Written by Hanna Lee
Ralph Perkins has been the Production Manager for singer/songwriter icon, James Taylor, for many years. However, his latest endeavor is with his wife Jeannie. The pair manage a potato field in Colchester, Vermont started in 2004 when Ralphâ€™s father, Peter, decided to plant a few rows of the crop. Starting with 6 rows of potatoes, the harvested crops began as a donation to the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf. Not long after, Ralphâ€™s daughter, Kate, turned 4 years old, and Ralph saw the opportunity to use the small potato farm as a way to bond with her.
â€śFor me, helping my dad with his potatoes, seemed like a great way to begin exploring and explaining nature with Kate,â€ť recalls Ralph. By the summer of 2006, Ralph realized this was more than a part-time hobby. What was once a small Vermont farming project transformed into a mission to grow food and raise awareness about hunger issues. Their project became known as Tuberville.
In Vermont alone, 68,700 state residents of all ages live in food insecure households. Meaning that these households lack access to enough food to fully meet basic needs at all times due to lack of financial resources. Additionally, 37% of Vermonters could not afford either enough food or enough nutritious food.
During the first five years, Tuberville used a â€ścommunity gardenâ€ť model to engage their neighbors and produce food for various shelters. Â By 2009, they expanded from a six-row garden to a one-acre plot. Additionally, the Perkins expanded their reach by starting a sister program in Durham, Maine. The farms became such a force in the Perkins life that they decided to apply for non-profit status.
Taylor recently wrote in a newsletter to fans about Tubervilleâ€™s accomplishments and success as a nonprofit: â€śRalph Perkins, his wife, Jeannie, and their friends raise, harvest and deliver potatoes to food banks and soup kitchens across Vermont and Maine under the project name of Tuberville.â€ť Taylor goes on to say, â€śI do what I can to support their efforts because what they do helps so manyâ€¦I really believe in the power of community, which is what Tuberville is all about.â€ť
Most recently, the potato harvest was just over an acre and weighed in at 6,500 pounds. Tuberville was able to grow their donations to a number of organizations, such as Colchester Food Shelf, Vt. Food Bank, Milton Family Center, Marthaâ€™s Kitchen and the CHS Cares Thanksgiving Basket project.
Tubervilleâ€™s success is dependent on volunteers, who give generously with their time and assist during planting and harvest.Â Not to mention, another 200 followers and contributors that support Tuberville through the Internet. All volunteers and supporters share the mission to increase awareness on issues surrounding hunger. â€śOften hunger can seem invisible, though the effects of hunger on those impacted by it can be tremendous,â€ť explains Perkins â€śTubervilleâ€™s philosophy is not one of preaching or propaganda. We believe that anyone who decides they want to help others in their community through this kind of project will come to their own conclusion about the issue of hunger.â€ť
The Perkins witness daily how much an engaged community can accomplish when working together behind a shared cause.Â So much so, they have ventured to harness this power to areas beyond community gardening when they launched â€śYou Say Potatoâ€ťâ€” the nine-minute first episode of Tuberville: The Web Series. The series came about as an innovative and entertaining approach to raise awareness and grow the Tuberville organization. The nonprofit has big plans for taking Tuberville national. The newly launched initiative offers an opportunity for communities to work together and play together. With the help of goodfocus, a Maine socially focused film production company; Tuberville filmed the first two episodes of Tuberville, The Series. â€śOur belief is that helping others is part of everyday life. It can be done while we are working or playing or even watching television,â€ť says Perkins.
Over the past 6 years, Tuberville produced 50,000 lbs of food for donation, and began to develop scalable models that can be replicated in a franchised network. â€śOur goal is to help eliminate hunger by creating a sustainable project that people know about,â€ť declares Perkins. â€śIf we can do this, then others have the opportunity to get involved with Tuberville or to take what we have learned and start their own projects.â€ť
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