Located on 150 acres, the nonprofit JK Community Farm started in 2018 with a mission of providing nutritious, fresh food to those in the community who otherwise may never have had access. And they deliver on that promise.
“We are the largest nonprofit community farm in the United States that donates 100 percent of what we grow to the community in need,” explains Executive Director Samantha Kuhn. That comes out to about 230,000 pounds of produce and protein per year.
“To me, food is a basic human right, and everyone should have access to what their body needs to survive, lead healthy lives, and have proper brain function,” says Kuhn. “When I think about organic food, it’s just not fair that money can make a difference in the access to it.”
To determine what to plant, Kuhn says they collaborated with their food pantry partners — Loudoun Hunger Relief, Food for Others, Arlington Food Assistance Center, and DC Central Kitchen — to conduct an informal survey outlining the dietary wants and needs of each local community they serve.
The survey revealed that 77.8 percent of respondents consume produce daily. This helped the organization plan for the upcoming growing season, which kicked off in May during the farm’s fourth annual Plant-a-Thon — an event where teams of volunteers come out to help plant crops for the year.
The most requested produce items were sweet potatoes, potatoes, onions, carrots, broccoli, lettuce, peppers, salad greens, asparagus, and tomatoes. Many clients also requested fruit such as watermelon, in addition to the vegetables.
And JK Community Farm delivered. The farm will be expanded to include an organic orchard as well as growing perennial fruit as part of its next phase.
With a staff of just two, JK Community Farm has grown tremendously over the past four years through the help of its community volunteers — all 4,500 of them.
“Our volunteers are absolutely everything to us,” says Kuhn. “They help do the planting and harvesting with us, and we are just so blown away by everyone who comes out and how incredible they are.”
Promoting food education is also a big goal for the nonprofit.
“We can stock the pantries with healthy food, but that doesn’t mean anything if people don’t know the importance of whole and nutrient-dense food,” says Kuhn.
The farm provides a field trip program that allows students to take self-guided tours.
“Our field trips start out in the greenhouse learning about plant cycles and about edible plant parts,” explains Kuhn. “We then teach kids about transplanting and what [plants] need to survive.”
The farm also provides fun, hands-on activities to help the kids learn. For instance, Kuhn says they will have the students scoop dirt into a Mason jar so they can see it separate into the different soil layers.
A rainbow scavenger hunt is another fun activity sometimes included in school visits.
“The students get to see the colors that grow at the farm and learn about what those colors mean for our bodies and why it’s important to eat the rainbow,” says Kuhn.
It’s been an amazing journey for the farm so far, she says.
“Every time the trucks pull up and take some of the food back to the community, it is very exciting for us,” Kuhn says. “We love knowing that with all of the food we’re donating to the food pantry, we are able to help eliminate consumption of some the processed food and help to improve the health of our community.”
Interested in volunteering? Opportunities are available every day of the week, and there are no requirements on age or gardening experience. Learn more at jkcommunityfarm.org.