Nov 28, 2023
Great Apple Rescue helps West Virginia apple growers

In what’s being called The Great Apple Rescue of 2023, the Farmlink Project is finding homes for a large West Virginia apple crop.

Without the food charity’s work, nearly a dozen West Virginia apple growers will be left with apples that would go to waste.

After all their contracts were dropped immediately before harvest, 11 apple growers faced enormous losses and potential bankruptcies, according to a news release. Millions of pounds of apples suddenly found no buyers and nowhere to go. Farmers faced a situation many of them had never anticipated: their crop was going to go to waste, according to the release.

“We are currently in the middle of the largest rescue we have ever done, and one of the largest food recovery efforts in history,” Farmlink officials said in the release.

Farmlink is a nonprofit that works to combat food insecurity. Over the last six weeks, Farmlink took on the massive challenge of finding homes for the apples.

An encounter between U.S. Senator Joe Manchin and one of Farmlink’s farmers provided hope. After learning about the growers’ situation, Manchin brought together the USDA and West Virginia Department of Agriculture to rally financial support for farmers to harvest the apples.

There was one condition: the apples must be donated to hunger-fighting charities. However, the compensation package did not cover all harvesting, packaging, transportation, and delivery costs of the apples. That’s where Farmlink stepped in, according to the release.

Farmlink“We faced a challenge we could never have imagined: ‘can Farmlink rescue and deliver 16 million pounds of apples, directly from farms, to hunger fighting charities in less than two months?’,” Farmlink said in the release. “We weren’t sure if we could do it. But our scrappy optimism that is so tightly wound into Farmlink’s DNA meant we had to try.”

Farmlink delivered its first truckload of apples on Sept. 29.

To recover all available apples will cost Farmlink nearly $1 million.

“With each day, we find out we are capable of much much more than we ever thought,” Farmlink said in the release. “The impact of this recovery will have profound implications for the farmers involved, the recipient communities, and Farmlink’s future work with local, state and federal governments to lend support.”

To rescue the remaining apples and prepare for future opportunities to support farmers and feed families, Farmlink is seeking support in its fight against hunger and waste. The organization is a couple hundred truckloads down, with many more to go, according to the release.

Farmlink’s mission is to connect farms with surplus crops with food banks and communities in need across the country, preventing food from going to waste and supplying pantries in need. Farmlink was started in 2020 by James Kanoff, a Stanford University student at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The apple relief program is covered under Section 32 of the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1935. The USDA purchased $10 million worth of apples from a dozen West Virginia growers. Those apples were then donated to food charities across South Carolina and Michigan to the Navajo Nation, according to a larger story reported by NPR.




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