Filling bags to feed the farmers

Employees of Wabash Valley Service Company in McLeansboro form an assembly line to cook boneless pork chops, make sandwiches, and insert the sandwiches and other goodies into paper bags, which are then placed into insulated cooler bags for trips to fields in every direction.

NAT WILLIAMS, THE SOUTHERN NEWS SERVICES

McLEANSBORO — All year long, Wabash Valley Service Company delivers supplies to farmers in southeastern Illinois. But for a few weeks in the fall, some special deliveries are made.

Once a year, employees of the cooperative put together hundreds of sack lunches they deliver to their customers, right on the farm.

The program has quickly grown from its humble beginnings in 2015, when meals were offered at some of the co-op’s locations. This year saw a much bigger endeavor that includes hundreds of meals and hundreds of miles.

“We decided in 2016 to go to each location and give the opportunity to feed their farmers,” said Wabash Valley’s Mike Wilson. “Last year only half of our locations participated. This year all 10 counties are having a day.”

The menu is anchored by boneless pork sandwiches, barbecued on site at one of the co-op’s 10 locations in southeastern Illinois. Wilson and others grill up the pork on a portable barbecue smoker.

The sandwiches are accompanied by chips, cookies and soft drinks. The meals are sacked and the sandwiches kept warm in insulated bags carried by employees right to the fields during harvest.

The so-called Feed the Crew program is co-sponsored by Verdesian and Bayer CropScience. Twice weekly during harvest, an assembly line forms at one of Wabash Valley’s county locations, where employees cook the pork, stuff the bags and deliver the lunches, all with the precision of a well-oiled machine.

“You would not believe how we stuff those sacks,” Wilson said. “We put the finished meals in those bags so the sandwich stays warm. We have five to six vehicles that run a route. It takes about an hour and a half. Normally by noon we’ve got everybody fed.

“They deliver all the meals right to the field. They go right to the combine and drop the meals off. Sometimes a farmer will come in and pick the meals up, if they’re hauling grain.”

On a recent day, a number of workers at the Steve Becker farm in Hamilton County took a quick break from harvest to enjoy the hand-delivered meals. It provided a time for rest, sustenance and some light conversation before the men again boarded their machines to complete the harvest.

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