OUR GLOBAL NEIGHBORHOOD PACHAMAMA FARM AT MARYKNOLL
GATHERS 16 TONS OF FOOD FOR LOCAL FOOD PANTRIES
Priests And Local Volunteers Keep This Little Farm Bountiful
Photos by Mike Virgintino
Maryknoll, New York – February 24, 2011 -- It's not exactly the frozen tundra, but the one acre of ground that is fertile during other seasons of the year currently is rock hard and covered with snow and ice. For 10 years on its Ossining property, the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, the overseas mission society outreach of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States, has farmed this patch of land that has yielded several hundred thousand pounds of organic produce for local food pantries.
While the "farmers" can't wait for the first sign of spring so they again can till the land, the early months of 2011 have provided them with the opportunity to review the 2010 harvest from Our Global Neighborhood Pachamama Farm and develop plans for the 2011 crop.
"Pachamama" is a Quechua language word that means "earth mother," an appropriate description since it includes the people who work the land along with the people that the harvest supports each year. Quechua is spoken in Peru, where Maryknoll missioners serve, and it is the most widely spoken language family of the indigenous people of the Americas.
The reference to "Our Global Neighborhood" incorporates the various groups and individuals associated with the farm. These include the Maryknoll family (Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, Maryknoll Sisters, Maryknoll Lay Missioners and Maryknoll Affiliates) along with volunteers from the community who donate their time to raise the crops and distribute the food.
Our Global Neighborhood Pachamama Farm was the inspiration of the Maryknoll Affiliates, the fourth branch of the Maryknoll family that expresses the Maryknoll spirit in the context of chapters that gather for prayer, reflection and action. The Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers provided the land and developed the farm, and the society continues to oversee its operation while providing funds to cover expenses.
During 2010, the farm produced 33,000 pounds, or 16 and one-half tons, of vegetables and fruit for six Westchester food pantries. According to the Food Bank of Westchester, more than 200,000 Westchester County residents, half of them seniors and one third of them children, are hungry or at risk of hunger.
The fresh and organic yield included tomatoes, beets, eggplants, squash, peppers and cabbage along with apples, pears and herbs. Onions, carrots, leeks, lettuce, radishes, rhubarb, zucchini, turnips and other vegetables also were harvested. The bounty was considerably higher than the 2009 harvest of 19,465 pounds produced during a summer of considerable rain.
At $1.40 per pound, a figure calculated for organic produce by Cornell Cooperative Extension, a community outreach program of Cornell University, the value of the 2010 harvest was more than $46,000. Since the first harvest, the farm has delivered more than 190,000 pounds of produce valued at more than $372,000.
Our Global Neighborhood Pachamama Farm is under the direction of Father John Hudert, who has been with Maryknoll for close to 50 years. Originally from Pompton Lakes, New Jersey, Father Hudert lived as a young boy in Alaska and spent his time in mission in Tanzania. Father Fern Gosselin helped during the early stages by gaining access to tractors, plowing the land and advising the volunteers about farm techniques. A former Vermont farmer who served in mission in Guatemala, Korea and Siberia, Father Gosselin has been with Maryknoll more than 40 years.
The priests began the project with old farm equipment from the 1950s and 1960s that they found on the back end of the Maryknoll property. The equipment had been used during their seminary days for small farming plots and the raising of livestock.
"It has been a real blessing to watch the food grow each year," said Father Hudert. "It's a sense of wonder. You put a bean in the ground and three days later it's popping up from the ground, and then the harvest provides for so many of our neighbors in need."
Farm's Local Volunteers and Expertise
Along with Father Hudert and Father Gosselin, plus Father Richard Callahan (treasurer) and Father Tom McDonald (workforce organizer), local volunteers from the various groups within the Maryknoll family have ensured that the land remains prosperous. They include:
- Mary J. Murphy, a Maryknoll Affiliate from the Westchester Chapter, who conceived, researched and proposed the idea for the farm during 1999. The mission statement for the farm is "Harvest food for people. Harvest people for God." She coordinates outreach, food distribution and the volunteers (minimum age 21) who are needed from April to November. She can be contacted at 914-762-2642.
- Dan Malone, a retired teacher from Ossining, who has worked the farm daily since 2001. He keeps a record of the people involved with the farm and their activities. He also records all production figures and he produces, at the end of each season, the "Global Neighborhood Pachamama Farm Log."
- John and Mary Toomey, from Yonkers, who have spent many hours each day tending to the various needs of the land.
- Liliana Rao, from Ossining, who introduced the planting of pole beans, cucumbers, arugula, cilantro and parsley.
Technical expertise since the farm's first days has been provided by John Ameroso from Cornell Cooperative Extension. The program has supplied interns to assist with planting and harvesting along with tomato, eggplant and pepper plants to supplement the turnips, lettuce, spinach, squash and carrots that are grown from seeds.
Maryknoll Affiliate Mary J. Murphy originally contacted Mr. Ameroso when she learned about the Cornell program from Ossining's Miriam Haas. Ms. Haas is credited with organizing and operating farmers' markets in the area that allow regional farmers and bakers to sell their produce.
Our Global Neighborhood Pachamama Farm offers its crops to the volunteers at local pantries who help with the harvest and then distribute the bounty. The 2010 recipients included The Ossining Food Pantry at Trinity Church, The Katonah Community Center, distribution centers at Star of Bethlehem Church in Ossining and Emmanuel Baptist Church in The Bronx, Jan Peek Homeless Center and Fred's Food Pantry in Peekskill, and Food Patch in Millwood (the food bank for Westchester County).
Other organizations that have received distributions during previous harvests have included the Midnight Run service for homeless and needy in New York City (through St. Augustine's Church in Ossining) and The Lord's Pantry in White Plains that prepared three meals per day for AIDS patients and their children and caretakers.
Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, as the overseas mission outreach of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States, follows Jesus in serving the poor and others in need in 26 countries. All Catholics are called to mission through baptism, and Maryknoll's mission education outreach in parishes and schools throughout the country engages U.S. Catholics in mission through prayer, donations, as volunteers and through vocations.
During 2011, Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers will commemorate its centennial with a theme of The Gift of Mission – The Maryknoll Journey. These missionaries will celebrate as they continue their journey into the next 100 years to share God's love and the Gospel in combating poverty, providing healthcare, building communities and promoting human rights. Learn more at http://www.maryknollsociety.org.