Farming 4 Hunger celebrated its 2015 Homecoming event on site at Serenity Farms in Hughesville on Saturday, October 17. “In 2012 we started Farming 4 Hunger and since that day, [God’s] showed us the way,” says founder Bernie Fowler, Jr. of the non-profit’s time. During 2015 the farming organization produced millions of pounds of food to serve those in need in Southern Maryland. Each year, Fowler invites all volunteers and those reached by the organization’s work, back to Serenity Farms to celebrate the season. “This event is about putting a face to the service,” Fowler says of the event.
Farming 4 Hunger draws participants from four key program areas: the Hub & Spokes program, the Demonstration Garden & Education Center, utilizing youth volunteers while teaching the importance of eating food locally grown and ethically produced, and local food retail. Farming 4 Hunger also partners with the Department of Corrections of the immediate Southern Maryland area to provide community service opportunities and a “time for nurture,” as described by current inmate and fellow of the program, Deshawn Johnson. “I got to drive a tractor!” Johnson comments of his time at Serenity Farms. He says that the program put him in an environment that is otherwise inaccessible; for him, farming is something new that provides renewal for him. Johnson is among over 40 men that have served Farming 4 Hunger while also serving time in the Department of Corrections since 2012. Through learning agricultural skills and “lifesharing” with community members, Farming 4 Hunger helps soon-to-be released inmates to share their stories and have meaningful interactions with others. Johnson shares one important sentiment he has learned from his time with Farming 4 Hunger: “It’s the choices in life that you make today that determine your future.”
Volunteers served a free meal at 1 pm, and the festivities began at 2 pm with face-painting and live music by local musician Ryan Forester. A former inmate partnered with the organization’s education center and designed an on-site area named “Farming 4 Health,” which features equipment to encourage young visitors to get active while making optimal food choices.
The Homecoming ceremony began at 3 pm with opening remarks by Bernie Fowler, Jr. Fowler notes the impact Farming 4 Hunger has left on the community, both in feeding those in need and providing spiritual and character growth. “Food is the vessel to get to the people,” Fowler says in his appreciation message to the supporters, volunteers, and friends of the organization.
Newly appointed Maryland Secretary of Public Safety & Correctional Services Stephen T. Moyer also provided praise for Farming 4 Hunger’s dedication to providing alternate opportunities for those incarcerated in Southern Maryland. “We have to have programs like this,” Moyer says, “which give someone a chance at life. “
Fowler recognized the year’s participants, both from the Department of Corrections and middle- and high school-aged youth volunteers and the accomplishments of the organization. Farming 4 Hunger, through reaching out to those struggling in our community, without prejudice or predisposition, ensures that “everyone is fed at the farm.”
Farming 4 Hunger’s next event will be the Memory Walk on May 14, 2016 at Serenity Farms to remember the community’s youth who lost their lives to substance abuse.
Alexya Brown / Calvert Beacon Intern