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Agricultural News

Oklahoma Conservation Partners Join Regional Food Bank in Cover Crop Gleaning Pilot Program

Fri, 16 Jun 2017 17:05:52 CDT

Oklahoma Conservation Partners Join Regional Food Bank in Cover Crop Gleaning Pilot Program Today, the Oklahoma Food Banks and the Conservation Partnership announced they have joined together to fight hunger while conserving natural resources. Through Farm to Food Bank, a pilot project that implements practices that increase the health of soil, four Oklahoma farmers have volunteered to plant and donate up to eight acres of cover crops to the Oklahoma Food Banks.

Oklahomans struggling with hunger, eating healthy is not about not knowing what foods to choose; it is often about not being able to afford or not having access to more healthful choices,” said Katie Fitzgerald, chief executive officer of the Regional Food Bank. “That’s why this pilot program is so important.”

Farm to Food Bank is made possible through a partnership among the United States Department of Agriculture - Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS)*, the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts and the Oklahoma Conservation Commission. The seed for the project was donated by Green Cover Seed.

The Conservation Partnership sees this as being a revitalization of the stewardship ethic of natural resource conservation; that belief of taking care of the soil, water and air. This is more than about just feeding the soil or people.

“Soil health is based on feeding the community of organisms below the ground, just as the Oklahoma Food Banks are feeding the communities here in Oklahoma,” said Trey Lam, executive director of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission. “It seems a natural fit to partner with the Oklahoma Food Banks; we can do more when we work together.”

Jimmy Emmons, president of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts, agrees. He spoke with Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays about his part in this pilot program. According to Emmons, this project allows him as a producer to accomplish all his goals growing his crop, while doing so much more. You can listen to their conversation about the pilot program, by clicking or tapping the LISTEN BAR below at the bottom of this story.

“We know that improving the health of our soils is the key to being able to produce enough food to feed nine billion people by 2040,” said Emmons. “This pilot program is an excellent example of how conservation is key to fighting hunger.”

Emmons has come up with an experimental cocktail mix of plant species, that will cover his ground and at the same time, grow a variety of nutritious fruits and vegetables that will eventually be gleaned and donated to the Regional Food Bank. Emmons has developed many mixes over time, searching for what works best in his fields. He says the orginal mix for this project included approximately 15 different species, including melon, okra, squash, broccoli, cauliflour, kale and a variety of other greens.

The Food Bank will provide the gleaners, but it will be up to Emmons to coordinate when this all happens, which therein lies the challenges of this project.

"I assume when we start, we'll be busy daily, or at least two to three times a week," he said. "So, that's part of the reason it's a pilot. We'll learn from that and see how that is and maybe adjust the mix if there's problems. If not, maybe we'll add to it."

One in six Oklahomans has inconsistent access to food, which can lead to higher rates of obesity, diabetes, hypertension and other chronic diseases. As a result, Oklahoma ranks among the 10 worst states for many key health indicators, including cardiovascular and diabetes deaths.

Among households served by the Oklahoma Food Banks:

- 33 percent of client households have a member(s) with diabetes

- 57 percent of client households have a member(s) with high blood pressure

- 24 percent have a household member in poor health

- 63 percent have medical bills to pay

- 32 percent lack health insurance of any kind

- 83 percent of client households report purchasing the cheapest food available, even if they knew it wasn’t the healthiest option, in an effort to provide enough food for their household

- 66 percent had to choose between food and medicine/medical care

Last fiscal year, the Regional Food Bank and Community Food Bank distributed more than 73.1 million pounds of food and products through a network of more than 1,700 charitable feeding programs and schools across Oklahoma.

"The end of the day is, we'll have a wonderful cover crop to keep my ground covered so I can help my soil health, feed children and hungry people in Oklahoma," Emmons concluded. "That is just a gift from God and we're just very pleased to be a part of that with all the partners to help someone out who is that needy."

PHOTO CAPTION: OACD President and Cover Crop Pilot Participant Jimmy Emmons signs the MOU with Katie Fitzgerald of the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma and Eileen Bradshaw of the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma watching.

Source - Oklahoma Conservation Commission



Listen to Emmons and Hays discuss the technical aspects of this cover crop pilot program, click below
right-click to download mp3


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