By Amy Daybert Herald Writer
LAKE STEVENS — The potato field that takes up more than an acre at Holy Cross Catholic Parish is empty.
That’s because about 100 members of the church, their families and friends on Sept. 1 harvested all of this year’s crop. Their work brought in more than 15 tons of potatoes that were sorted, bagged into burlap sacks and donated to local food banks.
“This year was the biggest harvest we’ve had,” said Dave Hutzenbiler, a church member from Snohomish. “Father Jay (Defolco) blessed our seeds before we planted them this year. This is the first year we had our seeds blessed. I know that’s why it was the biggest harvest yet.”
Members of the church for four years now have planted seed potatoes in April and harvested the crop around Labor Day. The largest crop before this year was in 2010 when 13,000 pounds of potatoes were harvested.
Hutzenbiler, 48, grew up on a farm in Belfield, N.D. He moved to Washington in 1988 and four years ago started an effort at Holy Cross Catholic Parish to help food banks by planting and harvesting potatoes on church land. He donates the use of his John Deere tractor and a 1920 potato digger to get the job done.
The list of groups to give potatoes to gets longer every year, Hutzenbiler said. This month, about 30,350 pounds of potatoes were given to food banks in Edmonds, Everett, Granite Falls, Lake Stevens, Marysville, Monroe and Snohomish. The largest amount, 15,500 pounds, went to the Salvation Army in Everett.
“I just love helping people,” Hutzenbiler said. “When we deliver the potatoes to the food banks, when we see the look on those people’s faces, it’s just priceless.”
Volunteers planted about 700 pounds of potato seed in April, said Steve Homiack, a church administrator. He’s helped every year with the harvest.
“A lot of people have done it for many years and they consider it one of the highlights of the parish for the year,” he said. “It’s hard work but we’ve got the space to grow it and it’s the right thing to do.”
Members of the church buy seed potatoes and donate them or donate money to buy seed before it’s time to plant, Homiack added.
More than 700 pounds of the potatoes grown at the church this year are going to a food bank located about 1,200 miles away, Hutzenbiler said. He plans to personally deliver those sacks.
“A good friend runs a food bank there, and I told her, ‘Pray hard and if we have a good harvest I will deliver potatoes to you,’” he said. “You have a bare piece of land doing nothing and look how many people you can feed from it.”
Amy Daybert: 425-339-3491; firstname.lastname@example.org.