She and volunteers from the charities harvest food once a week, set up a table and give it away the same day.
Just shy of eight months after winning her grant, Griffin has just harvested her 200th pound of food from the one-third acre she farms.
“It’s going better than I expected,” she said.
Shifting from a plan hatched in a classroom to working with real clients has taught Griffin that the problem of many low-income residents not eating enough healthy food is about more than lack of access to markets that sell it.
Some clients had never seen produce like kohlrabi and had no experience cooking vegetables like kale. So Griffin, volunteers and mentors like Anna Stewart, OSU field education coordinator, started doing cooking demonstrations and handing out recipes.
The biggest hits so far? Kale pesto served on good bread and roasted kohlrabi.
Pesto tastes great with just about any greens, she said. Kohlrabi, which is a starchy vegetable, looks a lot like a potato when it’s peeled and cooked. That felt familiar enough for people to try it, Griffin said.
She’s grown to realize that changing people’s eating habits is a much more complex challenge than making fresh produce available.
“You have this idea of what the issues are in your head and what the research tells you. To see it in person and see the real issues has really expanded my understanding,” Griffin said. “I originally did think it was an issue of access but I realized that it was a larger more complicated issue."
So Griffin is moving forward with trial and error to see what works.
“We’re hoping to have community nights where we bring people to the farms. We’re trying to set one up,” she said. “Some people are more eager to take the produce than others.”
Still, the progress she’s made has been invigorating, and Griffin is looking to move into public schools in the fall. A big chunk of her grant was going to go into refrigerators for the schools, so she’s trying to get them donated.
And Griffin is working on securing more grants to continue the program beyond one year. She said continuing the program will be less expensive at this level of production going forward since she’s already bought a lot of the equipment to start it up.
“I didn’t think it would be fair if I were to do this for a year and drop it,” she said.
Bob Driehaus covers economic development. Contact him and follow stories on Facebook, Google, and Twitter.