27,000 pounds of apples and pears.
That’s how much King Estate winery in Eugene, Oregon contributed to FOOD for Lane County, a food bank serving the hungry in Oregon, this fall.
That’s how much Rodney Strong Vineyards has contributed to food banks across the country each of the last three years.
These wineries are giving back, and giving back in a big way.
I spoke with representatives of both King Estate and Rodney Strong earlier this month to find out a little more about their giving. I learned that their giving is about much more than just the numbers, and that those examples are just one part of what they do to give back.
“Ed King always says ‘No one should go hungry when there’s ground to grow food.’” Jessie Russell, Garden and Landscape Manager for King Estate told me. Ed King is the CEO and founder of King Estate.
And King Estate has plenty of ground to grow food. In addition to grapes, they grow apples, asian pears, beets, broccoli, carrots, cabbage, and on and on, almost through the entire alphabet. What is not used in the restaurant or in other ways by the winery is donated to those in need.
When I was at the winery this summer, I saw rows and rows and rows of beautiful apple trees, yet the winery uses a very small percentage of those apples. Instead they grow most of them to give them away.
King Estate’s apples are harvested by a local gleaning group, Harrisburg Gleaners. The gleaners pick all the apples at the winery in exchange for half of the produce gathered for their own distribution.
This keeps costs low, as King Estate doesn’t have to pay for a harvesting crew and the Harrisburg Gleaners get fresh organic fruit to distribute, as well as the use of King Estate’s cider press to make cider from the apples.
A portion of the rest of the apples are used in the winery restaurant, in jams and jellies, and sold to local school districts, so they are able to get organic apples at an affordable price. And the rest, 27,000 pounds in 2012, are contributed to FOOD for Lane County. That’s a LOT of apples by my count!
Beverlee Hughes, Executive Director of FOOD for Lane County, said the 27,000 pounds of produce has a value of $37,000. But that’s not all King Estate does for FOOD for Lane County.
Beverlee told me that the winery has hosted fundraisers on site netting hundreds of thousands of dollars and also contributes in other ways.
“Ed has a fleet of trucks to deliver wine that might come back empty. When we have donations far away, his team will coordinate and bring the donations back in those trucks,” she said.
With 350,000 people in Lane County, and 1 in 3 eligible for emergency food assistance, King Estate’s contributions must be making a substantial difference. And their contributions reach more than just their local area, as Oregon is the only state in the country with a collaborative network of food banks that work together to share their resources.
Way to go, King Estate, in sharing your bounty with those in need!
Rodney Strong Vineyards, a winery based in California, also works to make contributions that can be felt in its local area and in other areas. Since 2010, Rodney Strong has contributed $50,000 annually to 10 food banks across the country. Rodney Strong also contributes liberally to the arts and other community service organizations in California.
To decide which food banks to support nationwide, Rodney Strong uses the United Way as a filter and encourages its employees to submit food banks in their area for consideration.
The food banks the winery supports are:
- Redwood Empire Food Bank, Santa Rosa, CA
- Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee
- Community Food Bank of Central Alabama
- Project Bread, Boston, MA
- United Way Metro Chicago, Chicago, IL
- United Way of Rock River Valley, Rockford, IL
- Heart of Illinois United Way, Peoria, IL
- United Way Lane County, OR
- United Way Columbia-Willamette, OR
- United Way Jackson County, OR
- United Way King County, WA
- United Way Snohomish County, WA
- United Way Pierce County, WA
Heather Hanks, the Mid-South District Manager for Rodney Strong, asked that Nashville’s Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee be included the first year of the program.
“The first time we did this was after the flood and the town was so grateful. They even took out an ad in the paper to say thanks,” she said. “The need is overwhelming. It’s clear this is definitely the right choice after three years.”
Rather than just write a check to contribute (which would in itself still be fantastic) Rodney Strong encourages its restaurants and retailers in the area to get in on the giving and promote the program. This has led to increased donations from the businesses themselves and the community, in addition to the winery’s contribution.
About 50 retail locations and 30 restaurants restaurants pouring Rodney Strong wines in the Nashville area alone have jumped on board. Many restaurants offer half-priced entrees with the purchase of a bottle or glass of Rodney Strong Wines and many retailers and restaurants encourage their visitors to donate canned goods as they shop. Some of the retailers participating include Frugal MacDoogal, Brentwood Wine and Spirits, Cool Springs Wine and Spirits, Bud’s Liquors, Grapevine and The Wine Chap. Restaurants include Tin Angel, Sperry’s, Brick’s Café, and Sunset Grill.
It seems Heather has really encouraged the community to jump on board and help the contribution grow. This year, Heather is also helping the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama. After the enthusiasm she and Rodney Strong have grown in Tennessee, I can only imagine what is in store for those in Alabama!