ELKHART — David Hochstetler became a coordinator for the Seed to Feed program after taking an early retirement in 2011.
He says the position has almost become a full-time job in the three years since its inception.
“I didn’t expect it to grow so fast,” Hochstetler said. “We are still growing and that is good.”
During the first year, there were two gardens in Elkhart County. That rose to six last year and volunteers are tending 10 gardens this summer, he added.
His involvement with Seed to Feed happened after two men from Middlebury toured the food pantry at Church Community Services in Elkhart in 2012 and saw the long lines of people seeking food assistance and a lack of fresh produce. The two men asked Hochstetler to help start the program because he had good organizational skills.
“I went to Florida, came back and went through the pantry that spring,” he said. “I made the decision on the spot because there was not enough food in my opinion and to many people waiting in lines.”
Hochstetler said one out of five people in Elkhart County live below the poverty level line, which means a family of four lives on $25,000 a year.
“Our goal was to put ourselves out of business, but I don’t foresee it happening,” he said. “We are still growing and that’s a beautiful thing.”
Besides the gardens, people have donated acreage for cash crops and potatoes while some individuals have raised cattle for the program.
He paused a moment while talking about the generosity of individuals in Elkhart County.
“It’s been wonderful. All the seed and plants, 100 percent of it, was donated. We’ve even had diesel fuel donated but this year we are a little shy, about $5,000,” he said.
There was 26,000 pounds of produce the first year and more than 50,000 pounds from the gardens last year.