Winter veggie cravings and Farm to Freezer

Something’s wrong with me. It’s the thick of winter (or at least it was a few days ago, before 70 degrees rolled into Washington this week) and all I want is vegetables. I’m craving them. Perhaps I have a vitamin deficiency, or just a masochistic urge to eat the very thing that is not-so-available this time of year, at least locally. Why am I not craving a good hunting venture and squirrel-eating festival? That’s what people are supposed to do in the winter: hibernate, eat and develop an extra layer of fat for warmth.

But here I am, exploring the art of juicing and veggie smoothie-making with my new blender. (Advice, recipes and extra Vitamixes you’re not using are all welcome!)

But what these winter veggie cravings really remind me of is that vegetables CAN be available in the winter, with a little — or sometimes a lot — of preparation and effort. Enter Cheryl Kollin, whom I met at the Farming at the Metro’s Edge conference earlier this month.

Cheryl Kollin vacuum-sealing produce for winter use.

Cheryl Kollin vacuum-sealing produce for winter use.

Cheryl’s Full Plate Ventures launched the Farm to Freezer program with Bethesda Cares, a nonprofit that finds permanent housing for the homeless, after hearing about the center’s feast-or-famine conundrum.

She met Sue Kirk a year ago at a local TEDxManhattan viewing party at Bethesda Green, where Sue explained that the organization received more fresh produce than it could handle during the farmers market season — and none at all over the winter. A food-minded environmentalist, Kollin was sure there had to be a solution, at least at a local level. She worked with Bethesda Cares to recruit volunteers each week to gather, chop, blanch, freeze and otherwise preserve the leftover produce for kitchen use in the winter months. She’s looking at scaling up Farm to Freezer to serve a wider community need.

Volunteers processing food during the summer.

Volunteers processing food during the summer.

In just 20 weeks of action, the Farm to Freezer program gleaned 5,100 pounds of produce and processed it to feed some 2,500 homeless individuals. Kollin said she wanted to fight the waste that claims some 40 percent of food grown in this country while providing healthful, freezer-ready products for the local homeless population. In the process, Kollin and the volunteers developed a model that could be applied to almost any farmers market — or supermarket, for that matter — that has people in need nearby.
She will be speaking about the project to a nationwide audience at this year’s TedXManhattan conference on Saturday, Feb. 16. The day-long conference, called Changing the Way we Eat, will be webcast live from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. If you’re interested in hearing Cheryl’s and other presentations, you can:
  • Attend a free local viewing party at Bethesda Green. You can attend the whole day or just stop by for part of the day. Cheryl will talk at about 4:40 p.m. for, she says, 12 minutes. For more details and to RSVP, sign up on Bethesda Green Meet-Up. Space is limited.
  • Watch any part of the conference on your computer live on Feb. 16 via this link:
  • Watch any part of the conference recorded after the conference via this link:

Either way, I encourage you to check out Farm to Freezer’s blog and to follow Cheryl’s progress as she works to grow the concept and the program. There will be several opportunities to volunteer as a food gatherer or processor in the summer months, if you’re interested. And look out for the articles I hope to write about it, too.


2 Responses to “Winter veggie cravings and Farm to Freezer”
  1. Hey just wanted to give you a brief heads up and let you know
    a few of the pictures aren’t loading correctly. I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue.
    I’ve tried it in two different web browsers and both show the same results.

    • whitneypipkin says:

      Thanks for the heads up! I will look at that as soon as I can… though I am about to hit the road for a couple weeks. It’s probably a linking issue. Thanks! – Whitney

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