Agriculture has been given a challenge with the task of feeding a world population that could reach 9 billion by 2050. To feed our growing race, worldwide production would need to double. Research at the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR) at the University of Missouri is working to do this through studies involving major commodity crops such as corn and soybeans as well as battling pests and diseases to increase overall production efficiency in a sustainable way.
Almost all studies involve testing and observing plants in real-world scenarios at many of CAFNR’s Agricultural Research Centers located throughout Missouri. Sometimes that research involves food that is discarded or unattainable for human consumption. Thankfully, some food finds it in the hands of those in need, particularly from apple orchards at the Horticulture and Agroforestry Research Center (HARC) near New Franklin.
“For at least 20 years we have been collecting apples from the orchard here to donate to local charities and food banks,” said John Poehlmann as he stacked boxes of picked apples on a sunny Saturday afternoon in late September. “This is something my wife, Linda, helped start and has been a great benefit to people around the area that need the help.”
John and Linda joined dozens of volunteers from their local church, community groups, clubs and other CAFNR faculty and staff at HARC this fall to pick more than 10,000 pounds of apples to be donated to The Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri and the Moniteau County Nutrition Center in California.
That donation included 223 pounds picked by the MU Horticulture Club; a local team of USDA members picked 1,953 pounds and Poehlman’s group picked 6,370 pounds. On another day, Moniteau County Nutrition Center volunteers from California, Mo., picked 2,400 pounds.
HARC was once called the Horticulture Farm and at one time had 50 to 60 acres of apple trees. About 5 acres remain, and still produce an annual bountiful crop of apples including Golden Delicious, Johnson and Red Delicious varieties.
Throughout the rest of the year, Research Lab Technician Senior Nancy Bishop and Professor of Horticultural and Agroforestry Entomology Bruce Barrett help manage the orchard at HARC. They help with weed eating, care of the trees and help control pests and diseases.
“It’s just great to be able to give back to the community,” said Poehlmann. “It’s a little bit of work but I know this helps out a lot of people that really need it.”
The annual day of picking has turned into a family event, with many generations attending.
“We have about three generations of my family out here,” smiled Poehlmann. “And I am not the only one. Some of our CAFNR faculty including Randy Miles and his wife, Wayne and Doris Shoemaker and Don Day brought out family members as well. It’s great to see everyone pitch in to help those in need.”
The Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri is a regional disaster and hunger relief network that acquires and distributes millions of pounds of donated food annually.
“During harvest season, we are always extremely thankful for individuals and groups that donate part or all of their crop to The Food Bank,” said Todd Pridemore, development manager. “Two years ago we set an ambitious goal that 25 percent of the food that we distribute be in the form of fresh fruits and vegetables. We’re still working toward reaching that lofty goal, and significant donations like the apples donated by CAFNR help in a big way.”
For more than 30 years food donations have gone to soup kitchens, emergency food pantries, shelters for the abused and homeless, programs for low-income children and senior citizens and rehabilitation centers.
The Food Bank relies on volunteers and donations to annually distribute more than 28 million pounds of food to 130 agencies and 134 schools throughout 32 counties.
“CAFNR has been an extremely strong and constant supporter of The Food Bank’s mission for years,” added Pridemore. “We are extremely thankful for the generosity that CAFNR continues to demonstrate in the fight against hunger. This fall’s apple donation is another in a long list of ways that CAFNR shows that they’re serious about helping make our world a better place. Thank you, CAFNR!”