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Garden Harvest Rewards are More than Good Eating

By Carl Wilson, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Horticulturist, Denver

Kathy Boyle admits to getting excited about the experience of interacting and sharing with others at the York Street community garden in Denver. So much so that now - at harvest time - she says it only seems natural to share vegetables with the needy in the community.

Boyle is a Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Master Gardener in Denver County. The Denver County team of Master Gardeners have grown vegetables to share with various organizations under a national program called Plant A Row for the Hungry. The program seeks to involve gardeners in community hunger issues.

At the York Street garden in the Capital Hill area, community hunger can be observed first-hand. Team member Stephanie McManus relates her experience of tending the garden when a passer-by struck up a conversation.

Eventually, the woman wistfully asked what would be done with all the garden produce. Stephanie said it would be shared with people at the Samaritan House and Project Angel Heart. She quickly added she would be happy to share some tomatoes and cucumbers with the woman. Somewhat shy, the woman admitted that this would be her lunch.

A just-released study by the Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute finds one in five families in Colorado are failing to meet their basic food and shelter needs. Courtney Hunter-Melo, Media Coordinator for the Food Bank of the Rockies, backs this up. She says that 26 percent of Denver children live in poverty and 54 percent qualify for the free school lunch program.

For Master Gardeners tending their vegetable plot at the York Street Community Garden, growing vegetables to donate to others in the community is not about sacrifice. It's much more about personal gain. Rebecca Fitzpatrick, another Master Gardener, says that gardening there made a real difference in her mood and how she feels about life.

Fitzpatrick urges home gardeners to join in what feeds her heart and soul, as much as it physically feeds others. "Pick somebody or an organization that means something to you. Maybe it's one where you have helped in another capacity. Once you get to know somebody at an organization, you have no idea how good it feels to carry 35 pounds of produce in to them like I've done."

Fitzpatrick finds it difficult to understand why gardeners wouldn't grow extra food to donate. She and the other members of her team already are making plans about how they can grow even more produce to donate next year. "Even Master Gardeners learn something new every year," she says.

Master Gardeners are part of a Colorado State University Cooperative Extension program that trains community volunteers to help others with growing their communities green.

For more information about the program in Denver County, contact Carl Wilson, Cooperative Extension for horticulture at (720) 913-5273 or your local Colorado State University Cooperative Extension office.

Photograph courtesy of Carl Wilson.

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010