Originally Published in The Herald: Sunday, November 23, 2008
Story and photos by Dan Bates, Herald Photographer
Tristan Klesick may not be able to feed 5,000 people with a couple of fish and five loaves of bread, but he does possess strong Christian faith, unusually good food-growing skills and some great ideas for helping people bless other people.
“I know others have the heart to bless people with food,” Tristan says. “And with our farm staff and products, and our delivery vans, we have the means to help them do it.”
Tristan started a program called Neighbor Helping Neighbor about 10 years ago, but it isn’t advertised. He is low key about it and he won’t pressure others to use it. He merely would like to provide a conduit that people can use, by their own choice, to bless others with food.
It’s a not-for-profit function of the farm, something Tristan and his family believe in. They would do it themselves, anyway, but providing a way for others to use them increases the bounty for everyone. So far this year, about 340 family boxes and 100 holiday boxes have been donated.
People can purchase a box of food and have it delivered to someone they know who needs it. Or, what is more often the case, people ask the Klesick Farm to donate it to the food bank. The Klesick Family Farm matches every fourth box that customers donate.
She is all too young, and alone, holding a baby in a carrier. She avoids drawing attention to herself as she nervously looks over the food at the Snohomish Food Bank.
It’s clear she can’t carry groceries and hold the 2-week-old baby at the same time.
Ed Stocker, 82, kindly invites her to set the baby down next to him. He’ll gladly watch the child.
She is reluctant to separate from that baby, even for a minute. Yet, she finally leaves the child, quickly gathers some food and carries it to her car.
The next time she arrives, she takes the baby right to Stocker and sets the carrier down next to him. Each time she returns, the women volunteering fawn over the baby while she gathers food. Her guard lowered now, the young mother chats happily with the women, and the old man.
The young woman hadn’t been afraid in the beginning, Stocker explained. She was embarrassed.
It’s not easy to seek help. It can be an art to give it.
Gail Brenchley of Snohomish donates Klesick boxes because she feeds her five kids produce grown by the Klesicks and sees the difference in how they eat.
“If people are getting fresh vegetables, they’ll eat them,” she said. “Their kids will eat them because they taste better.
“I like to give others the same thing I feed my own family.”
Eva Burns donates the Klesick Farm boxes because, she said, it’s the way she would like to be treated if she were in need.
The delivery is key, she said. Somebody else doing the lifting is what makes it possible for the 82-year-old Everett woman to bless others in this way.
Michele Payton said the Klesick Farm’s pre-order holiday box is a bargain at $30.
“You can donate a second holiday box to some family you know, or to the food bank for $25,” she said. “And you should see it!”
Still, the Camano Island woman cancelled her own Klesick Farm deliveries.
“Because of economics, I e-mailed the Klesick Farm saying I needed to suspend deliveries for a while, until things get better,” Payton said. “Tristan not only called and lowered the cost of my food box, but he counseled me on the economic situation; he’s very knowledgeable.
“It touched me. I was personally surprised by the generosity.”
“It isn’t ‘business as usual,’” Payton said. “It’s not just another good value, food-wise. What other place would call somebody?
“I’m not going to get a call from some CEO at Costco to say, ‘Hey, let me help you out for a while.’ ”
Vicki Grende, whose husband, Don, was on strike at Boeing for eight weeks with the Machinists union, recently e-mailed the Klesick Farm to thank them for charging them half-price throughout the strike and to let them know they would like to pay full price now.
The majority of the donated Klesick Farm boxes go to the Stanwood Camano Food Bank. Ed Stocker will pick up about 60 holiday boxes for the Snohomish Community Food Bank this week.
The food banks are accustomed to stocking fruits and vegetables from the big stores, product that is near the end of its shelf life, yet still good if consumed right away.
The Klesick boxes are different.
“The thing about the Klesick boxes is they’re fresh vegetables,” Stocker said. “They’re not culls. They’re strictly the best — the same food they deliver to their customers is what they send with me.”
“I will go any distance to pick up produce,” Stocker said. “With Tristan, that’s my trip because his kids and I like to talk duck hunting and goose hunting. Those kids, they’re just like my own.”
He thinks Tristan is OK, too. He notes that Tristan began farming as an adult, rather than growing up on a farm like everyone in the Stocker family.
“He has a different slant on agriculture than someone who grew up on the dirt,” Stocker said. “And that’s good!”