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Hunters share harvest to help feed hungry
Butler Eagle | March 13, 2020
Butler County’s regional coordinator for Hunters Sharing the Harvest attended an event Thursday that praised the program’s partners and celebrated its success.
“The first celebrity I saw today was (state) Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding.” said Center Township resident Tom Rossman, the county’s coordinator for the program.
Redding spoke at the event hosted at the Collier Sportsmen’s Club in Oakdale, PA.
“Hunters Sharing the Harvest is a great illustration of what happens when public sector support and private generosity work together to solve a problem,” Redding said.
Representatives from the state Game Commission and Sen. Pat Toomey’s office also dropped by.
Retired Steelers Brett Keisel and Shaun Suishman also attended the event as donors.
“We get to meet all of our partners. Many of the people who support our organization financially were there,” Rossman said.
He said the effects of the financial donors can be seen in the statistics.
From 1991 to 2003, a total of only 3,840 pounds of deer meat was donated.
The program has averaged more than 1,500 deer annually from 2004 onward, and in recent years has boomed.
Rossman said the growth has largely been attributed to the year 2015, when large donations from the Department of Agriculture, the Game Commission, and many other donors eliminated a $15 fee imposed on hunters donating a deer.
“Now we pay the whole thing,” Rossman said. “Since we’ve been able to eliminate that $15 charge, we’ve been getting more deer in.”
Rossman said last year more than $350,000 was paid to the 127 participating processors. the average cost to process a deer is $74.
In 2019, the Department of Agriculture donated about $175,000, and the Game Commission donated $54,000.
Rossman said he has also received a great deal of support from local partners.
He said the estimated cost of processing last year in the county was about $10,000.
“Because of our local partners that we have, I was able to deliver $3,200 down to the organization today toward those expenses,” Rossman said.
Rossman said he and others in the organization are optimistic about the program’s future.
“With a 2018 record of 150,000 high-protein pounds distributed to statewide food banks, soup kitchens, and families in need, we’re shooting for comparably good results once all 2019 season reports are in,” said Hunters Sharing the Harvest Executive Director John Plowman.
Rossman said data collected so far shows more than 118,000 pounds being donated in the most recent season, but many processors still need to be tabulated.
“Many of the processors wait until the last minute to send their receipts in, so we don’t have reports from all the processors yet.”
Rossman said he thinks a reasonable goal for the coming years would be 175,000 or even 200,000 pounds.