Volunteers from Digital Measures recently spent an afternoon weeding and staking tomato plants, moving the pipes used to water fields, and hoeing the broccoli patch at The Farm, The Hunger Task Force’s 200-acre farm in Franklin, Wis. There, a small staff supplemented by local volunteers tend crops to grow the fresh produce that Milwaukee’s Hunger Task Force distributes to its local network of food pantries, soup kitchens and homeless shelters.
“It was interesting to see the hoop houses, and how they maximize the number of plants in such a small area,” said Andy Glassman, Back End Architect. Sarah Christman, Farmer at The Farm, shared that 1,000 tomato plants grow in each of two hoop houses, and that each plant produces 30 to 50 pounds of fruit in a season. In other words, The Farm provides between 60,000 and 100,000 pounds of tomatoes to its local network each growing season.
If that sounds impossible, see the photos above and left. The Farm uses a string trellis system for its tomato plants, supporting upward growth by clamping the plant to the string at strategic intervals. This encourages upward growth, which increases yields, decreases exposure to fungal diseases and makes the fruit easier to harvest.
“It was nice to get outside and away from the office for an afternoon,” said Brad Wadsworth, Infrastructure Engineer. Many DMers especially enjoy outdoor volunteering opportunities as a change of pace from computer time.
“I like to get outside and do something physical,” notes Kirby Fitch, Technical Product Manager and volunteer committee member. “It gets me out of my head.”
“At Hunger Task Force, we utilize over 16,000 volunteers a year—5,400 of those folks volunteered last year at The Farm,” said Sarah Anderson, Farm Community Development Officer. “Volunteers are what makes our farm run. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to operate.” In the past five years, The Farm has provided more than three million pounds of fresh produce to Milwaukeeans in need.
Digital Measures offers DMers six to ten volunteer opportunities per year, and the committee works to provide a wide variety of experiences, from farm work to serving meals to the homeless. DMers are encouraged to spend 12 to 16 work hours per year giving back to the community, whether through Digital Measures-sponsored opportunities or with organizations they care about. Learn more about DMer culture here.