Gardeners plant extra rows for the hungry
By Haley Perrin | Fri, 09/28/2012 - 11:25am
Since late spring, Madison area home gardeners have been working hard to grow fresh produce for their families, friends, and, in some cases, the hungry. Gardeners participating in a program called Plant a Row, send extra produce to local food pantries and soup kitchens.
Plant a Row is a public service program sponsored by the Garden Writers Association (GWA), which encourages home gardeners to plant an extra row in their garden and donate the food harvested from that row. This is the program’s tenth year in Madison.
“We make announcements in the spring and again in the fall, to remind people if they get too much of a certain kind of produce, they can donate it and put it to good use,” said Chris Brockel, Food and Gardens Division Manager of the Community Action Coalition (CAC) for South Central Wisconsin.
The Plant a Row program is coordinated through the CAC, who works with the Dane County food pantry network to see where, what kind, how much, and when to donate garden produce.
The program helps up to fifty locations in Dane County, including Middleton Outreach Ministry, St. Vincent de Paul, the Goodman Center, River Food Pantry, and many others.
Last year’s Plant a Row competition, to see which neighborhood donated the most, was scrapped this growing season. Brockel said the decided not to do the competition this year because it is difficult to keep track of how much produce is being dropped off by specific home gardeners or neighborhoods.
One participant of Plant a Row donated produce without planting a thing this year. She called CAC and offered all the fruit in her backyard trees.
The CAC sent their gleaning team, on-call volunteers that will go out and pick excess produce a home gardener doesn’t want to pick but wants to donate, to her home. Two hours later, the team came back with over six hundred pounds of apples and pears.
Along with home growers, the CAC also collects Plant a Row donations from Dane County farmers markets and from local farm vendors. This brings in 1,500 to 2,000 pounds every week.
“There are more ways to help out than to donate during Thanksgiving or Christmas, when everyone thinks about it. Plant a Row is a great thing to get people out there and thinking about planting extra then donating it,” Brockel said. The program ends the beginning of November.
For more information, or to find locations to donate your own surplus in the Madison area, visit the website here.
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