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Nino Paoli/The Observer

New program gives fresh produce to La Grande veterans


By Nino Paoli

Published on 6/27/23

LA GRANDE — When Jessa Frank, 35, arrived at La Grande’s Veterans Village toting a bin full of fresh produce from the farmers market — pungent mint from the local Evergreen Family Farm and chard from Nella Mae’s Farm in Cove among the greens — she received a warm reception by the residents.

Saturday, June 24, marked the fourth week of the “Veterans Village Gleaning Project,” where vendors donate leftover produce they have at the end of the La Grande Farmers Market to the veteran community.

Frank, a former U.S. Navy veteran and the chair of the Veterans Village advisory council, and La Grande Farmers Market Manager Candi Nielsen created the gleaning project after Nielsen noticed many vendors lamenting over excess food after a weekend market.

“I see a lot of the vendors leaving with extra produce and some of them are saying things like, ‘God, this is gonna go to waste, this is not going to sell,’” Nielsen said. “It made sense to take it somewhere where people would actually use it and it would get in someone’s belly and it would not go to waste or be thrown away.”

The four participating vendors — Evergreen Family Farm on Evergreen Road, Nella Mae’s Farm in Cove, Happy Walrus Farm in Summerville and the M&J Martinez Garden in Milton-Freewater — appreciate the convenience of the system, which really just boils down to Nielsen and Frank going around with bins to collect what they are willing to donate.

“Our whole goal starting this farm was basically to get organically grown, fresh local food to everyone who wanted it regardless of income,” co-owner of Evergreen Family Farm Sarah Fischer said. “So when something like this veterans program comes up and someone can help facilitate our sharing of stuff for free, it’s just a dream.”

Read the full article on The Observer's website here.

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