Southwestern Ontario farmer providing free produce to struggling families

Published On February 26, 2021 | By Victoria Meyer | COVID-19, Food, News

Ontario communities have been struggling with grocery bills since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, and amid all this, Jeff King is one farmer who is giving back to his community.

Located in Lakeside, Ont., about 40 kilometres northeast of London, King operates his family farm Hightower Acres, or Market Garden, as he calls it.

Considered to be a micro-farmer, he grows a variety of non-chemically treated produce such as cucumbers, tomatoes, and an abundance of lettuce.

King realized many families are currently facing financial problems because of lost or reduced income, and therefore decided that he wanted to help by providing free produce to families in need.

“I had to focus on how expensive produce was getting, as grocery bills take up a large part of the family income,” said King.

Canada’s Food Price Report showed Canadians are expected to see a rise in produce prices in 2021, with an estimated increase of 4.5 per cent to six per cent.

The report states “the average Canadian annual food expenditure is predicted to be $13,907 in 2021, an increase of up to $695 compared to 2020.”

The COVID-19 pandemic will have a long-lasting effect on Canadians’ relationship with grocery purchases, and King’s decision to provide free produce requires some community help.

“I realized that I couldn’t do this on my own, so I created a GoFundMe to get more people on board and by the first day I had over $1,300 in donations,” King said.

His initiative follows the community-supported agriculture (CSA) model and for about every $800 raised, a family will be able to pick up a share of produce each week of the growing season.

Fresh local produce stand with tomatoes, peppers, radish, and other vegetables
Hightower Acres’ fresh local produce stand. Farmer Jeff King, of Lakeside, Ont., launched a program to provide fresh produce to families in need. (@hightoweracres/Instagram)

To ensure his produce goes to families who are in need, King has been working with the mayor of Lakeside and as well as local elementary schools to find families who have been suffering due to a loss of income or shortage of groceries.

“I don’t want my produce to go to the wrong people, I want to help families who genuinely need the assistance,” King said.

The objective for King’s GoFundMe is $5,000, with more than $2,400 donations already raised. However, King said he plans to transform this initiative into a non-profit so he can help more families access fresh produce.

Thunderstruck Ag Equipment has sponsored King’s initiative and brought more attention to the fundraiser, which, in turn, will help King reach his long-term goal.

To that end, King is using social media to help bring attention to the rise in produce prices in Ontario, as his TikTok account has more than 25,000 followers.

“It’s important to educate people, and I want to post content of what I am doing with my program so that those who donated can see that their money is going to good use,” King said.

He can be found on TikTok and Instagram under The Rural Dad, and plans to give more insight on his micro-farming and free-produce program on his YouTube channel.

See his GoFundMe page to help King with his plan and help local families in need.

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