Indiana blackberry farmer raises awareness for food insecurity with trek across America; visits Summit County amid journey

Brian Christner plans to conclude journey in the San Francisco area at the end of the year

Brian Christner/Courtesy photo
Brian "Blackberry Brian" Christner poses for a photo while hiking the American Discovery Trail through Summit County for hunger in America.
Brian Christner/Courtesy photo

With recent rises in inflation and the economy continuing to lag, more and more people are entering a world where they may not know where their next meal is going to come from.

Often caused by poverty, low income, unemployment, lack of affordable housing, chronic health conditions and racial discrimination, food insecurity is on the rise in America and a blackberry farmer from Indiana felt inspired to raise awareness for the issue in hopes of making a difference.

“I looked around at my age and felt like I needed to go out there and make a difference in the world,” Brian Christner said. “It breaks my heart of where we are right now in America. We have so many people that are one or two paychecks away from food insecurity. Hard working people that have worked their whole life, but unfortunately due to the nature of the economy for the last 20, 30 years have gone through their whole life savings.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as a lack of consistent access to enough food for every person in a single household to live an active, healthy life. The situation can be temporary for a family or an individual, or it can last for an extended period of time.

Seeing more and more people being affected by food insecurity across the nation, Christner, 62, left his blackberry farm in Indiana and set off on the trails for a trek across the U.S. via the American Discovery Trail.

On Feb. 19, Christner — who goes by the trail name, “Blackberry Brian” — started his trek across the country on the east coast of Delaware and started slowly making his way westward. 

Along the nearly 7,000-mile journey, Christner has not only raised awareness and funds for Feeding America, but also made stops at food banks across the U.S. and visited several community gardens that support local communities.

After nearly seven months of hiking, Christner climbed over the Continental Divide and arrived in the Summit County area at the end of August. Upon arriving in the area, Christner was immediately taken aback by the beauty he encountered while hiking the area’s pristine trails.

Brian Christner/Courtesy photo
Brian Christner stands by the Smart Bellies team while visiting Summit County.
Brian Christner/Courtesy photo

“The trails are incredible,” Christner said. “The Colorado Trail, the Continental Divide, going up Argentine Pass was just absolutely beautiful.This is such a beautiful state and the Colorado hikers are so wonderful and so positive.”

Beyond the elegance he has experienced on the trails in Colorado, Christner says he has also enjoyed traveling through states like West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Iowa.

“I was always told that Iowa is flat and I was like, ‘Really? Where?’,” Christner said. “I didn’t go anywhere where it was flat. It was really hilly.”

Greatly outweighing the time he has been able to spend out on the trails, Christner has also taken great pleasure in meeting people across the U.S. who are doing their part to solve the ongoing issue of food insecurity. 

In Colorado alone, Christner has visited organizations such as Loaves and Fishes in Idaho Springs as well as meeting with Margaret Sheehe and Smart Bellies in Summit County. 

“Margaret is terrific,” Christner said. “When I meet people like Margaret on the trail, I am so inspired. We live such a beautiful world when there are people like Margaret doing the work that she is doing.

Since he began his trek in February, Christner has visited a total of 11 food banks and plans to visit as many as he can as he finishes out the rest of the American Discovery Trail.

Christner says he has been closely documenting his journey through video and plans to use the footage to help tell the full story of food insecurity in America.

Ultimately, Christner has learned throughout his journey that the best thing people can do to help with food insecurity is to give their time and resources to places like Smart Bellies and other hunger-relief organizations. 

“There are two ways that people can help and one is their time,” Christner said. “Volunteer. I know locally with Smart Bellies they need drivers to go help assist take boxes and food out to people. It is a weekly process. That is one way and the other is the donation of money to your food bank or food pantry.”

Christner does not have a specific end date in mind, but thinks he will be at his ending terminus — Point Reyes National Seashore just north of San Francisco — by the middle of December.

“Right now in this country the need has been going up and up and up,” Christner said. “As a country we should be looking at this and ask ‘What is going on with this?’ Hopefully we will elevate the conversation in America. From the Feeding America side, there are a lot of wonderful minds who are working on this daily, but it takes a team. It takes America to come together on this subject in order to help and figure this out.”

To donate to Christner’s Feeding America fundraiser visit, To follow the rest of Christner’s journey, visit

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