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What could be more basic and wonderful than that? In our world of community gardening, sharing that one bean with someone who needs it would be the ultimate answer.
Last year I started down the path towards getting my Master Gardener certification. Part of becoming a MG is that you attend classes and learn a lot more than I ever imagined about gardening. The other is that you give back your time in a garden as a volunteer for a program that needs help in some fashion.
During class last year, two very determined women came to class to talk about their unique need and immediately I fell in love with the idea of what they were doing and what their group stood for – food for all. I am a big believer that no person should ever be hungry. Finding ways to help provide people with the very basic items to be able eat and survive is something that I believe I must do to help support our fellow man.
Now, tell me that there is a way to do that as well as educate people on how to successfully grow their own food and provide them with free space to do just that? Well, you had me at hello.
Last year, I began my volunteer hours for the inaugural planting of the Food for the Soul garden, which was one large garden with all of the harvest going across the street to the food pantry. I spent hours there, helping to plant, grow, water, and weed melons, leafy greens, peas, beans, and more. I learned a significant amount not only about gardening, but about the power of community involvement and commitment as well. It quickly became a family affair with the boys venturing there with me to help out on the weekends.
This year, the program became the first in the area to offer plots to their patrons, as well still continue with the large communal garden. There were several large plots given to food pantry patrons who were interested in learning how to supplement their needs by growing their own food. I continue to volunteer there in the main garden, as well as by hosting a plot of my own. This year, we will donate 90% of what we grow in our plot to the food pantry, in addition to what is growing in the main plot itself.
Every Saturday one little excited voice always asks me, “Mom, are we going to the garden today?”, to which I normally say yes. His enthusiasm for gardening, as well as delivering our harvest, no matter how small, across the street to the food pantry, has brought me close to tears a few times. His heart is wholly in this adventure and in making a difference. He knows why we go, he understands what it means, and he is an eager and willing volunteer.
It is from him and the others who utilize the garden, teach in the garden, and share their gardening prowess to help others learn to “fish,” that I see hope for our future. In this small little community of gardeners and food pantry patrons I see kindness, compassion, understanding, and acceptance of others. I see people who might never have met in other circumstances working together towards a common goal. This year’s patrons become next year’s mentors for the next round of gardeners and they embrace that responsibility with vigor. Through working together, this donated land has become more than a garden – it has become a classroom, community gathering place, and a ray of hope for a brighter future for those who access it and for those who volunteer within it.
I am in awe of what has happened in the course of a year, all because a couple of people had a dream to find more ways to provide healthy, fresh food to those who could benefit from it. And I am thankful everyday that I am blessed to be a part of it. It is one of the truest forms of “community” gardening that I have seen, embracing every aspect of the idea of community.
If you are interested in helping in your community, check with your local food pantry, Feeding America, your community’s website – often community gardens are listed right there, or Plant a Row for the Hungry for information and opportunities in your area.
And, remember, one little bean in one little hand, can change the world.