Ever since Dick, our vegetable gardener extraordinaire, first joined his wife Mary in the Blithewold gardens, we’ve had more produce than we know what to do with. (Dick orders the vegetable seeds, starts them, plants them and tends the vegetable garden along with his faithful sidekick Cathy and any of the garden volunteers willing to spend time in the hottest spot on the property.) The vegetable garden’s raison d’etre is to give visitors an up close look at a beautiful and productive vegetable garden, and is a great place for the camp kids to learn about growing and harvesting vegetables.
But none of us want to throw good food on the compost heap. We have always offered all of the kale, Swiss chard, cabbage, beans, peas, basil, artichokes, broccoli, cauliflower, endless zucchinis, millions of tomatoes, mountains of lettuce and anything else to Blithewold staff members and volunteers willing and able to come down and help themselves. But because the garden is so large – and so productive – we often ended up with extra and although Gail and I have had every intention of bringing the surplus to the local soup kitchen, we didn’t always share as much as we could have. What we lacked was time and an easy way to get the produce to where the need is.
Enter my neighbor Dyan. She suggested and is facilitating a partnership with the East Bay Food Pantry, which according to their website, currently serves an astounding 900 households (3000 individuals including 850 children.) We have adjusted our work schedule in order to pick first thing Tuesdays and then Dyan comes right over to fill her car, and then her cool cellar and fridge with an abundance of fresh veg. She delivers it to the pantry just before they open their doors every Wednesday.
So far, since we started picking for the EBFP the first week in June, we have donated about 180 pounds of produce. (Dyan not only stores the food and delivers it, she weighs it too!) And we still have plenty left over for our staff and volunteers (not to mention our bunnies, woodchucks, and cabbage worms…) And when I worried that so much kale and Swiss chard might be a tough sell, I was assured that the food pantry volunteers are giving pantry clients cooking advice and recipes, and that all of the produce donated from Blithewold’s garden and other home gardens has been snapped up fast.
Does your garden produce more than you can eat? Have you donated any surplus to a food pantry or soup kitchen?