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Picking potatoes means more than a harvest for one community groupSubmitted: 09/23/2014

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RHINELANDER - The Rhinelander Area Food Pantry needs as much food as they can handle. The pantry tries to keep up with the families they rely on them. Tuesday, they had help from the community while loading up on potatoes.

"It's a lot of fun and it's nice to help pick for the community. It's a good thing to do. And it's fun," said 13-year-old Brianna Ward.

Ward and her father use potato picking to grow closer.

"We come out here. We laugh a little bit. We kind of toss a potato at each other once in a while," said Brianna's father, Norman Ward. "Like that. So it's fun."

They describe it as a fun and hardworking experience at the Rhinelander Agricultural Research Station in Starks. They first invited the Rhinelander Area Food Pantry to come and pick potatoes six years ago. The station plants extra rows of potatoes to protect their research, but…

"We don't have a specific use or purpose for the potatoes in those rows," said Rhinelander Agricultural Research Station Superintendent, Bryan Bowen. "We came upon the idea of working with the local food pantry a number of years ago to make sure those potatoes get used for something rather than left in the field to freeze."

Community members helped pick more than an acre of potatoes Tuesday afternoon.
The food pantry picked about 6 tons last year. This year they've reached 5 so far and they're expecting to reach more.

"These potatoes don't just go to our pantry. They're for other pantries in the area also. So we picked 7 ½ tons, which is a ton and a half more than we did last year," said Rhinelander Area Food Pantry Executive Director Guy Hanson. "I think we maybe even had a smaller crew, but everybody worked hard and we had a good time."

This was also a learning experience for both potato picking and about the food pantry.

"They get a chance to see how potatoes are grown and then how people do come together to help food pantries and help each other. So I think both of those are valuable lessons," Hanson said.

And this was a chance to help others along the way.

"We pick a few for ourselves, but I got like 10 families that don't come out here and don't use the food pantry and they need some potatoes. I pick enough for them too," Ward said.

And they feel that's what this is all about, lending a helping hand.


Story By: Shardaa Gray

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