5000 Farms helps fight food insecurity in New Brunswick

It’s another full-time job — growing and donating food to people across the entire province of New Brunswick — but for Ken Reid, the long hours are turning his dreams into a reality.

“It feels great, but it’s not just about me, it’s about what we do, what we give back,” said Reid, the founder and one of the directors at 5000 Farms.

It all started back in 2007 when, as a board member for Harvest House, he had lunch at a local soup kitchen.

“In the middle of the room, there was a young couple. Something had gone evidently very wrong in their lives. They were well dressed, but obviously there for a reason and I was watching them and I saw this look of shame and rejection on the father’s face and it hit me to my core,” he said.

Looking to make a difference and give back, a few years later he grew a not-so-successful garden. However, he kept at it and yielded successful crops, which led to ambitious expansions.

“In 2021, we grew over 160,000 pounds and we actually overwhelmed the system for a while and they were shipping food down to Nova Scotia as a result,” he said.

5000 Farms currently rents property from Michael Murphy, taking what was once a garden to a three-field operation.

Its main partner is the Food Depot Alimentaire, since they can handle the volume of crops the group donates.

This year, the goal is to grow over 200,000 pounds of fresh produce with potatoes, sweet corn, carrots, beats, onions, green beans, cabbage and squash on the menu.

“I noticed that years ago, even with the Harvest House, they were never lacking foods like breads, even canned foods to an extent, but quickly realized that a lot of people actually never eat or have access to fresh vegetables, so that became very important,” said Reid.

However, 5000 Farms also donates to local shelters, churches and missions when possible.

“Food banks, soup kitchens are having a hard time to get fresh produce in and get food in because there is more of a pull and demand on their services,” said director Ken MacQueen.

“We’re just really trying to help relieve some of that pressure.”

MacQueen says he got drawn into the organization. It started with him receiving a donation at a non-profit, followed by multiple trips to see what 5000 Farms was doing, and now being a part of the initiative.

“Coming from a non-profit background, I’ve seen people come to shelters and sometimes it’s not always what you think is why they’re there, and being able to provide food security for just the shelters and also food banks, where people can go and get food with dignity and respect, it means a lot to me and what we’re doing here at the farm,” he said.

New this year, 5000 Farms is now a registered charity.

“As a charity organization, now we can really scale up,” said Reid. “We can attract a lot more funding. Farming is an expensive model to bring with, we don’t aim to compete with the agricultural model or the other farmers. I’m from a farm myself, I understand that. We are truly serving a niche market.”

While the organization has continued to grow each and every year, those involved say they aren’t even close to being done yet.

“We’d love to have small proteins, different things, anything more that we can add that’s diverse into the food network would be amazing,” said MacQueen.

Reid adds the hope is to eventually be able to supply a year-round supply of fresh vegetables.

The plan is to have crops in the ground in May with harvest lasting straight through until late October.

Officials say volunteers are welcome for several different tasks.

“We’re just creating a space for people to come out, volunteer, give up something of themselves for someone else,” said MacQueen. “That’s really important.”

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