By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer
Rick Wilson’s story starts with a drive to his hunting camp and leads through an unending list of good deeds.
“I was driving down a Virginia highway in late September, 1997 to meet with some friends,” the story on his website goes. “We were planning to clear a little brush at the farm where we hunt and celebrate the land-owner’s birthday with a barbecue. About five miles before turning down the gravel farm lane I spotted a woman standing by her car with the trunk open. I was a little late and was tempted not to stop. I’m glad I did.”
The lady asked Wilson to help her load into her trunk a deer that had been hit by a car. It turns out this was something she did routinely to feed her children. In that moment, Wilson says, he saw a need and a solution and knew he had to help. Nearing the end of a 30-year teaching career and looking for a new calling, his next project had suddenly found him instead.
That encounter led to the founding of Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry in Williamsport, Md., and you can check them out online at fhfh.org.
Wilson serves the group today as founder and CEO, and he and the rest of the FHFH family continue to answer the need he first heard that day in 1997 on the side of the highway. They’re a faith-based group that coordinates the transit of venison from field to food. They do not accept road-kill, though deer harvested by any other legal method are fair game, including deer taken through depredation permits in times of the year other than regular deer seasons.
hunters have options
In the FHFH scenario, a hunter who brings a deer they want to donate to a participating, certified deer processor can pay some or all of the fee to have the deer processed and donate it, or can simply donate the deer without paying.
FHFH volunteers raise money through churches, civic groups and other sponsors to make up the difference, and they coordinate the transfer of the processed meat to the food pantries and soup kitchens where it will be distributed or served.
There are many organizations that follow this model, and many private groups doing ultimately the same thing, but Wilson’s story is one with which I’ve been familiar for a long time. Currently there’s an FHFH chapter in Madison County, and nationwide the group has around 150 local affiliates, creating a presence in roughly 25 states and four Canadian provinces. Together, they’ve provided hundreds of thousands of meals for people in need.
Rick Wilson’s story started with a drive to his hunting camp. Thankfully, it’s a story with no end in sight.
Kevin Tate is V.P. of Media Productions for Mossy Oak in West Point.