A concern about local food insecurity and a determination to see an idea come to fruition were the driving factors that led Tara Hamashuk to become a Gold Award Girl Scout. Currently a junior at Noblesville High School, she became a recipient of the prestigious award in June 2019. Hamashuk partnered with Teeter Retreat and Organic Farm, an outreach of Noblesville First United Methodist Church (NFUMC) to establish a self-sustaining program that has contributed over 5,500 eggs to Dinners on Us.
When asked how she came up with the idea, Hamashuk says, “I knew I wanted to have a project related to helping animals, but I must admit I am surprised it was chickens. My Girl Scout troop and I volunteered at a food pantry and that is where we learned about food insecurity in Hamilton County. I learned that even though Hamilton County is one of the richest counties in Indiana, we still have over 28,000 families dealing with food insecurity.”
Hamashuk continues, “I heard that Teter Farm wanted to add chickens for fun and educational purposes, so I proposed that we add egg layers (chickens that produce eggs) and donate the eggs to Dinner’s on Us, a community dinner hosted by NFUMC. Everyone in Noblesville is invited to the Thursday night community dinner but many of the people are dealing with food insecurity.”
Teeter Farm would only agree to host Hamashuk’s project if it generated enough funds to pay for itself and included a plan for the care of the chickens. Hamashuk raised money to build a chicken coop through donations and persistently visited Lowes and Tractor Supply Company until their managers found a way to contribute supplies. The key to her plan was to sell eggs to shareholders who paid in advance for 12 weeks of eggs. That income provides the money needed for chicken feed, straw, and even egg cartons. The well being of the chickens is maintained by volunteers that Hamashuk has recruited and trained.
“When I started the project, I was worried that I would not be able to complete it as I was busy with schoolwork and tennis, and the chickens need to be tended two times a day,” she says. “Luckily, I have so many great volunteers who have stepped up to take care of the chickens and clean the eggs. I would not have been able to have such a successful project without the great volunteers who also love chickens and want to fight food insecurity in our community. For every egg we sell, we donate at least one egg.”
Another facet of Hamashuk’s project is the Chicken Chats she developed. These short educational talks inform farm visitors about the nutritional benefits of fresh eggs and the importance of humane treatment for farm animals. People enjoy meeting the chickens as Hamashuk explains how fun they are to work with.
Hamashuk has advice for others who want to make a difference, “You need to pick a topic that you’re very passionate about and that you’re willing to dedicate time and hard work toward. Always keep in mind the goals you hope to achieve. You must believe in yourself and don’t doubt your thinking. Don’t be discouraged by others, just follow your dreams in helping the community and always stay positive about your work!”