Wow! It wasn’t the best year for growing vegetables this year, but gardeners and farmers all over the Inland Northwest still managed to donate tons of stuff to Plant a Row for the Hungry: 138.26 tons of fresh tomatoes, rhubarb, corn, beans, apple, pears, potatoes and greens to be exact. That’s more than a million servings of good food.
Backyard gardeners from the Tri-Cities to Coeur d’Alene plucked their extra vegetables and made donations, sometimes only a pound at a time. Farmers in the Yakima Valley and Spokane let folks glean produce and fruit at the end of harvests. Gleaners hauled a semitruck load of apples from Green Bluff orchards alone.
“This past year was not particularly ideal for gardeners in regards to weather patterns; making the increase all the more impressive,” said Keith Burgeson, Plant a Row coordinator with Second Harvest Inland Northwest. “Second Harvest has been shifting its distribution efforts in recent years to more and more fresh, nutritious produce for our clients, and this helped a lot.”
One new group that came through for the community was the women at Geiger Corrections Center. Last spring, Spokane County Sheriff’s Sgt. Jon Simbler organized a vegetable garden run by the women. They built four, 4-by-24-foot boxes and filled them with tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, zucchini, peppers and more.
“We ultimately sent over 200 pounds of produce to two soup kitchens downtown,” said Simbler. “The women felt good about giving something back to the community.”
The weather was a challenge and gophers didn’t take long to find the goodies. Only a couple of the women had experience growing gardens besides Simbler and maintenance staffer Tim Houtz, but “they learned how to do it,” Simbler said. Next spring Simbler is planning to build eight more beds if he can find the resources.
Another new group was from Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church on the South Hill. The church bought the old Cayman’s Greenhouse site and voted to turn part of it into a community garden.
“Half the beds were devoted to Plant a Row,” said John Baker, the group’s coordinator. “The other half were opened up to the neighborhood.”
They donated several hundred pounds to the South Side Pantry. “Next year we are doubling the size of the garden,” said gardener Tom Luckie.
The church also has plans to use a small building saved from the demolition as an education center and community gathering place for gardeners.
“2011 was a record year for the Plant a Row for the Hungry program. Gardeners throughout the community grew, harvested and donated well over 270,000 pounds of produce,” said Burgeson. “The community members involved with Plant a Row have made a tremendous impact towards our mission. The extra produce has fed many people throughout our area.”
I cannot thank each and every one of you enough. On behalf of everyone we serve at Second Harvest, thank you for the continued support.