by Tonie Hansen

NVIDIA will unleash some 1,500 volunteers and more than $300,000 in materials, project management services and volunteer labor later this year to transform Veggielution, an urban community farm in San Jose, Calif., not far from our head office.

For two days in December, employees, their families and community members will work together to enhance the farm as part of Project Inspire, NVIDIA’s annual volunteer event held in place of a holiday party. This is the sixth year for the program, which unites our employees in sharing their good fortune to help others in our community.

Our employees selected Veggielution among several projects submitted for consideration. It stood out for them because of its commitment to provide healthy food to low-income families and educate people about the importance of incorporating fresh produce into their diets.

Vegetables grown at Veggielution.
Veggielution grows a variety of nutritious produce
for the San Jose community.

Our Project Inspire volunteers will prepare four acres of newly acquired land and plant an orchard. We’ll also build an outdoor classroom, a retail farm stand and a packing shed for organizing and prepping produce for sale to individuals, community groups and restaurants.

Amie Frisch, Veggielution’s executive director and co-founder, is passionate when asked what it meant to be selected as a Project Inspire recipient.

“We’re focused on building a more sustainable food system in Silicon Valley. We want to improve the health of all families and help them understand the importance of where their food comes from. NVIDIA’s support will dramatically expand our production capabilities so we can feed and educate many more people, and it comes at the perfect time as we are tripling the size of our farm,” she said.

In addition to our work with Veggielution, our volunteers will be improving the community gathering spaces around Emma Prusch Farm Park, a historic farm deeded to the city of San Jose in 1962 and host to more than 250,000 Silicon Valley residents each year.

Six Years of Improving Communities

The choice of Veggielution fits well within our tradition of Project Inspire sites that tend to focus on educating youth about nutrition and helping to improve access to produce for low-income families.

In 2007, we planted an education garden at the East Palo Alto Charter School in California. In 2008, we built a greenhouse to help launch the Green Academy at William C. Overfelt High School in San Jose. In 2010, we built more than 60 garden beds for low-income families at San Jose’s History Park.

Last year we held our biggest event to date, with more than 10,000 collective hours of volunteer work spent helping transform Full Circle Farm in Sunnyvale, Calif. The results were dramatic.

Helped by our efforts, Full Circle Farm grew 78 percent more produce in the first five months of 2012 than the previous year and saw a 144 percent sales increase. The follow-on effect in the community has been significant, too, as five other corporations jumped in to provide funding and numerous employee volunteers to complete additional projects, such as wheelchair access, handicap parking and a shade structure for the farm stand.

Veggielution and the Prusch Farm Park Foundation

Teams from NVIDIA, Veggielution and Emma Prusch Farm Park.
Teams from NVIDIA, Veggielution and Emma Prusch
Farm Park mark the farm’s selection as a
Project Inspire recipient.

Veggielution is dedicated to empowering youth and adults from diverse backgrounds to create a sustainable food system in East San Jose. It offers nutritious, locally grown food, runs youth programs and gives people in the community a chance to work the soil and learn the importance of eating healthy food and knowing where it came from.

The farm is set in Emma Prusch Farm Park, which is run by the Prusch Farm Park Foundation, whose mission is to support Emma Prusch’s wishes that her farm remain an agricultural preserve with a rural, country atmosphere.

[Editor’s note: Read about NVIDIA’s selection of Veggielution for Project Inspire in the Mercury News. ]