40,000 clog back roads to harvest free vegetables at Colorado family farm

As many as 40,000 people seeking free vegetables descended like locusts on a family farm north of Denver on Saturday, making off with as much as 300 tons of potatoes, onions, beets, leeks and carrots. Joe and Chris Miller extended an invitation to hungry Colorado residents to harvest what remained in the fields of Miller Farms, but only expected 5,000 takers. “At one point, we did have to turn people away in part because we weren’t sure that there would be anything left in the fields and in part because we were so overwhelmed,” the Millers wrote on the farm’s Web site Monday.

The free harvest, intended as a “thank you” to the community, was scheduled for two days, but the Millers canceled the second because “the fields are clean,” Joe Miller told NPR’s “All Things Considered” on Monday. He said farm personnel “still had to turn people away Sunday that just kept coming out,” despite having gone through 80,000 produce bags the day before.

“Overwhelmed is putting it mildly,” Chris Miller told the Denver Post. “People obviously need food.”

“Everybody is so depressed about the economy,” Greeley resident Sandra Justice told the Post. “This was a pure party. Everybody having a a great time getting something for free.” Justice and her family hauled off 10 bags of vegetables, the Post reported.

As many as 11,000 cars backed up two miles on the roads to the farm, just east of Longmont, and families that arrived without proper harvesting equipment used “nothing more than their bare hands and a few utensils — mostly dried-up carrots” to glean leftover root vegetables buried in the 600-acre farm’s soil, the Greeley Tribune reported.

The Millers are just wrapping up the farm’s annual harvest festival, which includes hayrides and tours allowing city folk to see how a family farm operates.

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Ernest Luning

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