By Greg Duggan
Almost 20 people gathered at the Observer’s office last week to celebrate the successful end of this year’s Plant a Row for the Hungry — and strive for even loftier goals next year.
Residents and businesses brought in more than 2,200 pounds of produce — with more food still arriving — during the summer and fall charity event. Plant a Row encourages local gardeners to drop off extra food at the Observer office for donations to food shelves in Hinesburg and Burlington. The Observer had set a goal of raising 2,000 pounds.
“Next year we’ll get the word out for more small families, because every little bit counts,” said Sierra Flynn, the Observer’s office coordinator and Plant a Row organizer.
Publisher Marianne Apfelbaum set a goal at the reception to raise 2,500 pounds next year.
This year, residents donated 921 pounds of produce. The Foley-Fontaine farm contributed 625 pounds, the Williston Master Gardeners gave 584 pounds and other businesses chipped in with 82 pounds of food.
Led by June Jones and Sue Stanne, the Master Gardeners, a program out of the University of Vermont Extension Service, worked a 2,000 square foot plot in the Williston Community Garden to grow tomatoes, peppers, beans, squash and other vegetables for Plant a Row.
The channel 3 television program “Across the Fence” recently ran a segment about the Master Gardeners and their contribution to Plant a Row.
Master Gardener groups exist throughout the state, and director Nancy Hulett said that toiling in a community garden to donate to a food shelf helps with the mission of educating others about safe gardening.
Communicating with the food shelves helped educate the Master Gardeners on what people like to eat.
“It’s nice to have interaction with the food shelf people,” Jones said. “We, through dialogue, learned what things they like and don’t like.”
The Hinesburg Food Shelf, which serves more than 60 families a month according to director Doug Gunnerson, received 536 pounds of food.
“The (Plant a Row) gardening project has opened a new opportunity for us to serve our clients. Many clients have expressed appreciation for the fresh produce,” Gunnerson wrote The Observer by e-mail.
Dan Boomhower, whose family has a farm in Williston, got involved with the program after seeing an ad in the paper and donated 171 pounds of squash, beans tomatoes and zucchini.
“It seemed like a great idea for us to be involved, because we have a large garden that’s been going for a long time. As the family gets smaller, people have moved away, we have less need for the produce growing here,” Boomhower said.