Squashing hunger–Hobbs Family Farm and Care and Share partner to help needy

Coinciding with World Food Day in October more than 600 pounds of organic butternut squash will soon be finding its way to people in need in Southern Colorado, thanks to a donation by a local farmer and cooperation of a regional food bank.

 The squash was processed, cooked and frozen for distribution through a partnership between the Hobbs Family Farm and Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado. It will be distributed by Care and Share through 325 different agencies in 31 counties in Southern Colorado. Some of the squash also is destined for the Pueblo Soup Kitchen.

 The butternut, a regionally adapted Waltham variety, was donated by Dan Hobbs, who grew it as seed stock on his farm near Avondale. Hobbs said the Waltham variety is known as the “best butternut on the planet” and is noted for its flavor and uniform size.

 In order to open the squash for the seeds and also retain the flesh for food service, regulations require the squash to be processed in a commercial kitchen. Melissa Marts, chief programs officer for Care and Share, arranged to prepare the squash in the Marian House Soup Kitchen in Colorado Springs, and also organized 20 volunteers who donated their time and effort to the cause.

 Workers washed and cut the squash, and saved aside the seed. The squash was then roasted, bagged, boxed and frozen.

 Hobbs, whose farm is a member of the Arkansas Valley Organic Growers co-op, said he was happy to donate the squash and see it go to a good cause. “It’s nice to see value come out of this crop,” he said. “It’s really satisfying because it ties together food to help local people in need with my program of developing adaptive seeds for this region. It demonstrates that we’re maturing as a local food system.”

 About 50 percent of Hobbs’ farm operation is committed to seed production. He specializes in producing regionally adapted seeds with traits such as drought-tolerance and the ability to thrive under low-input organic conditions. His Waltham strain descends from a long line of squash developed by Hollar Seeds in Rocky Ford.  Hobbs’ seeds are available from his website: www.coloradogarlic.com.

Marts, who spent her Saturday working on the squash at Marian House, said food banks and pantries such as Care and Share have had to work harder in these tough economic times to find food to share with families in need.

“The face of hunger has been changing over the past three years to include more families and children,” Marts said. “We are always encouraged when new resources come our way, like partnering with local food producers. Working with the farmer to meet his mission of saving seed while also minimizing waste and helping people in need is great.”

Marts said a harvest of fresh produce, such as the squash from Hobbs Family Farm, is especially helpful because it is some of the most nutrient-dense food the food bank can share, adding that she would like to seek funding in order to compensate local farmers for contributions such as this.

 “Care and Share also recognizes that supporting the local economy is important in fighting hunger, so we are always looking for grants and sponsors that can help us actually purchase locally grown food from our hard-working farmers, too,” Marts said. “It would help stimulate economic development.”

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