Hydro Harvest Farms to help those in need stretch budgets for healthy foods

By MITCH TRAPHAGEN

In addition to fresh vegetables and the customers’ option to pick their own vegetables, the farm’s produce stand is also stocked with a wide variety of jellies and other preserves, almost all entirely grown and jarred at the farm. Mitch Traphagen file photos

In addition to fresh vegetables and the customers’ option to pick their own vegetables, the farm’s produce stand is also stocked with a wide variety of jellies and other preserves, almost all entirely grown and jarred at the farm. Mitch Traphagen file photos

For August, Hydro Harvest Farms on East Shell Point Road in Ruskin will be holding its second annual “Double Up Food Bucks Month.”

The owners of the hydroponic farm, John and Terrie Lawson, will double SNAP benefits to allow low-income customers the ability to buy twice as much fresh fruit and vegetables, thus stretching tight budgets while providing incredible nutritional benefit to those in need.

“We want to encourage folks who may not have access to fresh, affordable food the opportunity to discover a garden of great food,” Terrie Lawson said. “Also, it is difficult for many families to stretch their SNAP dollars in the summer, when children are home from school. Our gardens are overflowing with so many delicious vegetables. This is a great way to introduce people to the benefits of eating healthy food, get to know their farmer and teach their children where food comes from and how it grows.”

SNAP is an acronym for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

The farm’s first “Double Up” event last year, as featured in The Observer News, was an unqualified success

“We found many new families who were so thankful,” Lawson said. “In fact, many of our regular customers donated towards this endeavor, in order to help us fund the donations. So many people came in to thank us. To top it off, many children learned how food is grown and where it comes from, not from the grocery store or the fast food lane. The farm is so much more fun for children.”

According to Lawson, the goals for this year’s “Double Up” event include providing:

• An opportunity to help folks stretch late-summer SNAP benefits. With children out of school, and so many programs and benefits being cut, parents need as much help as possible.

• An opportunity to allow us to increase access and awareness of the affordability of fresh and locally grown food.

• Help people realize they can afford to eat good fresh food, and this food is available all year and we accept SNAP/EBT as payment.

In addition to vegetables that customers can pick themselves, the shelves at Hydro Harvest Farms are stocked with locally grown condiments, jellies and other delicious and healthy foods, virtually all grown and jarred on the premises.

“With the abundance of late-summer fresh veggies available to pick and a desire to help improve the diets of children who are out of school for the summer and a need for a little extra-good nourishment, we will be offering 50 percent for families who use their SNAP Benefit Card at our farm,” Lawson repeated.

John Lawson of Hydro Harvest Farms outside the farm stand at 1101 E. Shell Point Road in Ruskin.

John Lawson of Hydro Harvest Farms outside the farm stand at 1101 E. Shell Point Road in Ruskin.

“Surprisingly, food stamps were originally intended to be used to buy fresh produce and other staples at farm stands. Children can go hungry in the summer because SNAP benefit allotments are not always adequate to support a healthy, monthlong diet. Many local farms and farm stands like ours have the ability to accept SNAP/EBT cards. In order to promote the fact that Hydro Harvest Farms accepts EBT, also known as SNAP, we decided to do a promotion ourselves. Bringing an awareness of fresh food as a healthy alternative to sugary, fatty foods has always been our mission as a local community farm,” Lawson said.

Hydro Harvest Farm is open year-round and is a U-Pick hydroponic farm using all-organic methods of pest control. During August, the farm is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.  The farm is at 1101 East Shell Point Road. The farm is a family-run, locally owned operation.

“We love to talk about the fruits and veggies we grow year-round, kids love to pick the food, and there is nothing better than a fresh crisp salad with vine-ripe tomatoes and sliced onions with cucumbers on top,” Lawson said.

And in August, The Lawsons will be helping those in need find out just how great it can be.

For more information, visit www.hydroharvestfarms.com or call 813-645-6574.

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