Jas Singh has been growing food for local food banks.

Jas Singh has been growing food for local food banks.

COLUMN: Surrey residents willing to help

Neighbours, volunteers pitch in to aid South Surrey farmer at God's Little Acre.

Once the word gets out, people in Surrey are ready to help.

That is especially true when there is a genuine need, and it involves getting outdoors in the midst of beautiful August weather.

Jas Singh, operator of God’s Little Acre farm on 40 Avenue, needed help with harvesting vegetables and weeding on his farm. Many of the crops he grows are donated to the needy through organizations like the Surrey Food Bank.

This is the third year he’s operated the farm, and this year’s harvest is much greater than it has been.

That’s due to expanded acreage in production and good weather.

Singh let local media know about his need, and they in turn informed Surrey residents. On Saturday, 580 people descended on his farm to help harvest a bumper crop of squash, some 18,000 pounds worth. He is also growing carrots, potatoes, pumpkins and cucumbers this year.

Singh said Saturday’s work – which also included weeding – puts the farm back on a regular harvesting and maintenance schedule.

“It’s not very often a farmer can stand in the middle of his fields and not see a single area that needs weeding,” he told the Peace Arch News. “But that’s what has happened. We’re all caught up now, so we can get back to a regular schedule.

“It really was just great – just some amazing people, and probably double (the volunteers) from what I expected,” Singh said. “We were just totally overwhelmed – the energy that everyone brought was just remarkable. These people just came to work.”

Volunteer days continue throughout the summer, on Wednesdays and Saturdays. He appreciates all the help he can get. As any farmer would say, work needs to continue on a regular basis, as crops need harvesting, the weather changes and regular maintenance is needed for maximum growth.

Singh does some amazing work. His original eight acres have now expanded to 34. He has partnered with a number of food banks.

He has planted four acres in pickling cucumbers, and is selling those to help pay himself a salary. In the past, he was involved in trucking all winter in order to get ready to operate the farm again.

This year, he is trying to make it self-sustaining.

It’s a great use of some of Surrey’s most valuable farmland. The land in that area is rich and has been bountiful for generations. It is quite capable of yielding some amazing crops. Singh’s efforts go a long way to making Surrey a more sustainable community.

It’s great that Singh has put so much time and energy into helping others, and making it possible for many volunteers, who know little about farming, to get out on the land. The support he received from volunteers over the weekend is truly amazing and hopefully that level of support will continue all through the rest of the summer and the fall.

He expects to harvest a total of 265,000 pounds of product this year – an amazing amount. If there is enough help, all of that will go to people who really need it.

Any food-bank recipient who comes by to volunteer can take away all the produce he or she can carry. Seniors, single parents and disabled people are all welcome to get free produce.

Food banks make excellent use of fresh produce, such as he provides. It is nutritious, local and fills a genuine need.

This is a project that deserves to get all the help it can from the community. People like Jas Singh make Surrey a better place to live.

Frank Bucholtz writes Thursdays for the Peace Arch News. He is the editor of the Langley Times.

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