Cubicles to cabbages: Giving back to the Giving Farm in Orange County

Courtesy photo Employees associated with United Healthcare in Cypress work with the Community Action Partnership of Orange County to support it’s Giving Farm at Westminster High School.

Sitting in a cubicle on virtual meetings on a late Friday afternoon is quite a contrast to harvesting fresh vegetables early the next morning. But that is exactly what Amy Ray did. The Associate Director of Network Pricing and Healthcare Economics for UnitedHealthcare in Cypress put away her laptop and made a Saturday morning journey along with 15 of her co-workers to help people in need at the Community Action Partnership of Orange County’s Giving Farm located at Westminster High School.

Ray and her co-workers of the California-based UnitedHealth Group Employee and Community Engagement Committee gave their time to help the cause that morning. Together, they rolled up their sleeves, donned black knee length work boots and gloves, and made their way to the cabbage field where they helped cut the stem on volleyball size heads of cabbage to place in bins. They moved on to work in the Farm’s orchard and harvest ripe oranges. In total, their labor of love resulted in four bins of cut cabbage and 39 milk size crates of oranges to feed Orange County’s vulnerable populations and senior communities in need of fresh healthy food through the Orange County Food Bank.

Working a farm seems odd in Orange County today, but the local area has a rich history rooted in agriculture. As the County became more industrialized and residential, Orange’s County agricultural industry dissipated. This effort is a revival of farming in the local community for all the right reasons.

“At Community Action Partnership of Orange County, our mission is to end poverty, and each leafy green cabbage and juicy orange harvested at the Giving Farm for the OC Food Bank represents hope for families struggling to put nutritious food on their tables,” said Gregory C. Scott, president and CEO of Community Action Partnership Orange County. “It is through the commitment and dedication of volunteers like Amy and colleagues from UnitedHealthcare that our organization is able to help vulnerable people throughout the county. Whether it’s at the food bank, at our community food drives, or at the Giving Farm, we’re thankful and grateful for their generosity and support of our mission.”

The Giving Farm is able to donate 300,000 lbs. of produce each year to those in need.
“Helping harvest the cabbage and oranges at the Giving Farm makes us feel like we are putting in our time and some physical effort to make the community a better place,” said Ray. “We are able to give back to people in need, to help curb food insecurity, and support our community in any way we can and help people live healthier lives.”

In addition to growing cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, strawberries, celery, and avocado, the Giving Farm will soon be growing squash, butternut, spaghetti, acorn, and watermelons. The Farm also raises cows, pigs, and goats that support the Agriculture and Science program.

One of the volunteers, Adam Lautoa, a Medicare Trainer for UnitedHealthcare, expressed enthusiasm for volunteering at the Giving Farm. This volunteer project serves as a sort of homecoming for him. Lautoa is a 2007 graduate of Westminster High School. “I love volunteering,” said Lautoa. “At first, I thought we were distributing the food, but I am super thrilled that we are working on the Farm. My sister was part of the Future Farmers of America program here, too.”

“Volunteering on the Giving Farm is a tremendous experience,” said Ray. “I plan to come again.”

If your company, organization, civic group or family and friends are interested in supporting the work of the Giving Farm, you can follow this link to sign up and help harvest fresh food to support the vulnerable in Orange County.