Plant a Row ready for fall harvests (9/10/09)

Food Shelf fund-raisers on Friday, Sunday

Sept. 10, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

Even as summer transitions into fall, and warm days give way to cool nights, Vermont’s growing season is anything but finished. And judging from the amount of vegetable donations the Williston Community Food Shelf has received, there are bountiful harvests continuing to grow in area gardens.

The Food Shelf receives most of its fresh vegetable donations through the Plant a Row for the Hungry program organized by the Observer. Local gardeners who have planted an extra row of vegetables in their gardens drop off their produce to the Observer’s offices. The vegetables are then delivered to the Williston Community Food Shelf, as well as other area food shelves.

So far, the Observer has collected 876 pounds of vegetables, ranging from corn to cucumbers to squash. Last year, the Plant a Row program received more than 1,200 pounds of produce by the end of the growing season, which program coordinator Kelly Walters hopes will happen again — and then some. The Observer set a goal of collecting 1,500 pounds of produce. Many of the donated vegetables come from the community gardens at Brennan Woods and Taft Corners.

This summer’s growing season started off slowly with cool and rainy weather throughout much of June and July. Summer finally made an appearance in August with hot, dry weather and Williston’s gardens came alive. The perfect growing weather has continued into September.

Food Shelf President Deb Beckett said the fresh vegetables are the most popular items this time of year.

“It is amazing how much appreciated the fresh produce is,” Beckett said.

Cucumbers and squash were common earlier this season, she said. Recent crops of tomatoes and onions have recently been popular. The fall crops should begin arriving within the next few weeks, and bring broccoli, carrots and beets, among other vegetables.

The Plant a Row program has continued donating to the Hinesburg Food Shelf and Burlington’s Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf. Enough vegetables have been received that other food shelves can benefit along with Williston, Walters said.

Other ways to contribute

While fresh vegetables are appreciated, the Williston Community Food Shelf is still looking for donations of other food items. Beckett said the organization needs soups and pasta sauce.

“We have pretty much run out of both,” Beckett said.

Instant potatoes, peanut butter and jelly are other items that are constantly in need. Beckett hopes to receive some items after the Essex Alliance Church’s monthly food drive on Sunday. The church has been holding a food drive once a month for the past three months to benefit Williston, Beckett said.

Another local organization is also stepping in to help the Food Shelf. Northfield Savings Bank in Taft Corners will be holding its customer appreciation day this Friday, Sept. 11, from 10 p.m. to 2 p.m. Along with enjoying a barbeque lunch, customers can try the “cash cube,” where participants step into a booth and try to catch as many dollar bills flying around them as they can.

Customers have 15 seconds to grab the fast flying cash. Whatever they grab, they get to keep, said Lori Belding, marketing manager for Northfield Savings Bank. The bank will match the amount of the money the customer gets and donate it to the Food Shelf. Belding said the bank has donated $300 to $500 in previous fundraisers.

Belding said Northfield Savings Bank chose the Food Shelf as a beneficiary because of the important work it’s done for Williston in its short time of existence. She said the bank is cognizant of hunger issues in Vermont and 10 percent of the company’s profits are given to hunger organizations throughout the state.

“(The Food Shelf) is really important to this community and we’re happy to help,” Belding said.