The cloudless sky and morning sun makes the Duffield Farm look idyllic in the mid-summer heat. Children are running back and forth between rows of lush green squash plants, heaving buckets full of zucchini over their heads. Parents cheer as they dump the produce in giant cardboard bins.
Seven and eight-year-olds from all over Washington Township in South Jersey gathered Wednesday to harvest the plants they nurtured from seedlings.
“I liked it because it was fun to see our plants and to see our classmates,” said seven-year-old Savannah Anderson. “It would be good [for the food to be donated] because people that don’t have a lot of money, that would help people, because they don’t have a lot of food and money.”
Starting in May, students were instructed by Tracy Duffield, the daughter-in-law of the Duffield Farm owners, about the importance of farming. Duffield has been running this program since 2001, when she was surprised by how little Washington Township students knew about living on a farm.
“They said, ‘Oh do you have electricity?’ and ‘You drive a car?’ So that gave me the understanding that kids who live in developments don’t understand the whole farming industry. So wouldn’t it be a great idea if we could bring kids on to the farm, especially in the elementary years, just to see what it’s like,” Duffield said.
The event is more than just harvesting for harvesting’s sake. The crops harvested will be donated to the nonprofit Farmers Against Hunger and distributed to soup kitchens and food banks. To Duffield, the event is about education, fun and community service.
“Let’s make this a community service project, let [the kids] reach out. You know, this is a great township, and you want the kids to see that there are people out there that are less fortunate than us,” Duffield said.