A Letter from Chip – 20 Years…and Counting!
If you told me 20 years ago when I started a little 30 x 30 foot garden with my four-year-old daughter that our special “daddy-daughter” project would eventually turn into a major farming operation combined with an ever-expanding healthy eating education program AND that we would be harvesting and distributing over 2.4 million pounds of fruits and vegetables annually across nine states AND that over time we would donate more than 15 million pounds AND that we would engage 9,000 volunteers per year AND, sprinkle in for good measure, that our little garden would become more than 420 acres spread across four farms, as you would expect, I, just like anyone else, would have been extremely skeptical, humbled, and maybe a bit terrified too, to say the least. After all, that would be nothing short of a monumental effort for just one person to take on alone. But fortunately and unbeknownst to me at the time, God had a plan, and in that plan there were thousands of incredible individuals, companies, and community groups of all kinds who would generously line up to give time, talents, and treasures and therefore play a critical role in the America’s Grow-a-Row story, leading us to where we are today, 20 years later.
It unexpectedly hits me from time to time that 20 years have passed (and that my daughter, who will be 24 in July, is still an active participant) and that what innocently started as just a “nice thing” to do is now a necessity – thousands of people, along with so many great partner organizations who support hunger relief efforts throughout the region, rely on us each and every year. We expect to feed and positively impact 100,000 people this year alone. Reaching these milestones didn’t happen by accident; they were all made possible because of great folks like you. The reality is that if you have been involved in AGAR over the past 20 years in any capacity, whether it’s volunteering in the fields, delivering produce, helping with education, or contributing financially, or even if you’ve been on the sidelines cheering us on, then you are just as much a part of the ever-growing AGAR story as anyone else.
All of your personal sacrifices have not only helped us accomplish so much over the past two decades, but they have created a solid foundation for the next 20 years and beyond. Your support not only helps pay the bills, but more importantly it helps fill bellies, feed hearts, and change lives – the lives of those we serve who are faced with hunger as well as the lives of those who are changed by the volunteering and giving experience AGAR offers. Your personal sacrifices help plant the seed of “giving” in everyone who touches or benefits from our program.
Writing this note made me think back to when we were first featured on the NJN TV evening news while my daughter’s elementary school was out to the farm back in 2007. The reporter, Marie DeNoia Aronsohn, did not realize how far and wide AGAR would reach after 20 years, but at the end of the segment she worded it perfectly: “The seeds planted in the soil today will yield produce in early July. The seeds planted in the hearts and minds of the kids, by all observations here, the sky’s the limit.” Well said. Here’s to the next 20 years as we continue to reach for the sky and beyond, touching thousands of lives just one seed and one heart at a time.
I look forward to seeing you out in the fields this year and well into the future.
Thank you again, and I wish you all the best!
President and Founder
Click here to view the NJN TV evening news story!
Congratulations, Chip! What you have accomplished is nothing short of miraculous. May the future of AGAR continue to inspire and provide our next generation!
I’m so delighted to have been a volunteer with many of my students who have participated in STEM research during the summer at Lehigh University over the years. What great service engagement opportunities you have provided. Thank you for “seeding” this important mission.
Chip, when you came to speak at Hunterdon Central 10 years ago to my Leadership & Philanthropy class, I was immediately impressed by how humble you were and what AGAR was doing even back then. It’s been a pleasure to get to work with the farm team firsthand and really see the magnitude of the operation up close. It was always a big joy for me when working with AGAR to see that giant “Phil-abundance” tractor trailer pull up to the cooler, and it was an even greater joy to see Flemington Food Pantry pull up, because they were local. I’m very excited to see what AGAR will accomplish this coming season and in the future!
Well said, Chip. You have worked miracles