One potato, two potato, three potato, four. Five potato, six potato, seven potato, more. A lot more. That is the mantra you will hear this fall at the Dahlke family farm just outside of Green Isle, Minn.
Travis Dahlke ’00 and his younger brother Nathan ’02, grew up on the 175-acre farm. Both brothers earned their B.A. in computer science at Gustavus and now work in the Twin Cities, but neither have forgotten about their roots.
In the spring of 2009, the Dahlke’s asked their parents to donate an acre of land so they could start a nonprofit venture called “Hands for Harvest.” The idea was a simple one: take an acre of farmland, recruit several hundred willing volunteers, and produce a healthy crop of potatoes to donate to local food shelves.
“At a time when the economy was really struggling, it just seemed like the right thing to do,” Travis said. “While I had high hopes, I had no idea how successful and rewarding the experience would be.”
Family, friends, fellow-Gustavus alumni, and members from their church – Calvary Lutheran in Golden Valley – flocked to the farm to help plant, weed, cultivate and harvest the crop. As a result, the Dahlke’s were able to donate more than six tons or 12,000 pounds of potatoes to four different food shelves in Gaylord, Glencoe, Golden Valley, and Minneapolis.
This year the Dahlke’s decided to add carrots and onions to the mix. They expect to be able to donate four tons of potatoes along with approximately 600 pounds of onions and 750 pounds of carrots to food shelves in Minneapolis, Shakopee, Glencoe, Gaylord, and Golden Valley.
One group that volunteered their time to Hands for Harvest this year was the Gustavus men’s basketball team. More than 20 student-athletes, assistant coach Josh Drinkall, and head coach Mark Hanson and his family assisted in the planting of the potato crop in May. Then during the second weekend of September, the team returned to the farm to help harvest the crop.
“We’re really excited by the support that Gustavus has been giving Hands for Harvest, and the possibilities of partnering even more with people and groups at Gustavus in the future,” Travis said. “The initiative of Coach Hanson to get his guys out to the farm and his determination to make sure they saw it through to the end of the season was a major shot in the arm for us both in the spring and fall.”
Travis also mentioned that a group of young adults who regularly attend Calvary Lutheran’s Sunday night “Journey” worship service have been instrumental in the success of Hands for Harvest.
“The group from Calvary is very service-oriented and socially aware of issues facing our communities,” he said. “They are very eager to step forward and help no matter what the cause at hand might be.”
Travis and Nathan will be on campus Monday, Oct. 18 to receive the 2010 Gustavus Adolphus College Association of Congregations (GACAC) Service Award for their work through Hands for Harvest. The award will be given out at 10 a.m. in Christ Chapel during the College’s daily worship celebration. The GACAC Service Award recognizes alumni and former students who have made distinctive commitments and contributions to the service of others.
For more information about Hands for Harvest, visit the nonprofit’s website at handsforharvestmn.org.