In 2004, Hunger Task Force began operating a 208-acre historic urban Farm and Fish Hatchery in Franklin, Wisconsin. The Farm produces over 30 types of fruits and vegetables that are delivered free of charge to a network of 80 food pantries, soup kitchens and homeless shelters throughout greater Milwaukee. Annually, over 1,000,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables are produced in the farm fields and orchards. For many relying on Hunger Task Force’s network of charities, the Farm is their only source of fresh produce.
The Farm relies entirely on community donors and volunteers, and is strongly supported by local individuals and organizations that are committed to urban farming, educating children, and creating new job training opportunities for the unemployed. Individuals, corporations and foundations make monetary and equipment donations, as well as donate their time and energy for day-to-day operations at the Farm.
I started with Hunger Task Force this year as the volunteer coordinator and my task is to find, schedule, and be a point of contact for the companies, organizations, and individuals who volunteer at the Farm. The vast majority of operations, from planting to field maintenance to harvesting, are carried out by volunteers under direct guidance by Farm staff.
While soaking in the magnitude of the Farm’s scope during my first few weeks, I couldn’t help but notice how much beauty and visual possibility existed on the grounds. As a sometimes artist, I thought about the different opportunities in this setting to create art. One might wonder about the value artwork can offer a busy, bustling, working farm, but not everyone’s talents are best utilized by a rake and a hoe. “Volunteer” can take on a very flexible definition.
I got in touch with the Wisconsin Plein Air Painters Association (WiPAPA). Plein air is the style of painting where the painter brings their canvas and brushes and paints on-site in the elements. Wendie Thompson, the group’s president, came out for a winter tour and we talked about the possibilities. She saw immediately the wide array of options a painter, or any artist, would have to draw from at the location. She came out a couple times to paint, then opened it up to her group.
This year, WiPAPA has come several times to paint at the Farm. To some degree they’ve made the Farm their home base for the year, with an open invitation to come paint as often as Farm operations permit. Artists will be here the entire growing season, providing a visual catalog of a Farm’s cycles throughout the year. In exchange for using the location, they allow Hunger Task Force to use photographs of the artwork. Additionally WiPAPA artists have agreed to donate a portion of the sales of any paintings created at the Farm. We have had paintings created by more than a dozen artists, and are now exploring the options of places to show their work.
Volunteering is really as flexible as our individual definition of the word. If you’d like to spend some time working at Hunger Task Force’s 200 scenic acres, firstname.lastname@example.org
By Stacy Van Alstyne
Apple Trees by Michael Pintar
By Thomas Buchs
Hunger Task Force Farm by Lynn Rix
The author harvesting cabbages his first day on the job