October 30, 2011

'Hobby farm' couple do part, feed hungry

BY BILL NEMITZ Maine Sunday Telegram

It's not uncommon for someone to show up at the Bread of Life Soup Kitchen in Augusta with a bag full of fresh broccoli, tomatoes or other leftovers from their garden. In recent months, however, Glenn and Rachel Powers have taken that kind of community support to a whole new level.

click image to enlarge

KEEP ON GIVING: From left, Glen Powers, 4-year-old son Nestor and wife Rachel have donated 450 pounds of vegetables, 50 chickens (each weighing about 5 pounds) and 45 Giant White turkeys (each weighing about 20 pounds) to the Augusta Food Pantry with what they raised at their Windsor home.

Maine Sunday Telegram photo by John Patriquin

They're giving away the farm.

"I like its immediate impact," Glenn said last week while three pigs munched away at their feed in a tree-filled pen out back. "I mean, you're putting a hot meal on someone's plate. That's why we chose a soup kitchen, so we could see the folks we're helping out."

The couple, both 39, live with their 4-year-old son, Nestor, on 30 acres atop a windswept ridge in Windsor. They moved to Maine in 2005 after teaching at a public alternative school in New York City -- East Harlem, to be exact -- meaning the Powerses are very much from away.

Yet here they are, with another long winter at their doorstep, putting their homegrown food where other Mainers' mouths are.

Since this fall's harvest began, the Powerses have loaded some 450 pounds of carrots, beets, zucchini, cucumbers, beans, broccoli, radishes, rutabagas, potatoes, spinach and leeks into the back of their small Surbaru and ferried the bounty 20 minutes west to the soup kitchen on Water Street in Augusta.

They've also raised, slaughtered and delivered 50 Cornish Rock Cross chickens -- each weighing about 5 pounds. And 45 Giant White turkeys -- tipping the scales at 20 pounds per bird.

Last but not least, the three, 275-pound Berkshire pigs will go directly from the butcher to the soup kitchen in late December.

"For us, this came right out of the blue," said Dean Lachance, executive director of the nonprofit Bread of Life Ministries. "It's amazing. It really is."

It all started earlier this year when Glenn got an idea for turning his and Rachel's love of growing their own food into something bigger than a full freezer and a well-stocked cupboard.

"We're just a hobby farm, you know what I mean?" Glenn noted. "This is not what we do for a living."

Indeed. Glenn commutes more than an hour each day to the coastal town of Edgecomb, where he teaches fifth and sixth grades at the Center for Teaching and Learning, a kindergarten-through-eighth-grade demonstration school. Rachel, meanwhile, splits her time as a social worker between her private practice and a staff position at Lincoln Academy in Newcastle.

Glenn's light-bulb moment: Why not expand their growing operation into one of those community-supported agriculture deals where people buy a "subscription" to a farm in the spring and then withdraw their fresh produce at the end of the growing season. Only in this case, turn the deposits into donations, and they give all the harvested food to the local soup kitchen.

"We raised close to $3,000 -- mostly from friends and family," Glenn said. "Without that, there's no way we could have done it."

They call it "2535 Farm." Glenn, who like Rachel is not active in any organized religion, nevertheless chose the name as a reference to Chapter 25, Verse 35 in the New Testament's Gospel of Matthew: "For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home."

"I just thought that quote was fairly straightforward," Glenn explained, "and I thought it was a catchy name."

The work, documented on the Powers' website (2535farm.blogspot.com), has been by no means easy. The donations, in the end, covered only about half of the cost of planting and mulching the 14 vegetable beds; purchasing, feeding and slaughtering the livestock; and transporting it all to Augusta.

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