdered lime and treat plant by plant and by hand. They keep it simple and are very aware of weather patterns and what gets created in their plot of land.

What do they grow? Eggplant, summer squash, winter squash, peppers, zucchini, and this year pumpkins. During the course of one growing season, this farm can harvest about 20,000+ lbs food for Foodshare. In 2008, their best year, they produced 28,000 lbs. To date, spanning the last 8 years, they have produced 131,925 lbs to Foodshare. Amazing isn’t it what one small farmer and farm can grow, harvest and contribute? With help, of course.

The Varney Farm needs volunteers: Do you home school and need an agricultural project? a community service project? Does your company support outreach efforts? Master Gardeners can contribute and earn volunteer hour credits. Please consider this farm! Get out in the elements, you’ll get sweaty and you’ll get dirty, sing while you hoe and reconnect with nature and all she gives. It’s worth it.

To volunteer please contact Foodshare: 

450 Woodland Avenue
Bloomfield, CT 06002-1342
Tel: 860-286-9999
Fax: 860-286-7860
Varney Farm is located in South Windsor CT.
Enjoy. Judith
Judith Dreyer, MS, BSN, Writer, Speaker, Holistic Health Consultant and Workshop Presenter, Master Gardener. ©all rights reserved. 





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