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Posted November 18, 2012 | comments Leave a comment

Volunteer Farm sees dramatic increase in harvest, need

By Sally Voth

A donated irrigation system is credited with having a tremendous amount to do with an eight-fold increase in produce harvested this year at The Volunteer Farms of Woodstock and Culpeper.

Farm founder Bob Blair said that 82 1/2 tons of food had been donated to regional food banks this year -- and there is still cabbage to be harvested. Last year, the figure was about 10 tons.

A little more than a year ago, the Virginia Well Water Association paid for the installation of a well-fed drip irrigation system at the Woodstock farm, which had been using a lake for watering.

"It's been a great year," Blair said in a phone interview Wednesday. "I think [the new deep well and irrigation system] is 90 percent of it. It was just a good growing year. We had a month or so in the middle of the summer if we wouldn't have had the irrigation system, we would've lost a lot.

"And, our quality is up. Our customers are saying that they feel that the quality has been improved substantially."

Blair attributes that, too, to the new irrigation system, which added 5,000 feet of buried irrigation pipe.

"We thought that the production would improve with irrigation," he said. "We knew without the irrigation, we had some bad years."

The huge increase in yield was also done on less acreage, according to Blair. About 30 acres were planted in Woodstock, and 40 in Culpeper, he said.

The produce grown included potatoes, melons, squash, broccoli and beats.

"We did pumpkins this year for the first time," Blair added. "They were really well received. I wasn't sure that the food banks would take them, but they were excited about them."

The need for the 8-year-old farm is greater than ever with the continuing bleak economy, Blair said.

"We had to produce more this year because there are so many more people that have been added to the roster, a lot more hungry people," he said. "It's gone up [to] over 150,000 people that we're helping to feed on a monthly basis. The worst part of it is those people...they're in it for the long haul. They've kind of lost all hope of getting back on their feet. It's just beyond desperation, of getting up every morning and wondering if they're going to have something to eat."

Nearly 1,700 volunteers this year helped to plant, maintain and harvest the crops, according to a news release from the Volunteer Farm.

Donations can be sent to 277 Crider Lane, Woodstock, Va. 22664, or made online at www.VolunteerFarms.Org.

Contact staff writer Sally Voth at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or svoth@nvdaily.com

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