Arnold Farms: Harvesting from the Heart
The movement against hunger in Maryland has gained momentum over the last several years, and the Maryland Food Bank has been humbled by the compassion and commitment displayed by a diverse group of individual supporters, public representatives, leaders in the private sector, and community partners. Bob Arnold’s story provides a unique snapshot of how Maryland farmers play a vital role in this movement.
For Bob Arnold, first generation grower and owner of Arnold Farms, partnering with the Maryland Food Bank was a choice rooted in both his passion for helping his community and his own experience with hunger.
Bob was 12 years old when his father, a contractor, passed away. His mother tried to keep his father’s construction company going but was ultimately unsuccessful, and Bob’s family soon found themselves struggling to put food on their table.
“It was hard for a woman to try to take over a construction company at the time, and my mother lost a lot,” said Bob. “We were able to stay in the same house, but we didn’t eat well for a few years. I remember being hungry. We lived off hand outs from the church.”
Despite the adversity, this tough time helped Bob realize he wanted to be involved in the movement to end hunger.
Today, Bob owns Arnold Farms, which is nestled on more than 300 acres of land in Chestertown, Maryland. Bob, his family, and his many dedicated employees produce a variety of fruits and vegetables — including squash, cantaloupe, cauliflower, peppers, corn, and cabbage. And some of this farm-fresh food is donated to the Maryland Food Bank through our Farm to Food Bank Program.
“I believe we’re supposed to reach out to those in need,” Bob said. “I don’t like seeing people hungry.”
Bob joined the food bank’s statewide network of farms in 2011 after meeting Amy Cawley, the food bank’s Farm to Food Bank Coordinator. Participating farms help the food bank supply fresh, nutritious food to food-insecure communities across the state through a combination of field gleanings, donations, and contract growing. But the program also helps farms by reducing food waste.
“Our produce is perfectly good, but not always perfect-looking,” Margaret Frothingham, assistant manager of Arnold Farms explained. “But the general consumer has to have a perfect product, and we end up throwing away what people could eat. We don’t want to see it wasted; we want to see people use it. We worked hard to grow it.”
When farms grow more produce than they can sell, the Farm to Food Bank volunteers step in to collect bulk produce and transport it to local sites for immediate distribution to hungry residents.
“Farmers don’t have the time and money to distribute extra produce to people,” Bob said. “The food bank has a good program. They pick our product up to distribute it — which is a great help.”
Arnold Farms is one of 68 Maryland farms that donate farm-fresh produce to the food bank, helping to ensure food-insecure Marylanders get the nutrients they need to supplement their health.
“We have an unbelievable relationship with the food bank,” Margaret said. “We love them and they love us. Food is what we do. We are excited about our food and about sharing it with those who need it.”
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