CLEAR LAKE, Minn. - When a pastor with Union Gospel Mission called Edling Farms about seven years ago, looking for potatoes for the mission’s Thanksgiving dinner, “we of course said yes,” Brett Edling said.

This year, Edling Farms donated 36,000 pounds of potatoes to Union Gospel Mission Twin Cities, which will put the potatoes to use to help feed an estimated 60,000 people for the mission’s Thanksgiving food distribution effort.

“This helps people who are struggling week to week to make ends meet,” said Rick Berggren, a Union Gospel Mission development associate. “A Thanksgiving meal is often out of the realm of their thinking, because some are just stretched too thin.”

The Union Gospel Mission Thanksgiving food distribution effort began in 1958. The entire Thanksgiving effort involves about 800 volunteers.

“It really began as and continues to be an opportunity for the community to share its gratitude and thanksgiving,” says Brian Molohon, Union Gospel Mission’s vice president of development.  “People need to know that God has not forgotten them and that there is evidence of the love of Christ in our community.”

“I believe it was Jesus himself who said to help your neighbor and take care of the poor,” Edling says.

Edling Farms is owned by the Edling family: Jerome, who is retired, and his sons, Jeff, Brett and Mark. Brett Edling says it was a “decent year” for Edling farms, though the hot summer was hard on the cool-weather-loving potatoes. The Edlings grow red, yellow and russet potatoes for the fresh market.

Edling Farms ships about 300 semi truckloads of potatoes every year, totalling about 12.5 million pounds. The donated potatoes, Edling explains, are called “No. 2s.”

“They are odd-shaped, cut or have a blemish on the skin. We also send B size which are the ones smaller in size. Both of these grades of potatoes are typically sent to a processor for frozen type product,” he says. “We also bag those and sell here at the farm for a lower price.”

The Edling Farms potatoes were contained in 17 totes weighing more than 1 ton each.

Edling says Edling Farms also supplies potatoes to some St. Cloud charities and to Second Harvest Heartland. The potatoes for the Second Harvest Heartland are paid for from Minnesota’s “Farm to Food Shelf” program.

“We do what we can, because you never know, one day we might need some help,” said Edling.