The Society of St. Andrews goes into farm fields to glean crops that were missed during harvest. These left-overs are then donated to food pantries. But the Society was in over its head last Saturday, when it was called to 1,000-acre First Fruits Farm near Louisburg, NC. The owner wanted to give away his entire crop!
He was former NFL center Jason Brown, who gave up football and a huge paycheck to feed the hungry. Brown knew nothing about agriculture when he bought First Fruits Farm, but local farmer Len Wester lent him a hand. David and Allen Rose of Nashville donated potato plants, called slips, after they learned Brown would give away his entire harvest. "Every step of the way, there has been someone to help," Brown said.
Brown says farming is a test of faith. "You look over a sweet potato field and you don't see a crop. The vines are wilting. There's nothing to pick. I went out to plow up the potatoes last week and looked behind the tractor (and saw) big brown potatoes lying everywhere!"
Brown's farm already yielded 10,000 pounds of cucumbers, all given away. Last Saturday, half the sweet potato crop, 46,000 pounds, was harvested by gleaners using 200 volunteers and 13 trucks. The other half will be harvested next Saturday. "Potatoes are the perfect food, and there is a great need," said gleaner coordinator Rebecca Page. "What he is doing is unbelievable. A lot of people are going to get food."
"Miss Rebecca is another person who was put in my life at the right time," said Brown, who hopes to plant and give away at least twice as many potatoes next year, followed by a celebration.
"A lot of churches have harvest celebrations around Thanksgiving," he said, "but they don't harvest anything. I can picture 1,000 people gleaning the fields until noon, and then having a celebration of the harvest with food and music. I look over this farm and see such a blessing. This has been more than I could ever have imagined. I've been blessed more than I blessed others."