Annual Crop Drop has trickle-down effect across Walton, Okaloosa and Santa Rosa counties

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

They came, they bagged and they loaded more than 80,000 pounds of produce at this year’s Crop Drop at Destin United Methodist Church to help those in need. 

This was the 13th year for the event, where produce is “dropped” and then bagged and sent out to help feed people. 

“We had about 350 people show up,” said Karen DeBord, who heads up Crop Drop Destin. 

More than 300 volunteers, young and old alike, came out to participate in this year's 13th annual Crop Drop. This year's event was held at the Destin United Methodist Church parking lot.

The numbers were a bit down, she said, noting that in 2019 they had more than 500 people show up to assist in the effort that always takes place the Saturday before Thanksgiving. 

“I think it was a direct reflection on COVID and people not wanting to gather too much still,” DeBord said of the lower number this year. 

But the produce still came in and went out as planned. 

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“We had about 24 agencies that came through and picked up produce and brought back to their facilities,” she said.

And within those agencies, there are some that bring back to other agencies. 

Some of agencies involved included Harvest House of Destin, The Gathering in Fort Walton Beach and Sharing and Caring in DeFuniak Springs. 

“We probably had about 30 agencies involved,” DeBord said. 

Trucks line up for the processional through to get their produce to deliver to the various agencies in Okaloosa, Walton and Santa Rosa counties.

And through those agencies, about 30,000 people were on the receiving end. 

"One church alone in Santa Rosa Beach serviced 500 people,” she said 

Crop Drop works across three counties, Walton, Okaloosa and Santa Rosa.  

DeBord explained that a food truck, Feeding the Gulf Coast, from out of Milton came and picked up 20,000 pounds of produce to deliver back to Milton.  

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“We don’t even know the number up there (that receive the food),” DeBord said. 

“It’s just wide spread.” 

She talked of another man in Navarre who came and took 15,000 pounds of produce to Navarre that he distributes. 

“He has like a table set up and people just come and get the food,” she said.

And he has a couple of guys that come and take food back to their trailer court area and they put food out for people to come and get. 

“So, it’s kind of a trickle-down effect that’s happening. And we don’t even know what kind of trickle-down effect is going on out there,” DeBord said. 

Volunteers formed an assembly line to load up the many bags filled with fresh produce to be delivered to those in need.

On Saturday morning in the parking lot at Destin United Methodist, 81,000 pounds of produce was separated, sorted and bagged. 

Crop Drop works with a non-profit agency in Orlando called Society of St. Andrew that rounds up a lot of produce from the farmers that doesn’t go to market, because the potato might be lopsided or just not pretty. The society then works with truck drivers to pick up the produce and haul it in. 

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“This year we got 41,000 pounds of sweet potatoes,” DeBord said. 

Plus, they had a mixed fruit and vegetable truck come in with 40,000 pounds. This truck started out in Orlando and went up to Georgia collecting produce. The truck was loaded with tomatoes, white potatoes, onions, apples, oranges, squash, cucumbers and green peppers. 

“It was just amazing,” DeBord said. 

Students from Destin High School manned the hospitality tent as well as helped to bag up goods at the Crop Drop.

The volunteers arrived early at the church and put all the produce in bags and the agencies made a procession through the parking lot to pick up the goods.  

“Some agencies only got 50 bags and other got 350 bags … and every bag is about 10 pounds,” she said. 

Helping to bag up some of the produce and man the hospitality tent were students from the new Destin High School. 

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“They were in charge or our food and beverage station this year,” DeBord said. “They helped with the bagging and sorting, but they also got water for us and snacks. They ordered pizza for us.”

Julie Worth, a teacher at Destin High, organized the students at the Crop Drop. 

Although the whole school helped to gather donations such as chips, granola bars, bananas and bottled water to name a few of the items, 23 students came out to volunteer at the event. 

“They did whatever we asked them to do,” Worth said from manning the tent to bagging vegetables. 

40,000 pounds of sweet potatoes were delivered at the Crop Drop on Saturday at the Methodist Church.

“I think they really enjoyed it,” Worth said. 

Worth said she texted some of the students later just to thank them for coming and some commented as to “what a cool opportunity it was … and how much they enjoyed it.” 

The Crop Drop is held the Saturday before Thanksgiving each year to help provide fresh produce to those in need, to go along with the boxed items they may get from the agencies. 

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“A lot of times they just can’t afford the produce … they have to go with whatever is cheap,” DeBord said. 

The food goes to “people who are food insecure,” DeBord said. She explained that even some people with jobs have tough decisions to make … “am I going to buy groceries or pay my light bill. They don’t have to be homeless or poor, just be insecure … we help all types.”

Crop Drop has to purchase the produce, fuel and freight, so donations are always welcomed. For more information about Crop Drop, call 850-586-0585 or info@cropdropdestin.com.