Meet Our Newest Board Member, Chris Wittrock

My name is Chris Wittrock and I grew up here in Sioux Falls. I have lived in Iowa, Kansas and Michigan along with a couple of brief stays in Arkansas and Tennessee. My wife first found about Project Food Forest and sent me an email wondering if I had heard of the organization. The mission was in line with my belief in providing the basic necessities to people so I called, asked how I could help and now here I am.

My exploration of food started shortly after my wife was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). After finding out that some symptoms of PCOS are affected by the chemicals that are used on food, I decided to start doing some research to see what I could do to help alleviate those symptoms. This journey of discovery lead me to agriculture and how it has drastically changed in the US over the last 80+ years. In my quest to learn more about growing food, I participated in a farm apprenticeship program with Growing Growers in Kansas City. I worked for 8 months on a 4-5 acre certified organic production farm during 2012. During that time I learned about the daily life of an organic farmer, which involves a ton of work and is definitely a labor of love. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and gained a lot of practical knowledge.

I strongly believe we are stewards of this planet for the short amount of time we are here and we should leave it in better shape than we found it. I try to practice this in everything I do. PFF allows me to live out one of my core beliefs by being a good steward of the land in which we are so blessed to be able to plant on. We will also be able to help pollinators, such as bees and monarch butterflies, which have decreased in numbers substantially in recent years due to habitat loss, spraying of chemicals and disease. This does my heart good as I remember seeing a lot of monarch butterflies and many more bees as a kid then I do now. Since I am a gardener I appreciate the hard work these insects do for me.

I love the idea of planting sustainable food forests around our area that everyone can access. The price of quality, wholesome food is increasing all the time (one reason is US government food policies), which limits who can afford this type of food. I also like the fact that these food forests will need very little maintenance and no chemicals will be used on them.

Some of my dreams for PFF are a gleaning program, which we are currently working on, to ensure no food goes to waste and ends up in the mouths of those who need it most. I could also see us rescuing food that has already been harvested but rejected for various reasons from grocery stores and other sources. Since I am dreaming here, why not a pay what you can food truck that uses the fruits and vegetables from the food forests and gleaned from other local sources. That would provide another option for the homeless and working poor to eat some healthy fare as well as allow PFF to market itself to others in the community.

Finally, I am excited to see what types of partnerships and relationships we can build. I would like to see us team up with elementary, middle and high schools as well as universities in the area so we can educate these young minds about why and how we are doing what we are doing. My hope is that we will stir some hearts to volunteer as well. Working with local businesses, faith based groups and other individuals will also provide opportunities for sponsorship, land to plant our food forests on and a volunteer base. Partnering with local food pantries/banks, ministries, and non-profits will also be essential as we ensure all of this nutritious food is put to good use. Collaborating with local gardeners to plant a row of produce to give away would be another appealing relationship that could grow the mission of PFF.

I look forward to working with volunteers, forming partnerships, getting my hands dirty in the planting process and seeing all the types of beauty that can emerge from a labor of love.