Monday, March 15, 2010

Provena Covenant Medical Center Donates Land for Garden for Eastern Illinois Food Bank

The farmland in this picture isn't much to look at right now, but come July, dark green stalks of sweet corn will fill up 2.5 acres of this 88-acre farm. The corn will be donated to the Eastern Illinois Food Bank (EIF) for the food pantries and soup kitchens it supplies in the 14 counties it serves.

Why locally grown food for food pantries and soup kitchens?

Jim Hires, executive director of the Eastern Illinois Food Bank, explains in the video clip below.

The farmland, located on Old Church Road in Savoy, Illinois just southwest of the I-57 overpass, is owned by Provena Covenant Medical Center. For the past two years, Provena staff harvested the corn and donated it to the Food Bank. It has been difficult for Provena staff to sustain the effort themselves.

So, Doretta Herr, community benefits and missions manager at Provena, was more than willing for others to be involved. She explains in the clip below.

The Dave Dickey that Doretta mentions above is Illinois Public Media's director of agricultural programming. He explains why WILL is involved.

This year, volunteers from service groups including CU Sunrise Rotary and the Young Ag Leaders group of the Champaign County Farm Bureau will harvest the corn, according to Kirk Builta of the Farm Bureau.

The informal network of organizations and individuals working together on the Food Bank garden for the first time this year want a success. Their plan is to keep the garden simple and plant only sweet corn this first year. That's because sweet corn is hearty and doesn't need extra water to grow. The corn will be planted at two different times so it will yield two separate harvests.

This will be a learning year and a year to build an infrastructure for coordinating volunteers and gauging the possibility of obtaining a water source for year two, creating an educational component for youth and adding two additional crops next year.

Chris Wise will prepare the farmland for harvest. Connie Brand of Illinois Found Seeds in Tolono has donated the seeds. The seeds will planted by a planter and harvested by volunteers in the summer. The Eastern Illinois Food Bank will transport the harvest from the farm to its facility in Urbana.

If you are interested in this effort, please contact me at the address below.

Kimberlie Kranich is director of community engagement at Illinois Public Media and may be reached at

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