Plant a row and feed the hungry this year
by Louise Estabrook
December 26, 2013 11:00 PM | 642 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Georgia residents have the fourth highest rate of food insecurity nationally. That means more than 14 percent of our citizens either don’t know where their next meal is coming from, or they don’t trust the food available to be healthy. Seven percent of Cherokee County residents live in poverty and 6,000 of them live in dire poverty. Plant a Row for the Hungry is a public service program of the Garden Writers Association, whose goal is to help to feed the hungry by establishing Plant a Row networks in communities everywhere. UGA Extension will be having an exciting kick-off event for all would-be Plant a Row gardeners in late February — watch for upcoming announcements.

The Cherokee County Master Gardeners have established a Plant a Row program at the community garden behind the Cherokee County Senior Center, located at 1001 Univeter Road in Canton. It is part of an established community garden. Residents can pay a nominal fee to rent a raised garden bed for the season. There, with help from the Master Gardeners, they can grow anything they like. The Senior Center sponsors the community garden. If you’d like to participate in the Plant a Row program but you don’t have a sunny space, you can rent a bed at the community garden!

The current class of Georgia Master Gardener Extension Volunteers worked together on this new project. Using two raised beds from the community garden, they planned, planted, weeded, watered and eventually harvested a bumper crop from their small space. By practicing intensive growing techniques, they were able to harvest 150 pounds of fresh produce, which they donated to a local food pantry.

While planning your spring garden this year, add a few plants to help augment fresh food on the shelves of your favorite food charity. Think of the types of food you may have donated. Usually, there are plenty of canned and boxed items, but rarely is there anything fresh. Most of them will be happy to have a few fresh tomatoes or heads of lettuce. You might get tired of eating zucchini during the summer but lots of people would love to be able to share your harvest! Fruit and vegetables are always needed and welcomed. Some things that are especially appreciated are potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, collards, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, cucumbers and zucchinis and yellow summer squash. Other items are needed, too! A dozen extra eggs from your backyard chicken flock, fresh herbs and even cut flowers can bring joy into someone else’s life.

Be sure to call your favorite food agency to see if they have the capability of accepting fresh produce. Most food banks don’t, while most food pantries do. Two in Cherokee County that will happily accept fresh donations are Papa’s Pantry in Woodstock (770) 591-4730 and Timothy’s Cupboard (770) 591-5515, also in Woodstock. Watch for a much longer list of drop off places as the season progresses.

This growing season, Cherokee County Master Gardeners contributed 150 pounds of food. A recent update from this past November said that the Master Gardeners “Made our first delivery to Papa’s Pantry with 33 heads of Butter Crunch lettuce this afternoon. Will probably be another month before the broccoli and remainder of the crops are ready to harvest.” Next year, they plan to double their space at the community garden, as well as plant an extra row in their home gardens. Will you join them? Contact the UGA Extension Office to register your extra row this spring. You can start calling now and we will begin compiling a list. Everyone on that list will receive invitations to special classes and events. Send in photos of your gardens. We especially love seeing photos of you or your children gardening. (All photos become the property of UGA Extension and cannot be returned) Then report the weight of your donated harvest to the office and we will tally the numbers. At the end of the season, you’ll be invited to a harvest party to celebrate your success. Join us as a group or an individual. Churches, schools and businesses are all encouraged to garden with us! Let’s see if, together, we can’t make our corner of the world a better place.

Information about Extension Solutions for Homes and Gardens can be found on the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension website, www.caes.uga.edu/extension/cherokee ; or contact the Cherokee County Extension Office, 1130 Bluffs Parkway, Suite G49, Canton, GA, 770-479-0418. The Georgia Master Gardener Extension Volunteer Program is a volunteer training program offered through county offices of the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.

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