One of my greatest joys in life is growing food, but nothing compares to the added pleasures of sharing the harvest with neighbors in need. Whether you’re a first-time gardener or a seasoned veteran, sooner or later your garden will be so productive you’ll find yourself wondering what to do with the bounty.
The logical and most common choice for sharing the harvest is to pass it on to friends and neighbors. And yet, even that can present challenges; especially in the limited time you have to do so before that fresh-picked goodness loses its appeal. At that point, it’s best destined for the compost pile. Even in the years I didn’t have time to have a large garden I’d subscribe to a CSA. The weekly allotment was sometimes even more than my busy family of four could eat in a week. Unfortunately, more often than not, the portion that wasn’t consumed wasn’t shared either.
But it wasn’t for lack of desire. There just weren’t the resources in my town to take in perishable produce except on certain days of the week. The stars had to align just right for us to hit those days. But a lot has changed in recent years to make sharing our harvest with neighbors in need a whole lot easier.
My production crew for Growing a Greener World and I just returned from an exciting week as we filmed an episode dealing with gardening for the hungry. Much of our time was spent showcasing AmpleHarvest.org, a web-based organization that facilitates connecting gardeners that have produce to share with food pantries. The food pantries receive the produce and then get it out to community members that need fresh food.
The beauty of the program is its simplicity. The website is really just a way to connect the producer with the user—all in a timely and efficient manner. Its founder, Gary Oppenheimer, was dealing with the same question of what to do with the more than ample harvest that his community garden colleagues were producing every week. They were faced with the dilemma of not knowing how to efficiently and quickly get it into the hands of their neighbors in need. They soon realized that if they were asking the question, it had to be a common theme across the country. So Gary went to work to build the site. Today, AmpleHarvest.org has registered thousands of food pantry sites so that anyone, anywhere, can go online and find a drop off site in their area.
Through our show, being able to share the stories of others like Gary Oppenheimer and organizations like AmpleHarvest.org doing good things for the planet through gardening makes our work not seem like work at all!