hightower acres

This Ontario farmer is giving free produce to families in need during the pandemic

Jeff King is no stranger to giving back to his community. 

The father of two owns and opreates Hightower Acres, a sustainable micro-farm and market garden located in Lakeside, Ont., and he also volunteers as a firefighter for his municipality.

But as he recently began to gain a deeper understanding of the serious impacts facing many families as a result of lost income during the pandemic, he decided he wanted to do even more. 

"Fresh produce is essential for healthy eating however usually more costly in grocery stores over many processed and unhealthy foods to choose from," King told blogTO of his motivation for starting a new initiative offering free produce to families in need.

"Produce prices are estimated to be increasing and I want to ensure that children can have access to the proper nutrition required for a healthy lifestyle. I'm a father of two young boys, so this to me is important."

King's program follows a community-supported agriculture (CSA) model and allows participants to pick up a "share" of the produce available to take home with them each week, completely free of charge. 

Of course, producing all this free food doesn't come cheap, so King started a GoFundMe campaign to raise as much money as possible in order to expand his micro-farming practice, which he describes as "small scale, sustainable, high-yielding agriculture done on land ranging from a half acre and up."

Members of the public have donated more than $1,300 to the fundraiser as of Wednesday afternoon, and he said all donations are being used to help cover the expenses of producing extra vegetables. 

King said for every $800 raised, he'll be able to supply one family with all their produce needs every week for the entire growing season.  

And on the off chance that he exceeds his $5,000 goal, he said he'd like to start a non-profit organization so he can find more ways to help people access fresh local produce, whether that means supplying fruit and veggies to local charities, soup kitchens or shelters, or even starting community gardens.

King also goes by the username "The Rural Dad" online and plans to share updates on the charity garden to both his YouTube channel and Twitter account.

"I feel it's important right now to give hope to those that are unable to earn an income due to government restrictions on workplaces/occupations," he said. 

"Groceries are a major expense in most households with children. If I can pull together a community of people to help grow extra produce, I can greatly offset that expense so that those in need can focus on paying rent, mortgages, etc., and have access to healthy food that may not be in their restricted budget."

Lead photo by

Jeff King

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