A big thanks to local growers and those who support them

This weekend we are gathering around tables laden with food surrounded by family and friends. It’s a time to share memories, laugh, look back and to the future. It hasn’t been an easy year for many of us.

But let’s set all the world crises aside for now and think about what we have to be thankful for in our own community.

First, thank you to the hundreds of local backyard gardeners and small farmers who shared their extra produce with local food banks through the Plant a Row for the Hungry program. You donated close to 150,000 pounds of garden- fresh fruits and vegetables to 19 food banks in the Spokane area. That’s up from 36,000 pounds last year. Whether it was two pounds of tomatoes or 500 pounds of apples, the folks on the receiving end eagerly hauled your offerings home to feed their families. Local food bank managers tell me the fresh produce was the most popular commodity when people picked up their food boxes.

Another group of folks that deserves a big thank you are local farmers. They take a big gamble each spring to plant crops, wrangle livestock and tend fruit in the face of late frosts, early frosts, drought, bugs, hail and heat, hoping the public will find their way to the farmers markets, farms and the grocery stores and restaurants that feature locally grown food. In response you have been flocking to the local farmers markets and farms to buy their stuff, so their efforts are worth it.

As you buy food for the holidays, do our greater Northwest farmers even more of a favor. Ask your grocery store where their produce, fruit, meat, seafood and eggs come from, and buy as close to home as you can. Even with the winter weather, there is a lot of fresh food available from Idaho, Washington and Oregon. Doing so will tell your grocer you want local food, and hopefully he or she in turn will go looking for it.

Three local groups deserve special thanks this year for strengthening our local food system. People for the Environment and Community Health (PEACH) is launching the Community Farm project to develop a teaching farm that will provide a place and access to expertise to reconnect people with their food and organic and sustainable small-scale agriculture. It will give people who are serious about farming a place to learn the craft.

The Vinegar Flats Community Garden run by St. Margaret’s Shelter started a community-supported agriculture project to provide fresh produce to low-income seniors at the Cathedral Towers apartment complex. Working in conjunction with other local farms, the women at St. Margaret’s grew the produce that allowed the residents to have weekly boxes of produce at an affordable cost.

Thanks to the West Spokane Rotary Club and their Rotary Home Harvest project that gleaned 39,000 pounds of apples and vegetables Oct. 31 from the orchards and fields at Greenbluff. It was enough to fill a semitruck and went straight to the Second Harvest Inland Northwest warehouse.

Pat Munts is a Master Gardener who has gardened the same acre in Spokane Valley for 30 years. She can be reached by e-mail at pat@inlandnwgardening.com.

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