Calgarians were out Tuesday carrying on a fall tradition of sharing the bounty and helping others, an annual effort that’s especially welcome during the COVID-19 pandemic.
About 100 volunteers, most of them seniors, were working in a field about 50 kilometres east of the city, harvesting crops like beets, carrots and potatoes.
“We have folks out here that are well into their 80s,” organizer Fred Ritter said.
Many of the volunteers are former employees of TransAlta, a power company based in Calgary.
“Our group is called POWER – Project Organized With Energetic Retirees,” Ritter said. “(We’ve been) out here to seed this in the spring, and then at one month intervals we get folks out here to weed it.”
All the volunteers’ work is really paying off; after more than two decades of gathering together to grow, it’s their biggest harvest ever.
“This is absolutely phenomenal,” volunteer Roy Pollyck said.
The group is donating about 50,000 pounds of produce to the Calgary Food Bank, which comes as a huge help as the organization tries to meet high demand during the pandemic.
“To get this produce is phenomenal,” the food bank’s Shawna Ogston said. “This is going to be in hampers starting tomorrow, so we know that Calgarians that are struggling will get this fresh produce immediately.”
Working on the project brings benefits for the volunteers — a chance to reconnect amid COVID-19.
“Yeah, there were a lot of times during a pandemic when you were isolated,” volunteer Laurence Murgatroyd said. “It’s amazing to see a group like this, fulfilling to be able to do it.”
After working together growing crops to donate since 1999, this year’s effort will be especially memorable.
“During the pandemic, it’s wonderful to get out and do things like this — you can actually talk to someone, even if it has to be a six-foot distance,” volunteer Linda Tischer said. “It’s a great place to get out and do something wonderful for the community.”