A few years ago, Walter Zawaski watched a news report about a farming family in Colorado, who allowed people to glean excess crop from the family’s land at the end of a harvest. Inspired by the report, Walter and his wife, Linda, began “The Potato Project.”
“I had around two idle acres we once truck-patched, so why not?” Walter thought.
A goal of the project is to provide fresh produce to food banks and kitchens across four counties in Pennsylvania.
Walter and Linda began their project in 2009 with about 1.5 acres. They’ve now expanded to 13.2 acres, harvesting around 58,000 pounds of produce to support local food banks for the past three years. But with the increased acreage, the project required more supplies and funding.
Thanks to a 2012 grant from ELCA World Hunger, and the work of more than 400 volunteers — including youth groups from ELCA congregations — the project is being sustained, despite doubts from some people at the beginning.
One person’s initial response was, “Potatoes? What are you going to do with potatoes?” recalls Linda, who is an ELCA diaconal minister at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in Kutztown, Pa. Another volunteer was also hesitant, but after his first visit, he kept volunteering.
That volunteer’s “faith was like potatoes, growing unseen ‘til the harvest,” says Linda.
The Potato Project continues to provide thousands of pounds of fresh produce to food banks. And as of May 2012, 10.7 acres of potatoes and corn were planted.
Support and help from more than 400 volunteers continues to help Walter and Linda with their mission of providing food for people who are hungry in their community.
“We started with so little,” says Linda, “yet have been joined by so many with whom we have become co-philanthropists in a very interesting sense — a Christ-like sense.”
Megan Nuehring is a student at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, majoring in public relations and religion with a minor in leadership.