The Harley-Davidson Foundation has committed to allocating more than $2.4 million in grant funds to support the growth of the Hunger Task Force Farm in Franklin.
The 208-acre farm, which operates year round, harvests fresh produce for food pantries, soup kitchens, homeless shelters and senior centers throughout greater Milwaukee. Last year, more than 350,000 pounds of produce – including apples, corn, broccoli, asparagus and more – benefited local programs.
The Harley-Davidson Foundation’s grant, which will be rolled out over the next three years, will act as a funding force for the farm’s spectrum of educational and job training programs.
In addition to hosting nutrition education courses for students from Milwaukee Public Schools and providing opportunities for area residents to learn about Wisconsin agriculture, the farm is developing a job training program for individuals to build soft job skills.
“If you live in the central city and you have no access to a decent job you probably haven’t learned how to be on time, what to wear to work, how to follow your supervisor’s directors,” said Sherrie Tussler, executive director of Milwaukee-based Hunger Task Force. “And you haven’t gained the necessary job experience to put on your resume.”
The year-long job training program currently has six participants, each of whom receive $10 per hour for their efforts to run and maintain the farm. Hunger Task Force aims to grow the program to prepare 18 trainees for future employment, Tussler said.
“We would like to see people who are low income and who are having a hard time finding a job in the central city have an opportunity to not just learn job skills but ultimately work for a local corporation like Harley Davidson,” Tussler said.
The nonprofit also relies on thousands of volunteers to stay on top of the upkeep of the farm. Last year, nearly 2,500 volunteers took part in tending, weeding, planting, harvesting, and picking fruits and vegetables.
“If you like getting your hands in the dirt, the farm is a great place to volunteer,” Tussler said.
The Harley-Foundation, which has contributed funding to Hunger Task Force for more than 20 years, will lend the farm “a new beginning,” Tussler said.
“It stabilizes the operation of the farm, and it really is a turning point for the farm and its history,” Tussler said. “It creates an opportunity for the farm to serve the general community, to assure that people at food pantries are getting fresh produce rather than canned goods. It promotes health, and it creates dignity for people when they’re able to get fresh and healthy foods.”
Hunger Task Force leases its farm grounds from Milwaukee County for $1 a year in exchange for harvesting fish in a farm-based fish hatchery for Milwaukee County Parks as well as supplying 10 face cords of wood.
For more information about the farm and Hunger Task Force’s mission to achieve a hunger-free community, visit www.hungertaskforce.org.