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PEC's Farm to Food Bank effort will feed Culpeper-area residents
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PEC's Farm to Food Bank effort will feed Culpeper-area residents

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Culpeper people will soon benefit from the generosity of a Fauquier County farmer amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Karen Way, the owner of Ovoka Farm in Paris, is giving 10,000 pounds of farm-raised ground beef and pork to the Piedmont Environmental Council‘s Farm to Food Bank initiative, which is supporting food banks throughout the northern Piedmont.

On Sunday, Way and her farm crew will deliver 1,000 pounds of ground beef and 600 pounds of ground pork to Fauquier FISH, where it will be divided and distributed to the Culpeper Food Closet, Rappahannock Food Pantry, Fauquier Community Food Bank and Community Touch in Bealeton.

At Fauquier FISH, Ovoka will be joined by students in Wakefield School’s Interact Club, who will help unload beef and pack Thanksgiving bags, PEC Local Food Systems Coordinator Matt Coyle said in a statement.

“We have already received calls and emails from the food banks from the first delivery expressing their gratitude for such a generous delivery ahead of the holidays,” Coyle said.

Ovoka Farm is honored to partner with PEC to support local leaders working with students “to eradicate hunger here in our own backyard,” Way said.

“Wakefield School has always been committed to community service, from Marshall, Virginia, to Haiti, as a main tenant of its educational philosophy,” Wray said. “The Interact Club, new this year and sponsored by the Gainesville-Haymarket Rotary Club, is focusing on providing sustainable hunger relief to local families, and the club’s mission is aligned with PEC’s Farm to Food Bank program.”

Way serves on Wakefield’s board, and her children attend the school.

Coyle said Ovoka’s donation has quadrupled the program’s beef donations to area food banks, allowing the PEC to keep the important effort running through the end of the calendar year.

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“The pandemic has exposed vulnerabilities in our national supply chain and subsequently increased the hardship on food-insecure families and demand on local food banks,” he said. “PEC is proud to fight local hunger while also amplifying the value of local, sustainable agriculture by connecting farmers within the Virginia Piedmont with the many local food banks on which so many ... people rely for their family’s nutritional needs.”

PEC’s Farm to Food Pantry initiative began in May, when it learned of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impacts on local dairy farmers and food banks. Since then, the conservation nonprofit on has raised philanthropic support and partnered with the Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association to package and deliver more than 20,000 gallons of locally-produced milk to 19 food pantries in the northern Piedmont.

In July, PEC expanded its initiative, partnering first with Culpeper County’s Lakota Ranch and then with Culpeper’s Locus Dale Cattle Company, to provide 1,300 pounds of ground beef to area food banks.

This will be Ovoka’s second donation. On Nov. 11, the farm delivered almost 3,000 pounds of ground beef and 1,000 pounds of ground pork to Loudoun Hunger Relief, where it was split up between Seven Loaves Services in Middleburg, Dulles South Food Pantry in Sterling, Tree of Life Ministries in Purcellville, and Christ Church Cares Food Bank in Clarke County.

Ovoka Farm, which raises Angus/Waygu cattle, was looking for a way to support community efforts, the PEC said.

“Ovoka’s core values focus on sustainable farming practices and extend to ensuring that we as an organization are an active community participant,” Way said. “The obvious area where we can help is providing food to feed the hungry.”

She learned about PEC’s Farm to Food Bank program from her friend Jean Perin, who co-chairs the PEC board of directors.

“Along with each Ovoka harvest, we are proud to provide ongoing local meat donations through PEC’s work, and to partner with Wakefield School and PEC in creating a predictable, continuous supply of Ovoka Heritage Wagyu beef to help keep local food banks shelves stocked,” Way said.

The Farm to Food Bank program is made possible by philanthropic support from many private donors and groups, including Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, PATH Foundation, the American Farmland Trust, Northern Piedmont Community Foundation, Seven Hills Food Company and 4P Foods.

More deliveries will be scheduled as food pantries are able to store the donated meat, and as demands on food banks increase during the winter months, the council said.

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Clint Schemmer, a journalist since 1980, has worked at papers in California, North Carolina and Virginia. He’s been a bureau chief, editorial-page editor, copy desk chief and local news editor. Now a staff writer at the Culpeper Star-Exponent.

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