ROME, NY — When produce farmer, Ron Wagner got on TV and on social media asking for help to harvest a monumental crop of squash destined for local food banks, little did he realize he would inspire a community. “The epiphany for me was seeing the train of volunteers all working together for a common goal of feeding the less fortunate. It was a beautiful thing,” said Wagner.
Ron and Judith Wagner of Wagner Farms on Old Oneida Rd. in Rome have been in business for 17 years and every year they have donated some of their produce to local food banks, food pantries and soup kitchens. This year, planned back in the winter, was their biggest contribution to charity yet with 9 acres and over 250,000 pounds of squash lying in the field to be harvested before the frost. “We planted five times more, right from the get go,” said Wagner. “When we commit to something as farmers, we follow it through.”
The Wagner family’s passion, good will and practical appeal resonated well with citizens and groups hungry to make a difference in their community. An unwavering stream of young and old volunteers brought good attitudes, clippers, baskets, wheel barrows, four-wheelers, pickups and anything to help harvest and move the squash out of the field. “Everything picked has a home,” said Wagner.
Over 425 volunteers from 63 local townships performed 1,800 hours of work in two weekend days which yielded 90,000 pounds of butternut squash, 75,000 pounds of Blue Hubbards, 30,000 pounds of spaghetti squash, 25,000 pounds of buttercup squash, 20,000 pounds of acorn squash and 10,000 pounds of pie pumpkins for a retail value of over $155,000 to feed the appetites of food banks to serve fresh, local produce.
The Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters Union Local 277 brought a substantial amount of volunteers on Saturday to help, along with groups from other organizations and plenty of individuals who wanted to come out and help. Many brought their kids as a way to show them how they can help their own community. Warner Sales and Service, Clinton Tractor and Implement Co, Cazenovia Equipment Co and Eggan Excavating all donated equipment towards this event.
“We’ll make the time for a farm family who gives nine acres of produce to charity,” said Jack and Donna Glessing of Empeyville, NY. Michelle from Remsen, NY said, “This movement to help others builds character, and is good for the soul.”
Peter Ricardo of the Central New York Food Bank says the squash donated will definitely go to good use in the food banks within the 11 county area, “Whatever Ron needs to help distribute, we will make sure to do that over the next several weeks to make sure that this huge effort won’t go to waste.”
If you would like to know about this effort call Ron or Judith at 315-339-5182 or visit the farm at 5841 Old Oneida Rd, Rome, NY.