The harvest has begun at the Colorado Farm to Table fields on Colo. 291.

Volunteers started hitting the fields last week to pick the first crops in the cool of the morning.

First to be picked were cabbage and broccoli. Sweet corn harvest is expected to start Friday, and after the first frost acorn squash will be ready to harvest.

Thomas “T.J.” McDaniel said this year’s harvest is a little later than usual.

Planting was delayed in spring due to the weather, McDaniel said, referring to the late snows and low temperatures during the planting season.

McDaniel said the crops are therefore ripening about a week later than usual, maybe a little less.

Career farmer Tony Madone Jr. decided in 1996 to grow food to give away, and the idea sprouted into Colorado Farm to Table, which became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in 2006.

The operation donates all of its annual harvest to 33 different groups, including soup kitchens, churches, food banks and pantries all over the state.

Those distribution centers pass the produce on to families and individuals in need.

McDaniel said distribution usually occurs within a few days of picking the fresh produce, and it was nice to know the food gets to the people for whom it is intended while it is still fresh.

Longtime volunteer Penny Meierdirk, who has been helping out at the farm since 1997, said Madone’s sole purpose in creating the farm was to grow food to give away.

She said Colorado Farm to Table was the only farm in the state and one of the few in the country that grows food just to give it away.

Since the operation began, Meierdirk said, more than 2 million pounds of food from the farm has been donated to those in need.

“We’re working on our third million,” she said.

Meierdirk said when the harvest is done, the fields will be opened up to the public for gleaning.

That date will depend on weather and conditions, and Meierdirk suggests keeping an eye out for an announcement.

Volunteers are still needed for harvesting sweet corn and acorn squash. Jobs are available for a variety of physical abilities, including picking, sorting, counting and boxing.

For more information or to volunteer, visit coloradofarmtotable.org.

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