Donations growing for Plant a Row program (8/6/09)

Aug. 6, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

Despite a slow growing season caused by the cool, wet summer, the Observer’s Plant a Row for the Hungry program has provided more than 300 pounds of food to local food shelves this summer, and organizers hope local growers will continue to donate throughout the rest of the growing season.


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
Donations to the Observer’s Plant a Row for the Hungry program line the shelves at the Williston Community Food Shelf on Tuesday afternoon.

Williston Community Food Shelf President Deb Beckett said fresh vegetables have been a favorite of all those who frequent the organization.

“Without question, they love the fresh veggies,” Beckett said. “And it’s only been a few weeks since the Plant a Row harvest has started to come in.”

Contributions may have started slowly, but the vegetable donations are now rolling in. On Tuesday, anonymous growers dropped off bags of zucchini, lettuce, green beans and other vegetables to the Williston Observer offices, where Plant a Row donations are collected. That afternoon, staff brought the vegetables to the Food Shelf for that evening’s hours. Marianne Apfelbaum, publisher of the Observer, serves on the Food Shelf Board.

If the warmer and sunnier weather continues, more crops will be on their way. June Jones, a Master Gardener with the University of Vermont Extension, said she and her fellow growers have been picking vegetables twice a week at the Williston Community Garden. In previous years, Plant a Row accepted donations only once a week. But with the Food Shelf open three days each week, the Observer now delivers up to three times a week.

“We should have plenty more coming,” said Jones, who estimated that 70 to 80 pounds of vegetable have been harvested from the Community Garden.

Jones also said the gardeners are trying their hands at planting different melons, including watermelon and cantaloupe. If those crops prove fruitful, Jones expects the Food Shelf to receive some melons.

“We’re going to see how that goes,” Jones said.

This is the first year the Plant a Row program has donated vegetables to the Williston Community Food Shelf, since this is the first year the organization has operated during the summer months. The Hinesburg Food Shelf used to be the main recipient of Plant a Row donations. Beckett said Hinesburg has received vegetables this year when Williston has excess produce. Vegetables have also been delivered to the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf in Burlington, she said.

Apfelbaum said more vegetable donations will be needed through August. Furthermore, the Food Shelf also needs donations of non-perishable goods and monetary donations. Apfelbaum said the organization is seeing a higher than expected turnout each day it is open.

“I am thrilled with the progress the Food Shelf has made in the last few months,” Apfelbaum said. “I’m also alarmed at the incredible increase in the need for its services in Williston and surrounding communities.”

Apfelbaum said the Food Shelf is looking for more volunteers, specifically teenagers. She said teens can help by stocking shelves during off hours, organizing food drives and spreading the word in their classrooms.

Beckett said she hopes Williston growers will continue to donate excess vegetables since they are some of the most popular and important items in the summer. She also wanted to remind donors to drop off the vegetables at the Observer offices at 300 Cornerstone Drive, rather than at the Food Shelf.

For more information on the Plant a Row for the Hungry program, contact Kelly Walters at the Williston Observer at 872-9000 x19 or at