The Black Family Farm sits on hundreds of acres west of Ottawa, where Tom Black and his family have farmed for generations. Together with his wife Marlene, Tom has raised sheep, herded cattle and grown cash crops that have fed people far and wide.
Perhaps because of this, Tom has a tremendous sense of compassion for those who go hungry, and it was that empathy that led the Black Family Farm to become a vital part of the Ottawa Food Bank Community Harvest Program.
“It all started from a family discussion,” recalls Tom. “We got to thinking – rather than giving the Food Bank money, how would it work if we gave them food instead?”
After calling the Food Bank, Tom found out that they already had a project of this nature going – but what they didn’t have was enough land to grow the food. Tom and his family were eager to help, and last year Community Harvest volunteers planted five acres of food and two acres of cover crop on land donated by the Black family, all benefitting the Food Bank. In total, they produced just under 102,000 pounds of fresh, high-quality produce for local families in need.
“Tom and his family have been incredibly generous with their time, their energy and their equipment – he helps to plow the fields, harrow the fields, he puts down his own compost,” says Jason Gray, Community Harvest Coordinator with the Ottawa Food Bank. “We never would have been able to evolve this program so quickly if it weren’t for Tom’s input.”
Tom is quick to point out that his family doesn’t do it alone, emphasizing the support of Jason and the Food Bank and notes, “It wouldn’t work unless you had someone like Jason.” Tom also feels particularly humbled when he watches volunteers arrive to help tend the fields throughout the growing season or when local businesses and community members volunteer goods, time or services. “It reaffirms your respect for people, confirms that people really do care about others with no gain to them – they just want to help,” he adds.
“I’m not a rich man in terms of finances,” concludes Tom. “But I’m rich in family and friends and a place to live in this beautiful country and I’ve always been of the mindset that we should give back. It’s a great pleasure to be doing it!”
If you would like to donate your time to the Community Harvest Project, please go to www.ottawafoodbank.ca