Summer Samaritans: South Jersey kids harvest crops for the hungry

(From left) Jesse, Charolette and Willow Laux pick squash for communities in need at Duffield’s Farm. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

(From left) Jesse, Charolette and Willow Laux pick squash for communities in need at Duffield’s Farm. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

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.

3rd graders from Washington Township in South New Jersey picked squash for communities in need Wednesday morning. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

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.

3rd graders from Washington Township in South New Jersey picked squash at Duffield’s Farm for communities in need Wednesday morning. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

“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.

(From left) Josh, Gabe, Ryan, and Landon enjoy a watermelon water ice after picking squash at Duffield’s Farm in South Jersey. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

“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.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.