Members from the Sri Sathya Sai Center of Baltimore recently volunteered to help those impacted by COVID-19 by harvesting vegetables in July and September 2020, at a non-profit farm in Freeland, MD. First Fruits Farm, a non-profit Christian ministry, an hour away from the Sai Center, is dedicated to providing fresh, nutritious produce to those experiencing hunger in the Mid-Atlantic region. The farm started as a small field, first owned by a church, and later given to a Christian family. The family received a grant to buy seeds and the equipment needed to keep the farm operating. The non-profit subscribes to the belief that everything is an offering to God. Volunteers usually say a prayer before going out and working in the fields for three hours. Since 2004, thousands of area volunteers have helped to harvest over 16.5 million pounds of fruits and vegetables to share with local food banks, homeless shelters, soup kitchens and other food providers.  

The Center Service Coordinator noted that the service project was an excellent way for the members to learn how fruits and vegetables are grown and harvested. He was especially pleased to observe how enthusiastic the Sai Center members were about this harvest service. Usually, they have a good turnout of 60-70 volunteers, many of whom were Sai Spiritual Education (SSE) children and Young Adults (YAs). Despite the pandemic, they still had about 30 Center members show up the last couple of times. They all wore masks in keeping with COVID-19 safety guidelines. Because it was such a huge field, it was easy to maintain social distancing.  For safety, they worked alongside their own family members. In July, Sai volunteers harvested over 1,400 pounds of bell peppers and tomatoes. In September, assisted by members from a local church, they harvested over 5,000 pounds of corn and about 4,000 pounds of potatoes.

The Center President reflected, “This harvest service has always been gratifying because all of the produce from the farm goes directly to the people who most need it. This year, with the COVID-19 pandemic, many families are suffering. Getting fresh food has been especially challenging for those affected, particularly those who live in the city. The pandemic demands an urgent response from organizations such as First Fruits Farm, which works to provide food to people who desperately need it – not just prepackaged non-perishables, but nutritious produce that aids in better health for all. So being part of this process, during this time, has been especially rewarding.”