As it was, volunteers had their hands full Thursday morning as they harvested zucchini, summer squash and eggplant from the Frerichs Food Pantry Farm, a two-acre field across the street from Frerichs Farm on Kinnicutt Avenue. The produce — they harvested more than 300 pounds Thursday, and will probably keep up that pace, twice a week, for some time — is bound for soup kitchens and pantries across the East Bay, from Warren to Bristol and Barrington. But if it weren’t for the deer, volunteer Jan Martin and others believe their yield would be much greater.
“I came here at 8:30 the other night just to chase them out,” said Ms. Martin,a URI Master Gardener. “There’s a lot of them.”
There’s also a lot of food, despite the site of half-munched pepper plants that dot the large field. Volunteers have been picking produce for several weeks now, donating close to a ton so far to soup kitchens and pantries across the East Bay. They figure they’ll be picking for another month at least, as there’s still a lot of smaller squash and eggplant and the tomatoes haven’t come in yet.
Ms. Martin oversees the small group of volunteers that harvests food from the field donated by owner David Frerichs. And she also volunteers at two other Warren farms, including one run by the Corliss Institute and another at Rockland Farms. Across town and particularly at Frerichs, she said the deer have done a number this year.
“They’re voracious,” she said.
Mr. Frerichs agreed, pointing Thursday morning to a small opening in a stone wall bounding the north side of the field.
“They come from over there, from Green Acres, and just come in and eat,” he said. “There’s a lot more this year than there has been in the past.”
Mr. Frerichs and Mrs. Martin are looking into several solutions, including talking to Department of Environmental Management (DEM) officials about obtaining permission to hunt deer as a nuisance. They’re also pricing out an electric fence to put around the property.
“We’ve got to keep them out,” he said. “They really do a number.”
Despite the deer, Ms. Martin said it’s been a great year for produce, and it makes a huge impact on the East Bay. She wants to give first preference to local needy families first. We Share Hope, a nonprofit food rescue group in Warren, is helping with distribution this year.
“We’re going to start with food pantries locally first,” said Ms. Martin, adding that last year volunteers from some local pantries came out to help pick before delivering produce to their sites.
“It eliminated the middle man.”