Did you know there are more than 40 million American households that have food gardens? One of the best parts of my job is that I get to meet some of these incredible people who are growing food and sharing it with those in need. In a regularly appearing blog post like this one, I will introduce you to some of the farm and garden rock stars I have had the pleasure of meeting and hopefully they will inspire you as much as they do me.
Our first food-growing-and-sharing rock star is Katelyn Armbruster. I connected with Katelyn recently via Instagram and began to learn more about her inspirational story. She entered a photo of the food she was growing and donating in our Pledge-A-Veg photo contest on Facebook and her photo received over 100 votes making her the winner of a $300 gift certificate to Gardener’s Supply Company. I’m so thankful that we connected and I’m honored to share her story with you.
Katelyn is in her early twenties—one of the youngest farmers I’ve met—and a college student at Lehigh University where she is studying Environmental and Global Studies. She has a 3,000 square foot garden in Bethlehem, PA where she is growing over 60 different plants and herbs including peppers, tomatoes, carrots, lettuce, beans, kale, squash, zucchini, cucumber, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, onions, Swiss chard, watermelon, and pumpkins. From her garden, she has already donated over 350 pounds of produce to a food pantry at New Bethany Ministries.
When she started the garden this summer she wanted to create a “Farm-To-Fork” program for the community. She cares about the food from seed to plate and it shows in the way she has developed this unique project. With every bag of food she brings to the pantry, she also includes a “Veggie Tip Sheet” that explains how to wash, prepare, and store the food and she even includes cooking tips and a few recipes. The food pantry at New Bethany Ministries typically sees donation levels drop during the summer months, which is why they are so thankful that summer is when Katelyn’s garden is flourishing. “They aren’t used to fresh vegetables [at the pantry]” she said, “instead of cans and boxes, vibrant, bright vegetables shine through the bags…they are very thankful for the food”.
So, how does a 20-something get hooked on gardening and inspired to donate?
Katelyn says she was inspired to study the environment after spending a year in Austria as a Rotary Youth Exchange Student. There, she says, she learned about a culture that eats fresh local food on a daily basis, uses less energy, and is more conscious of global issues. “Austria taught me that you don’t have to leave your neighborhood to live in a better one”. Katelyn is certainly making her neighborhood a better one, and a healthier one as well.
She has big plans for this program. She wants to increase her growing space year by year and grow enough to donate additional food to the soup kitchen at New Bethany Ministries, incorporate cooking demos, and she hopes to inspire individuals to start growing their own food too. Katelyn is spreading the word about AmpleHarvest.org among her friends and colleagues and is helping us reach out to other pantries in her area to get them registered on AmpleHarvest.org.
Thank you for all you are doing, Katleyn. You truly are a ROCK STAR!