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Farmers give to food banks

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Farmers give to food banks
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Across the state, food bank workers see an increase in donations during the holiday season. And it's not only canned and non-perishable items filling up their shelves They're stocking up on fresh produce, as well. Farmers state wide are taking part in the holiday giving, supplying food banks with more than five million pounds of fresh fruits, vegetables and proteins. One local farmer is doing his part, making one of the largest donations from the Central New York area. Our Cara Thomas reports.

ROME, N.Y. -- It's a small farm, 106 acres, growing a variety of produce and grain. But at the end of each year, they always have extra to give.

A few years ago, Wagner Farms started donating their left over produce to the Mohawk Valley Community Action Food Drive.

Ronald Wagner said, "We said we'd donate a couple hundred pounds of potatoes that year. We actually wound up donating a lot more that year and things sort of grew from there."

Now they're donating to three different organizations: The Mohawk Valley Food Drive, Holy Family Church and the Food Bank of Central New York, supplying more than 32,000 pounds of food total. It's one of the largest donations given in the Central New York area.

Large donations likes these aren't always easy. A larger donation means fewer sales during the season. But Wagner says he'd rather give the food to people who need it than let it go to waste.

"To turn that back into a compost pile or to turn it back into the field, let it rot and not be able to use it, I produced it, I might as well let it go to good use. And someone deserves to enjoy it," said Wagner.

Some farmers can donate all year round, bBut the majority of produce is given to food banks between September and December when products like potatoes, squash and cabbage become available.

The Food Bank of Central New York received 1.6 million pounds of food from local farmers this year. They say these donations are not only great tasting, they support their health and nutrition initiative. Since most people have access to cheap and unhealthy processed foods, these donations help change that.

Peter Ricardo from the Food Bank of Central New York said, "What's expensive? Animal protein, fruits and vegetables. So it's key, it's very important and we appreciate the support we get."

Partnerships between farmers and food banks continue to grow each year. And both parties say they don't plan on severing those ties any time soon.

The Central New York Food Bank says while large donations from farms are very helpful, canned goods, non-perishable foods and monetary donations are always needed year round.

To find out how to support the Food Bank of Central New York, visit www.foodbankcny.org.

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