Gateway: News

Community members gather to pick corn for local food banks

Janet Flexer holds an armful of corn while harvesting Aug. 12 at the Morford property.
Janet Flexer holds an armful of corn while harvesting Aug. 12 at the Morford property. Staff writer

Along a dirt road that leads into a meadow, a group of people spent the morning of Aug. 12 walking through rows of corn and collecting vegetables.

But it wasn’t the typical summer harvest: The food will go to local food banks.

Bill Sehmel planted the rows of corn in the spring. As they quickly ripened in August, he know the volume of corn would be too much for a small group, so he reached out to those in need.

The corn rows have a special home for Sehmel. A Peninsula Metropolitan Parks commissioner, he has been a leading proponent of making the Morford land, at 1313 38th St. NW, a community park.

Last summer, the Morfords offered the land to PenMet Parks in order to make it a public park. However, PenMet was not able to take on the land at the time.

The land has been in the Morford family since 1907 and is currently home to Rollin and Mary Morford, who have lived on the property since 1968. It was the dream of Rollin Morford’s mother, Rose Wheeler-Morford, that the land become a park.

The corn harvest is a chance to show the land’s potential, Sehmel said.

“This is just a demonstration of what the property could do if it was in public domain,” he said. “Hopefully, someday it might be a park and this can be done by other community members.”

Sehmel holds out hope that the land will some day be in the public trust. In the meantime, he’d like to see a community garden. That’s how the corn harvest came about. While a community garden could not be assembled this spring, Sehmel still wanted to put the area to use, so he decided on a patch of corn.

“Corn’s easy, people like it — I went with corn,” Sehmel said.

As the ears ripened, Sehmel enlisted volunteers to shuck and box the bounty and donate it to area food banks. Ears of corn went to Gig Harbor Peninsula FISH Food Bank as well as St. Leo’s Food Connection in Tacoma.

Sehmel planted 10 rows of 63-day burpee corn. When he went to begin harvesting, he counted more than 300 ears. That added up to boxes and boxes of food.

“I’m confident this food will not go to waste,” he said.

The volunteers had to work quickly the morning of Aug. 12 as a thunder, rain and lightning storm rolled in. Boxes were packed up just in the nick of time.

Janet and Steve Flexer helped harvest and pack the corn. The Flexers heard about the Morford land through an article in The Gateway. Last spring, Sehmel had set out to create a community garden at the site, but things didn’t come together in time. The Flexers offered to help pick the corn and hope someday the land can host a garden.

Todd Iverson, a PenMet commissioner, stopped by to see the property during the harvest.

Iverson said that when the land was presented to the board by Sehmel a few years back, the board was in an economic cycle that didn’t allow taking on new properties. There’s also a Great Peninsula Conservancy easement on the land that complicates matters.

The property is beautiful, Iverson said, but PenMet has other properties that need attention.

Karen Miller: 253-358-4155