A Simple Solution for Extra Produce
For several years, we had a problem disposing of all of our excess garden produce. We were not big canners, in fact we do our best to have year round fresh garden veggies so that we don’t have to preserve much. The neighbors only needed so much. So we checked into options for donating.
Initially, it turned out that several food pantries couldn’t take it because they were only set up to distribute non-perishables. Finally we connected with Ample Harvest. They operate a web-based directory of food pantries that not only accept, but request fresh produce donations. It turned out there was a location only ten minutes from our home. Perfect!
Our first drop off was a life changer. We were invited to tour the facility (which happens to be the single largest food pantry in Georgia, serving 80 families each day), and saw a truckload of donated produce from a local grocery store. I asked the director if gardeners often bring produce, and he said “one guy always brings us a bunch of cucumbers and another usually brings huge [overripe] summer squash.” Kind of like what we were doing on that very same visit. That’s when it hit me…the tithe.
Looking at the bruised, overripe and in many cases barely salvageable leftovers that the staff was sorting; I thought about donations and feeding the hungry and a number of other things. We were looking at a backwards version of how giving should work.
Donations are best for everyone when they are done proactively: giving from the first rather than the last. Don’t get me wrong something is better than nothing; but when the choice is between the dumpster and the food bank something is not quite right. Debbie and I decided to make a change. We started by dedicating the first portion of each week’s harvest from our home garden to our local pantry.
Now we have begun to pursue permission to use the county-owned property adjacent to ours for the purpose of starting a community donation garden. The vision is that we will grow a half acre of vegetables year round, with the help of volunteers from a variety of community based organizations and individuals, and donate the produce to our local food pantry or other programs that focus on feeding the hungry in our own community. In the process, we will be educating the community on best practices in vegetable gardening to nutrition to hunger and poverty in our own community.
As we await approval for use of the land, we are selling some of our vegetables at our local farmers market to generate startup funds for the garden (be it the location we have in mind or failing that, another that we find). We’d appreciate your ideas as we enter this venture, as you may have far greater experience with something like this than we do. Please comment below or send us an email with any thoughts you may have. Thanks ever so much for your support.