There’s something that’s just super awesome about things growing out of the earth that you can eat. As a child, my dad often grew a variety of vegetables in our backyard. I loved eating cherry tomatoes off the vine, and will never forget my first harvest: radishes. I don’t even really like the taste of them, but the fact I had planted them as tiny seeds, nourished them with water and weeding, and was then able to put something on the table for our family was such a big deal to me as an eight-year-old. Through the years, we got more adventurous; I am fond of the memory of our tiny corn plot, only about ten feet long by five feet wide, and watching the fronds of the stalks waving outside my bedroom window in summer breezes, and the scary shadows they made on the wall by a full moon’s light. In college summers I planted heritage lettuces, bok choy, and other things that I either loved to eat, or wanted to try my hand at growing. One semester at school, I worked on a living history farm, and even though I missed the summer growing season, I prepped and readied fields for later harvests, helped resurrect a kitchen garden for the historic farmhouse, and made a memorable spring feast of early spinach salad, fresh asparagus, and from-scratch rhubarb pie from the spoils of April harvests. Growing food, for me, has always been a challenging but rewarding adventure.
However, not everyone has a chance to grow things in their backyard. Heck, as an a recent desert-dweller, there was no way I was going to have a garden in the sandy dust that comprised the ground around my house last summer in Arizona…and now, as apartment dweller, I’m growing again, but only in as much cubic yards of dirt as my postage stamp-sized deck, planter pots, and window boxes allow.
Thankfully, the world has gotten wiser to the limited opportunities people have to grow their own food if they are not a homeowner or landowner. Community gardens and community-supported agriculture are great options that towns and cities now offer to help people eat fresh, local food (that doesn’t require refrigeration and shipping from farms far away, and often faces potential spoilage and other obstacles along its journey from its farm of origin until it reaches your fork).
Pass It Along is getting in on the ground floor of this shift towards local eating, and as part of its work against hunger, is helping provide manpower for community garden plots that support local food pantries by supplementing non-perishable goods with fresh, local produce. As fresh produce is often vastly more expensive than canned, it supplements food stamp benefits and offerings from food pantries that families may be receiving to increase the quality of foods provided, and to help the other forms of hunger assistance go further towards meeting a family’s needs. Provision of fresh fruits and veggies also serves as a better source of nutrients and vitamins, while at the same time being lower in salt and sugar content than their canned counterparts. Consumption of fresh produce can combat the issues of obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure, which can occur as a by-product of a highly processed diet—and place additional strains on families already facing a tough time.
Join us in our effort to combat a local problem with a local solution. There are opportunities to serve at both the Hardyston and Andover community gardens this summer, and we will need your help to ensure a healthy harvest for underfed residents of Sussex County. And be sure to check back to the blog for growing season updates! We’ll be posting pictures of the progress as the growing gets going.
–Maren Morsch, AmeriCorps Program Associate