Houlton Rotary Club members help harvest 27,000 pounds of corn to feed needy

Posted Sept. 15, 2011, at 6:10 p.m.

HOULTON, Maine — Members of the Houlton Rotary Club were out in force this past weekend picking ears of corn by the bagful to help needy families through the Friends of Aroostook initiative.

Now in its fourth year, the Friends of Aroostook program continues to provide fresh vegetables to those in need in The County and other areas. The nonprofit group began modestly in 2008, planting 3,600 ears of corn.

This year Friends of Aroostook planted sweet corn with the help of funding from the Houlton Rotary Club. Rotarians harvested some of the corn from the farm in Hodgdon over the weekend and the Friends of Aroostook added enough other vegetables to make a complete trailer load, which was sent to Vermont.

“The veggies are going to Vermont to help flood victims,” said Dale Flewelling, executive director of Friends of Aroostook. “Vermont has a warning out and is asking those who grew crops this summer to plow them under and not consume them due to the possibility of disease caused by flooding.”

“Friends of Aroostook needed help harvesting the corn, and the Houlton Rotary Club was glad to help out,” said Rotary president Scott Dionne. “One or two guys can plant corn, but it takes a lot more to harvest it.”

Dionne said the group’s goal was to harvest 10,000 ears of corn by the end of the weekend. They surpassed that goal early Saturday morning.

“We were looking for more things for Rotarians to get out and actually do something, instead of just asking for donations and doing the [annual Rotary] auction,” Dionne said. “We want to get out and do some activities that promote fellowship. Friends of Aroostook has helped not just Aroostook County, but all of Maine and now beyond.”

One of the elder Rotarians, Rodney Palmer, was also on hand Saturday morning to help pick corn.

“You just have to grab it and snap it,” said Palmer, who is in his 90s.

Flewelling said he has fielded numerous questions from people wondering why the food was not donated to food pantries in Aroostook County. His response is simple.

“What we ran into was there is no place in Aroostook County where we could deliver this quantity of corn,” Flewelling said. “Because the corn only has about a 10-day shelf life, local food pantries just couldn’t handle the volume we had.”

Flewelling said food pantries in Aroostook County requested 24 bags of corn, which he planned to provide, but FOA had more than 250 bags of fresh corn to distribute.

“What we decided to do with all the extra is to send a truckload to the Vermont Food Bank,” he said.

A total of 27,330 pounds of fresh vegetables were shipped Monday.

Flewelling said the area harvested by the Rotary Club was just one section of corn. An additional three acres of corn has yet to be harvested, containing nearly 30,000 ears of corn.

For more information about Friends of Aroostook, visit www.friendsofaroostook.org or call Flewelling at 694-8131. For more information about the Houlton Rotary Club, visit www.houltonrotary.org.