Sharing the bounty, feeding the hungry
FARGO, N.D. -- Americans' love affair with community gardens is not new. In some states and towns the concept is a long and honorable tradition. Indeed, the "victory gardens" of the World War II era were an expression of patriotism, real need in ...
FARGO, N.D. -- Americans' love affair with community gardens is not new. In some states and towns the concept is a long and honorable tradition. Indeed, the "victory gardens" of the World War II era were an expression of patriotism, real need in time of war and a way for neighborhoods and towns to come together and share the bounty of the land.
North Dakotans and Minnesotans are second to none when it comes to gardening, so it should come as no surprise that a program to grow more locally as a means of stocking food pantries has taken root in the region. Groups that have sponsored gardens previously such as churches, city-sponsored garden plots, novice growers and entire communities have pledged to participate in the broader effort.
The potential is unlimited. The folks who live in the Red River Valley in North Dakota and Minnesota know how to grow nutritious, fresh produce. The soil is amazingly rich. The expertise that might be necessary to plant and manage bigger gardens rests with Master Gardeners and university experts. It's all here, as is the desire to be part of something bigger than a personal backyard plot.
The program is endorsed and supported by many organizations and individuals, including the North Dakota Department of Agriculture. Called the Hunger Free North Dakota Gardens Project, the effort works with the Great Plains Food Bank to deliver fresh produce to food shelves. Perishable foodstuffs often are in short supply on food shelves, especially at far-flung rural pantries that lack refrigeration. A steady seasonal supply from the participating gardens will go a long way to solving the problem.
Can it be done? Can gardens generate enough to make a difference? No doubt about it. Production from even a small plot can be huge. For example, a Wahpeton, N.D., garden has pledged 2,000 pounds of vegetables; Bismarck, N.D., 4-Hers will grow 400 pounds of potatoes; North Dakota Commissioner of Agriculture Doug Goehring is planting sweet corn on his farm, which will yield some 24,000 ears.
Plots managed by area churches, youth groups and gardening societies will add thousands of pounds more of good, fresh produce.
As a radio talk show host commented the other day regarding the work he's putting into his backyard garden: "Home-grown veggies from the garden are a thousand times better than store-bought." He's got that right. And what better way to fill the seasonal cornucopia than with freshly harvested veggies and fruits for the region's food pantries.