Twist. Snap. Toss. Repeat.

Imagine that same routine over and over for an hour or so in the middle of a humid corn field.

Now…. imagine all that if you never grew up on a farm.

Insert me – a southern, Georgia gal turned farmer’s helper. I interned with Illinois Corn this summer and had the unique opportunity to pick sweet corn with John Kiefner and a handful of other volunteers and family farmers in Manhattan, Illinois.

Okay. I’ll be honest. I was dreading the heat, the bugs and the humidity (even though I’m from Georgia, I still dread the humidity from time to time!).

After we retrieved our bounty from the sweet corn patch, John proudly waved his hand over to the trailer hooked up to his truck; it was loaded down with the weekend haul from the local, community garden he’s also partnered with. Beans, summer squash, peppers and cucumbers galore overflowed from buckets and bins. John is a big believer in not wasting food, and the biggest part of that is getting the nutritious food to people that need it most.

So our first stop was the New Lenox food pantry. We unloaded a small fraction of the goods. That ‘small’ fraction overflowed six heaping recycling bins.

Next, we stopped at the downtown Joliet food pantry. Several people helped us unload sweet corn and veggies into grocery carts. They invited me inside the kitchen to see their culinary masters hard at work.

Standing there photographing the busy bees making dinner preparations, I couldn’t help but notice my overwhelming sense of humility.

John and his friends’ efforts made an extraordinary, rippling impact throughout not only his community, but also the surrounding areas. The countless hours they spent planting, raising, harvesting, organizing and delivering their veggies put food on the plates of hundreds, if not thousands, of families. I was fortunate to experience the end result of all their hard work (and a little of mine, too!).

And for that, I am grateful to have been a part of this project.

Lauren Knapp
Illinois Corn Summer Intern

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