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Turning on a Dime

September 2020

Tristan Wallack, our Senior Director of Programming and Operations, shares some thoughts on this year’s growing season.

What a difference a few months make. When I think back to spring, it seems like eons ago. There was so much uncertainty in the world. It applied to every facet of life, both in work and our personal lives. And while things today are far from perfect, there is much better perspective. 

During those tumultuous spring months, we at America’s Grow-a-Row had many questions. But the most pressing one was how would we, a volunteer-centric organization, be able to deliver on our goal of planting, growing, and harvesting 1.5 million pounds of fresh produce this year? Last year we depended on over 9,000 volunteers to help us achieve that goal. We were facing the real possibility of having no volunteer support in 2020, and this certainly caused significant concern. 

The pressure was immense. We had a lot of people depending on us through our partnerships with food banks and other hunger relief organizations throughout the region. Due to the unprecedented surge in need, we were already being asked by our partners how we could provide MORE produce than planned. The situation was serious, and the stakes were high, but like any good organization we figured out a way to pivot. 

First we had to operate under the assumption that we would have no volunteer support this season. That left us with only one option: to transition our business model and operate more like a commercial farm. This meant more reliance on machinery, and all manual labor would have to be done by our staff. 

Despite being faced with this daunting task, our farm team did not blink. We hired additional staff to work in the fields, and everyone got to work. The result was that planting was done very efficiently, and we are now positioned to have our best year of production in our history. As things stand now, not only do we expect to hit our goal of 1.5 million pounds, but we believe we can surpass it.  

Fortunately, restrictions are beginning to loosen and we have been able to accept some volunteers in smaller group sizes. As always, they have been a huge help and have taken some pressure off of our staff. And while there is still a myriad of factors that can impact our work, the future is beginning to look much brighter. There is an old adage that “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” We believe we have lived up to that motto this season so far, and we are very optimistic about the remainder of our season.


One thought on “Turning on a Dime

  1. Lois Bennett says:

    I never had any doubt you could help them find a way, Tristan! Congratulations on a job well done!

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