Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Caravan down the Mississippi

Saturday, September 3rd, 2005

High on euphoria after Friday's successful material and monetary collection, Diana, Lynn, Aria and Dwiji set out on Saturday morning. The donated 24' truck was only about half filled and the Litahni and I, the support team back home, were to work on setting up collection points along the way in Madison, Bloomington IL and St. Louis.

The fertile belt of South-East Minnesota sparked the idea of approaching farms along the way for their excess produce – after all, this is the peak of the harvest season. Dwiji called me and I followed up with organic farms and farmers' markets in Southern Wisconsin. We hit pay dirt at Turkey Ridge Apple Orchard, about 30 miles Southeast of La Crosse, WI. The orchard had kept aside three bushels of apples (totalling 3000 lbs) with the idea of sending them to the hurricane-affected areas, but hadn't been able to arrange transportation. Our group was in the right place at the right time - whoopee! They found out the Turkey Ridge, in league with other farm groups in Wisconsin, was planning to set up a soup kitchen in Mississippi. Yet another grassroots effort we might be able to partner with...

Further east, I reached Heck's farm market and store outside Arena, WI. They offered corn and melons and got the truck close to its weight limit. Simultaneously, Litahni made contact with Brenda in Mt. Vernon IL (north of St. Louis) who offered to collect materials locally and bring them to a collection point near I-57.

In the meantime, Diana was in contact with a doctor from Southern Mississippi who was only too pleased to hear about the incoming produce. She offered to meet them in Jackson, MS and escort them to a community near Biloxi. When last I talked to them on Saturday, they sounded tired yet excited. They planned to meet Brenda at a Walmart in Mt. Vernon at 2 am and she offered to wait in her car till they got there - good for her!

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