Above: Volunteers gather at P3 Farms during this year’s potato harvest. – Submitted Photo
by Stephen Dafoe
A Sturgeon County family’s desire to have a rural life eight years ago has turned into an initiative that is helping those in need.
P3 Farms owner David Benjestorf bought a 23-acre property in Sturgeon County about eight years ago. The property is 1.3 km north of Sandpiper Golf Course.
“When my wife and I bought the property, we always knew that we would build a home and do something special on it. We just never knew what that special thing was,” Benjestorf said.
But then COVID hit, and that something became a reality.
Benjestorf, who sits on the Edmonton Food Bank Board, was involved in emergency planning for the food bank.
“With the lockdown now in my mind, we were trying to figure out how to source food for the Edmonton Food Bank,” he said, noting that same evening, he watched a Netflix show called The Biggest Little Farm about a couple who left the big city to start a farm in a barren area for growing. “It was a seven-year journey where they go from nothing to this beautiful oasis. I was so inspired by that, I turned to my wife and said, ‘Let’s grow vegetables for the Food Bank.'”
Having never grown anything before and it being planting season, the Benjestorfs contacted roughly 25 family members to assist.
“Almost every one of them said, ‘Yes. We’d love to.’ That was the middle of April, and by the middle of May, we had planted about six and a half [to] seven acres,” Benjestorf said.
In the first year, the farm donated 90,000 pounds of vegetables. The farm is now harvesting year four and will harvest approximately 100,000 pounds, which Benjestorf said would supply the Edmonton Food Bank for about one-and-a-half months.
“What started as a way to get pounds to the Food Bank—all I really cared about was how to get the most food possible to the Food Bank. But what started happening was our neighbours, and others started to come out and volunteer. School groups would come out. A hockey team would come out and pick. It became as much about community as it was growing food for the food bank.”
Since that first year, the Benjestorfs have expanded the farm, adding sod and areas to host social functions. The family now does fundraisers, other activities, and growing food for a charitable cause.
In the main garden, P3 Farms grows 22 different types of vegetables. Families often bring their children to P3 Farms to learn how food is grown.
“I enjoy seeing families and folks coming out with smiles on their faces as they are walking around the farm,” Benjestorf said.
Harvest Volunteers Sought
With roughly 100,000 pounds of potatoes and other vegetables to harvest, the operation needs lots of volunteers each season, who are allowed to take some vegetables home for their families as well.
Midway through this year’s harvest, Benjestorf had already harvested 50,000 pounds of potatoes. Although that produce is marked for the Edmonton Food Bank, Benjestorf said he is open to talking with the various food banks in Sturgeon County.
“Our goal is to give free food to people wherever they may be,” Benjestorf said. “If Sturgeon County of Morinville Food Bank said, ‘We need a little help,’ I’m happy to help.
Benjestorf is looking for not only additional volunteers for this season but also next season as well.
“We have folks that volunteer one day a week during the growing season, anywhere from an hour or two to four or five hours a week,” he said, adding those volunteers come and go as they please, looking after their rows in the garden. “And then we have call-ups for planting season and harvest season.”
For more information on volunteering, contact David Benjestorf at email@example.com. The farm is also on Instagram – @p3farmerdave.
Crates of potatoes await delivery to the Edmonton Food Bank. – submitted photo