As the traditional summer gardening season winds down, it’s a good time to reflect on the successes of the past few months and opportunities for improvement (since there are no failures in gardening). In my area of North Georgia, in spite of an overabundance of rain, most gardens (at least the ones that had great soil drainage) managed to produce a bountiful harvest of many varieties of food.
Even though I managed to grow and maintain a full-on vegetable garden this first season in my new garden, I still joined a CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) food co-op. I love supporting my local small organic farmers, and buying into a share of their production is a tangible way to show that support. Monday evenings are always the highlight of the week since that’s when we pick up our weekly allotment. Each pickup yields a box of fresh organic produce. Sadly, homegrown tomatoes, fresh basil, green beans and corn are through for the year, while peppers are still in abundance.
As I reflect back on the many weeks of our steady distribution of gorgeous, delicious, fresh produce, combined with the harvest from my own garden, I’m reminded of just how much food can be grown from even the smallest garden. But I’m carrying a bit of guilt, too. What with a hectic schedule of work and travel, kids’ pool parties, summer vacation and just not having enough time to cook with it, I’m sorry to say that too much of the harvests went to the compost pile rather than to the local food pantry. In my town, as in every other one in America, there are people going to bed hungry. Others may find something — anything — to eat just to fill the void, but no doubt a highly nutritious meal of fresh produce was not on their plate. We can all do more to make that a reality for neighbors in need.
As you read this, let’s be reminded of our good fortune and that there are plenty of vegetable varieties that grow well in the cool season, too. Most of us reading this are not hungry. We are warm and dry. We have a home and we know where we are sleeping tonight, tomorrow and next week. Our gardens are overflowing with abundance from whatever seeds we sow. As gardeners, we are fortunate to share the literal fruits of our labor. Although the season we most think of for a bountiful harvest is waning, it doesn’t have to stop there. My fall garden is full and abundant with fresh produce now and will be over the next few months. It will be my pleasure to share it with others.
We are blessed well beyond our most basic needs. It’s time to share the harvest. It’s easy to do. There are many food pantries, and likely one near you. An easy way to identify those closest to you is by checking www.AmpleHarvest.org. This is a website and nonprofit organization by the same name created by Gary Oppenheimer for the sole purpose of making it easy to find a local source to donate surplus harvest, or to find a place to obtain fresh produce for neighbors in need.
I serve, uncompensated, on its board of directors. Think of this service as a search engine for food pantries. Simply put in the name of your location and it will bring up the closest registered facility. And if you are in need of free fresh produce, this website works exceptionally well for you, too, by letting you know where to find it, along with appropriate pickup times.
We’re all in this together, and together we can make a difference.
Joe Lamp’l is an industry leader in environmental media and the 2011 recipient of The American Horticultural Society’s, B.Y. Morrison Communication Award, which recognizes effective and inspirational communication-through print, radio, television, and/or online media-that advances public interest and participation in horticulture.
His infatuation for horticulture and sustainability is evident to a national audience through his books, including The Green Gardener’s Guide, syndicated column, and as host of the popular series, Fresh from the Garden on DIY Network and GardenSMART on PBS. Today, Joe combines his television experience and expertise of gardening, environmental stewardship and passion for living a more eco-friendly life, as creator, host and executive producer of the award-winning national public television series, Growing a Greener World, named by the Garden Writers Association as Best New Digital Product, including television for 2011, while also taking top honors for television writing.