Father Jim Eichner is the pastor at the Episcopal Church of the Holy Cross in Redmond. But he’s also a farmer who believes in growing and giving.
Back in 2011, he began volunteering at a farm project run by his church. At first the crops were distributed to the congregation and the surplus was donated to local food banks.
“That’s where I started to get the idea,” Father Eichner says. “Instead of giving what’s left over, let’s give them first pick.”
So that same year, he and his parishioners created the Food Bank Farm, a farming operation run on 15 acres of fertile farmland donated by Chinook Farms in Snohomish. It was a great idea, but the first year of crop yields were more than anyone expected.
“I had a little bit of a crisis,” he says, smiling. “I had a field full of potatoes, and no one to pick them up. I didn’t really think that out too well.”
It was then that he reached out to Food Lifeline, and a partnership was born. Since that day, Father Eichner and his parish, along with hundreds of local volunteers, have grown more than 600,000 pounds of vegetables specifically for Food Lifeline. Food Lifeline’s staff provides the storage bins and transportation to ease the burden on the farm.
One of the primary crops is squash, grown in several varieties. According to the volunteer farmers, squash never bruises and keeps for months, and most people know how to prepare it. The farm also grows potatoes, corn, green beans, and beets, all of which are nutritious and in demand by Food Lifeline’s clients.